To talk to Fran Dunaway and Naomi Gonzalez about their four-year-old business is to understand the sheer will with which they built TomboyX. They admit they “didn’t know a knit from a woven.” Nevertheless Dunaway, a former video producer, and Gonzalez, an erstwhile sports massage therapist, started a clothing line, which quickly morphed into a gender-neutral underwear company. They were all too familiar with clothing that didn’t quite fit their tomboyish style, even the unseen undergarments.
“It’s that layer between who you are on the inside and how you present on the outside,” says Dunaway. They hear from a spectrum of folks, who write to them and say, I put on these underwear and I cried. It’s the first time I feel like me.
TomboyX gets these emotional testimonies all the time; it’s what inspired the brand to create six different cuts of underwear in a multitude of colors and patterns and amass a vast customer base along the way: athletes, police officers, gender-nonconforming folks, both young and old. A 10-year-old girl once begged her family to stop in Seattle on a road trip from Wyoming just to meet the duo behind the inclusive brand.
Before they were business partners, Dunaway and Gonzalez dated long distance until 2011, when Gonzalez shuttered her Washington, DC, clinic and moved in with Dunaway in West Seattle. Little did she know they’d launch a company two years later. In 2015, the cofounders tied the knot at a surprise waterfront ceremony during halftime at a friendly flag football game. The ref officiated.
Funny it all started in their one-car garage. Nowadays TomboyX ships to 44 countries and counting. Helping people find comfort, not only in a pair of boxers but also in their identities, it turns out, has a universal appeal.