When she was a little girl, Sarah McIlroy would make sketches for clothes. Her mom would sew them for her, turning her designs into actual garments she could wear. Fast forward many years later, and McIlroy’s own daughter one day asked her if she could design her own clothes. Remembering the positive experience she had as a child, McIlroy founded FashionPlaytes in 2009 to give her daughters and girls everywhere the chance to encounter that same feeling of pride and accomplishment.
Headquartered in Beverly, Massachusetts, FashionPlaytes is a website that lets girls ages 5 to 12 express themselves by designing their own clothes. In the virtual design studio, girls choose from a variety of base garment styles, which they then customize with embellishments and custom labels. The possibilities are endless, as there are more than five million potential design combinations. Most of the FashionPlaytes garments cost under $30, and McIlroy had some difficulty finding a business partner that believed she could sell clothes at affordable prices. She had to interview 50 factories before finding one that agreed to work with her.
McIlroy also bootstrapped the company for the first nine months. FashionPlaytes’ first round of funding went into creating proprietary custom software, bringing the tech team in-house, and adding marketing and gaming departments. The site now has gaming aspects, letting girls put together a style book and vote on other users’ designs, among others. FashionPlaytes plans to introduce even more features over the next few months. Last November, the company launched its Littlest Pet Shop clothing line in partnership with Hasbro.
Prior to starting FashionPlaytes, McIlroy served as a marketing and business development executive in the gaming industry, working for companies such as Atari, Midway Amusement Games, and Hasbro. She recently received a L’Oreal Next Generation award, which honors women leading innovative digital companies.