co-president and chief creative o;cer of ad agency
Wieden + Kennedy and a board member of the Wing.
The brand emerged at a pivotal time for women’s issues,
she notes, when Donald Trump was entering the White
House, women were organizing marches, and sexual-
assault scandals were proliferating. Especially in blue-
leaning major urban centers, an unabashedly feminine
space that felt safe and empowering played like a proudly
defiant middle finger.
The Wing expects to have 15,000 members by the end
of this year—a nice number, but modest considering the
hype. What’s more telling: The Wing has nearly 500,000
followers across social media, few of whom live in cities
with Wing locations. These are fans. Of an o;ce. In a
city where they don’t live. Or, more accurately, they are
acolytes of what the Wing has come to represent.
But if the Wing has become a symbol of the times, it
is also a business, and one with a huge sum of venture
capital from investors who expect lightning-fast growth.
The Wing is often compared with We Work, which in
nine years has opened more than 525 locations and
signed up 500,000 members—and which managed to
lose $1.9 billion in 2018. That was all in a growth economy;
what happens when the next downturn ripples through
the real estate and job markets remains to be seen for
We Work and its ilk—as We Work warned in its August
IPO filing. Gelman contends that her plan “is not about
blitz-scaling. It’s about creating quality and meaning and
doing everything with real intention.” That’s why, she
says, each Wing location so far is profitable. But reaching
the next level of growth—and sustaining it in shaky
times—requires a whole new flight plan.
The Wing doesn’t rent white-box real estate in random
o;ce towers; instead, it leases the likes of its new Manhattan headquarters, a four-story neo-Italian Renaissance building that once housed a women’s hospital
wing. Its first club opened in a historic district called
Ladies’ Mile, just o; Park Avenue, and earlier this year
the company tried to land a 17th-century limestone
building in Paris that was the former home of Madame
de Montespan, a mistress of Louis XIV who reputedly
banned all men from her property.
Inside every Wing location, the foundational color is
blush pink. In Washington, D.C., the floors are pink. In
Boston, a sweeping staircase is pink. The SoHo space
features all the elements Wing members (and would-be
members) recognize: Long banquettes line the walls,
punctuated by terrazzo-topped, brass-footed tables perfectly sized for a MacBook. Jewel-tone velvet couches
form mini living-room setups in the open space; high-backed red armchairs create semiprivate workspaces. No
locations are identical; each is a variation on the theme.
Everything a member of the Wing touches or sees
has been selected for its Wing-iness, from the art by
women, transgender, and nonbinary artists to the jelly
for the toast at the in-house cafés, sourced from women-owned businesses. (Each location of the Wing has a café
called the Perch. The “Fork the Patriarchy Bowl” is a
big seller.) The Wing’s “beauty rooms” have small brass
trays featuring rotating casts of beauty products made by
women-owned companies. Less visibly, the Wing hires
women-owned contracting firms: Elaine Construction
in Boston; a car service called Valet of the Dolls in
Gelman’s fashion choices are similarly intentional, a
reflection of the kind of diverse feminine power scene
she’s cultivating. One day, she’ll wear Vans and vintage
denim overalls and show o; the tattoo on her right triceps
that reads “Killa”; another, she’ll seem poised for high tea
in ru;ed white Celine mules and a pink gingham top.
Even the members are curated; they have to apply.
Early on, the Wing asked prospects: “Which TV show do
you hate that everyone else loves?” Today’s application
asks for dream dinner-party guests, and includes a long-
standing question: How have applicants supported the
advancement of women? How the answers are assessed
is a mystery to anyone outside the company.
One result of this intense attention to detail is a
community custom-built to rave about itself on social
Blush With Success
A very specific blush shade of pink
is the dominant color at every Wing
location. It was selected to reclaim
a polarizing color for women.