No One Captured the Girlboss Aesthetic Better Than the Wing
The biggest strength of the exclusive social club and coworking space was its image—until it wasn't. Amid its closure in the wake of numerous missteps, even the internet can still get behind its enviable interiors.
When it debuted in 2016, the Wing positioned its version of exclusive, expensive, for-profit feminism as revolutionary. Just months after the social club’s co-founders parted ways with the company for good, the era of rah-rah She.E.O. corporate feminism has finally met its overdue end with the troubled company’s permanent closure. Netizens are reacting to the news with a singular interest: the fate of its furniture.
Obituaries for the fall of the girlboss tend to circulate in the wake of high-profile female founders leaving, closing, or facing allegations of mistreatment or mismanagement at the very companies they’ve founded. A generation of millennial entrepreneurs—absent claiming the title outright—benefited from the public’s preoccupation with it until the public was then gobsmacked by the realization that a female founder or CEO doesn’t inherently ensure an equitable workplace, intersectional feminism, or a lack of missteps abetted by corporate power imbalances. Everything from fast fashion to workout clothing, luggage, and, in the Wing’s case, social clubs helmed by stylish media-darlings were catapulted to unicorn status by their own mythos before crashing back to reality.
“Over time, accusations of sinister labor practices among prominent businesswomen who fit the girlboss template became more common,” Amanda Mull wrote of the archetype’s pitfalls for The Atlantic. “The confident, hardworking, camera-ready young woman of a publicist’s dreams apparently had an evil twin: a woman, pedigreed and usually white, who was not only as accomplished as her male counterparts, but just as cruel and demanding too.”
The Wing is the latest, and arguably the final holdout of this particular era of pop feminism to meet its end in the public eye. Earlier this week, the company announced that, due to challenges posed by the pandemic and the global economy, it would close for good. The statement made no mention of the challenges posed by a 2020 reckoning, in which co-founder and then-CEO Audrey Gelman resigned following allegations of low pay and mistreatment from employees of color.
“America’s workplace problems don’t begin and end with the identities of those atop corporate hierarchies—they’re embedded in the hierarchies themselves,” Mull writes. “Making women the new men within corporations was never going to be enough to address systemic racism and sexism, the erosion of labor rights, or the accumulation of wealth in just a few of the country’s millions of hands—the broad abuses of power that afflict the daily lives of most people.”
As Glossier did for makeup and Reformation did for party dresses, the Wing made a digestible, unapologetically feminine visual identity for itself, its niche being work-adjacent interior design and accessories that were pure Instagram gold. Its well-connected members shared photos of exclusive events against a backdrop of enviable interiors to their sizable social media followings, ranging from a panel and viewing party of The Handmaid’s Tale with the show’s cast to members-only happy hours replete with tall glasses of wine in the Dumbo club’s plush conversation pit. Memberships were extended to celebrities, politicians, and influential media figures at publications like the New York Times, its magazine, and the Atlantic.
The social club’s biggest strength was its image—until it wasn’t. For a space that fashioned itself at the center of fighting the patriarchy and uplifting women, the irony was inescapable: the price of its $2,500 to $3,000 annual membership permitted only a certain kind of woman to be uplifted by natural wine sourced from women vinters, Chanel beauty products, an influential membership community, and exclusive events with the likes of Hillary Clinton and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Extensive coverage by Vogue and Architectural Digest cemented its status as a veritable lifestyle brand.
Ultimately, not even the Wing’s considerable cachet could save it. The troubled company cycled through three CEOs in the two years following Gelman’s departure. By February of 2021, a majority stake in the company had been sold to office real estate company International Workplace Group, which Insiderreports will see to the now-defunct social club’s membership and workplace needs.
In the Twitterverse, however, all anyone seems to care about in the wake of its closure is how and when they can get their hands on the erstwhile space’s clickbaity terrazzo and marble side tables, velvet sofas, and Breuer chairs. Even in death, the Wing’s aesthetic lives on. As America continues to grapple with its relationship to work-life balance, bosses, and commuting, at least we can (finally) close the door on the era of the girlboss.