Walk into any kids clothing department and—even today, in the era of gender fluidity—you’ll find an astounding gender divide. Girls’ clothes are mostly pink, sequined and decorated with princesses. Boys’ clothes are predominantly blue and red, covered in trucks and rocket ships.
What sets Piccolina apart is the brand’s mission to bring inspirational and nontraditional themes to children’s clothing. In addition, the company decided to do things differently by not seeking venture capital financing before it launched in late 2019.
Triumphing with this strategy, the brand has experienced rapid expansion and recognition in just 18 months. In March, Piccolina won Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies award in the fashion and style category, alongside big brands like Gucci, Hermes, and Farfetch. It has been featured in Oprah’s Favorite Things and Good Morning America. Notable fans include Eva Chen, Mindy Kaling and Rachel Hollis.
What began as Piccolina’s iconic trailblazer line of t-shirts—which can be worn by girls or boys—features influential women throughout history such as Malala, Rosa Parks and RBG. These have proven so popular that the brand has expanded to offer PJs, adult tees, and wall art. Other Piccolina items aimed at girls are decorated with automotive, robotic and aviation themes. Every product is designed to stimulate cognitive development, promote an empowered self-perception in early childhood, and lay the foundation for lasting interests in STEM, leadership and other important topics as children grow.
Furthermore, Piccolina works with a number of non-profit partners to spotlight their incredible initiatives and raise money for the organizations through proceeds of sales. Non-profit partners include Malala Fund, City Harvest, National CARES, Girls Write Now, and more.
Piccolina came about when cofounder Heide Iravani, a mom of three, found herself frustrated with the lack of clothing options for her daughter. She felt the available clothes undercut the values she wanted to instill in her children. Having worked in tech, finance and big law – all traditionally male-dominated fields – she was especially sensitive to how gender stereotypes might affect her own “piccolina.” So, she decided to team up with retail industry veteran Emily Clifford to help make her vision a reality. Together, they brought Piccolina to life, launching the company to the public on International Day of the Girl.
“As a woman who has combatted many obstacles to establish myself in male-dominated industries, and also as a person with strong convictions about social justice and equality, I noticed that most designs for kids contain gender stereotyped designs signaling that being feminine or female is mutually exclusive with being brave, curious and scientifically-minded,” says Iravani. “It didn’t surprise me to learn that by age five, many girls have begun to develop self-limiting beliefs and feel that they’re not as smart and capable as their male counterparts.”
The cofounders find many aspects of running a mission-driven startup rewarding. For Clifford, the greatest of these is “witnessing how much Piccolina has resonated with children and adults alike, all over the world—particularly when you consider all that has happened in the past 20 months. This fills me with so much pride. We are inspiring the next generation of changemakers.”
The Covid-19 pandemic hit just five months after Piccolina launched. Yet the startup was able to stay agile and creative by, for example, quickly shifting design and production to offer face masks. In fact, Piccolina sold enough of that product to help its non-profit partner City Harvest feed more than 21,000 children and their families in NYC.
To people looking to tap into their life purpose, the Piccolina cofounders offer this advice. “Don’t let fear of failure prevent you from taking incremental action to live the life you want to live,” says Iravani. Clifford counsels, “Take pride in who you are and where you came from. Let that lead you in everything you do.”