Inside New York’s Social Club for Influential Women

The Wing has 500 members and brands want in

On Nov. 13, the Sunday following the election of President-elect Donald Trump, roughly 300 women gathered to "sit shiva" and "scheme" at The Wing, a newly established women's-only social club and co-working space in New York. The event was pulled together at the last minute, after the surprising results, as a way for women in the community to "heal, process, reflect and form new alliances," read a sign posted in the elevator of The Wing's building in the Flatiron district.

Inside, representatives from the Working Families Party, Planned Parenthood and the New York Civil Liberties Union spoke with attendees about resources the groups needed and how the women could get involved. The Wing that day became a haven for those suffering from post-election blues.

Courtesy of The Wing

"The election of Donald Trump—despite his unique history of misogyny and hate—has left women feeling discarded and disheartened," the sign continued. "We are here to collectively lift our spirits and remember that we have voices, they matter and they will not be suppressed."

Still in its infancy, The Wing was conceived by co-founder Audrey Gelman as a place for women to transition from work life to social life that wasn't "semi-degrading," she explained. (Gelman, a former political consultant and PR whiz, may be best known for her friendship with Girls creator Lena Dunham—she had a bit part on the show's second season.) Shortly after meeting co-founder Lauren Kassan, formerly director of studio empowerment at ClassPass, and learning about the history of women's social clubs, Gelman realized that The Wing, which now has 500 members and over 2,000 women on its waitlist, could be so much more. Namely, "a place where ambitious women can network, build their own brands, be entrepreneurs, or try to rise through the ranks of corporate America together," per The Wing's elevator pitch.

Since launching in early October, The Wing's mission clearly has been resonating with women of all stripes. Gelman has marketed the club organically through social media, largely via Instagram where The Wing now boasts 32,400 followers. "The community we're creating today is diverse, it's eclectic, it's lots of different women from different socio-cultural perspectives who are coming together to meet," said Gelman. "Members' [ages range] from 21 to 78; the average age is 31. A third of our members live in Brooklyn. The majority of them are very busy."

 Edith Young

When working with design firm Pentagram to produce its brand identity, The Wing team tried to find ways to represent the variety of women that are part of the burgeoning space. "The way we crafted the logo, it wasn't just a single W but 30 different Ws," explained Emily Oberman, partner at Pentagram. "The idea was that every W represents a different kind of woman or a different way of expressing what The Wing is in this typographic, jokey way."

Brands that have partnered with The Wing include cult beauty brand Glossier (founder Emily Weiss is a member), organic feminine care brand Lola and home goods brand Parachute, among others. All have prime placement and enjoy the full attention of the 500 women that shell out $1,950 each a year for membership. "Partnering with The Wing introduces Parachute's bedding and bath essentials to their members"—the club has held a sleepover event and there are two showers on site—"allowing them to engage with our products in an authentic way," noted Ariel Kaye, founder and CEO of Parachute. (The company made clear that it did not pay to be included or placed in The Wing). "It also puts us in dialogue with their other partners, a curation of like-minded, female-founded brands."

The Wing's "emphasis on including brands by women, for women in the space" was appealing, noted Alex Friedman and Jordana Kier, co-founders of Lola. "There's so much alignment between our two brands and it was a no-brainer that Lola should be the tampon of choice for the Wing." (Lola declined to disclose monetary details of its partnership with The Wing.)

Edith Young

Since its launch, The Wing has seen "a lot of interest from product partners," said Gelman.

"It makes a lot of sense why brands would want to partner with them because they're targeting a group of women who are incredibly influential," explained Lauren Walsh, CMO of brand engagement firm Sullivan. "The entire purpose is women helping each other, which actually leads to recommendations for brands. If you can influence that circle … people are going to be looking for opinions of these women."

Adds Walsh: "The best thing you can do to get someone to buy your product is to get them to try it. That's worth way more than millions of dollars potentially in push advertising."

This story first appeared in the November 28, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.
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