Colin Barry

Maiden in America (CMC, Thursday, Week 7)


Maidenform and the development/commercialization of the bra:
A positive example of what emerged from rapid urbanization and social/economic transformation in American cities. Compare to Al Capone...
Also, one of the first examples of highly successful female entrepreneurship in America.

Ida Rosenthal: Jewish immigrant from Minsk, lands in NYC
Lucky? And incredibly savvy. Builds company with $4K of invested capital.
Takes charge of finances and marketing; husband does product design
And still pays herself less than her husband and makes William Rosenthal the company's President
(Commentary: "Please let him earn more money than I do --- you might not understand that now but believe me, you will one day. Otherwise, that's a recipe for disaster." -- Alex Goran, 'Up in the Air,' on finding the right husband. Enduring stereotypes...)

Also, a product of NYC:
Garment district/fashion cluster
Changing role of women; business in the home = possible
Geographic density, cheap labor

Still, constant tension between pioneering role of women/challenging stereotypes VS. selling product in a male-dominated world:
Sales force is all-male
William takes charge of company on paper
Even at the start, advertising tone is aspirational/wishy-washy (I think) => "I dreamed..." vs. "I am..."
Corporate culture: pin-up of the month => selling sex/desire from men from the start (I think)

Succession in family businesses is tough: Maidenform bankruptcy/restructuring in the late 90s/00s.