Editor’s note: We see and hear the multiple responses to our profile on Millioneiress, all of which are valid and demand attention.
First, to address the issue of brand reprinting without credit or permission: This is not acceptable. Artists’ work is often propagated without credit, leaving them to see no profit or recognition. This is not something that we condone or support, and understand that this is harmful, detrimental, and unacceptable treatment of artists in our community. We were not aware of these claims (outside of Jay Z lyrics) prior to publishing the work, and that is our fault. We are sorry for the oversight.
The other conversation around this piece is that of cultural appropriation, most specifically that of white feminism. Cultural appropriation might not be approached with the intent to harm, but it does, especially when oppressed people’s cultures are appropriated for the use of profit. We are guilty for publishing a piece that perpetuated this, and apologize. Moving forward, it is our priority to highlight the incredible people of color working, living, and creating in our community. We hear your criticism, we apologize for our mistake, and take ownership of it. Thank you for the conversation, please continue to reach out to us. We know we have much to learn and pledge to do so.
For the past three years, Leah Kirsch has built a business around empowering women through her bold, unapologetic streetwear brand, Millioneiress. Her venture came to life through a digital-first strategy, largely based upon selling via Instagram, and has been fueled by what she calls, “new age feminism”—a fresh, more mainstream take on conventionally held perceptions of what it means to be a feminist.
When asked about what has changed most since she launched Millioneiress as an undergraduate at Fordham in 2013, she pulls out her phone and reads a barrage of tweets from a Republican woman who has recently disavowed her support for Trump.
“The conventions of what it means to be a feminist are evolving,” Kirsch says. “If this woman can identify as a feminist, then the stereotypes of feminist women are really starting to break down.”
Kirsch tells me that business has been booming parallel to women’s rights becoming a hot-button issue during this election cycle. And while she doesn’t directly address politics in her apparel and content—“I stay away from religion and politics,” she says—women are flocking to her “sorry not sorry” brand of feminism. Her best-selling item: a hat that reads, “BECAUSE I CAN,” in all caps.
“This was my first T-shirt concept. I had been saying that phrase for years,” Kirsch says. “People always ask me, ‘Why are you doing that?’ And to that I would say, ‘Why are you even asking that question? Because I can.’”
For Kirsch, how her products make people feel is just as important as how they make people look. Her customers are people who aren’t afraid to make a statement through fashion, and are unapologetic in their beliefs and ambitions. Millioneiress was born out of Kirsch’s own creative vision, but if the brand had a muse, it would be Rihanna, she says.
“It’s about effortlessly saying and expressing what you want to say without actually talking,” Kirsch says. “It’s a little mysterious, but it’s also magnetic.”
While Kirsch has a passion for fashion, she is unique in that she manages most every facet of her business. She built the company’s website, manages its ecommerce platform, Shopify, and leads Millioneiress’ digital media strategy—which includes a robust content calendar and a rapidly growing ambassador program, called the Millioneiress Crew.
Kirsch has been balancing business and art since she was a kid. She used to make bracelets and flip-flops and sell them to her friends at school. And as she studied finance in college, she bought and sold domain names—Millioneiress.com would later be put to use for herself—and taught herself how to use website design and development tools.
“Both my parents are engineers, so, naturally, I like to build things,” she said. “I’ve always been the kind of person who will try a bunch of things to see what sticks.”
Kirsch’s openness to other perspectives is perhaps influenced by her upbringing. She was born in Germany, and later moved to Singapore, then Michigan (an hour north of Detroit), before moving back to Germany. She returned to the United States to attend college, and plans to stay in New York, though she also spends time in Los Angeles. She doesn’t have a mentor, but rather surrounds herself with a close circle of confidantes that she taps into for their diverse points of view.
“As a businesswoman, you’re constantly balancing your inner voice with the valuable viewpoints of others,” she says. “One thing I’ve always believed is that the key to self-care—be that in business or your personal life—is objectivity. You have to confront the truth, and learn from it.”
While the unfolding political discourse is certainly keeping Kirsch busy at Millioneiress’ Bushwick headquarters, she is balancing fulfilling increased demand with developing a new line, called LPK Denim, and building out retail partnerships where they make sense. In September, she announced a partnership with the SoHo pop-up Don’t Ask Why.
“I’ve always had a lot to say, and I’ve always felt the same way [about feminism]. These topics have been an ongoing issue, long before Donald Trump came along. The fact is that it happens in a woman’s everyday life and you’re expected to ‘not make a scene,’” she says. “I want to make a scene.”