It’s the day after the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards, and Sandra Daranikone and Yazmin Butcher are still coming down from their VMA high. “Omigod…Beyoncé?!” Daranikone exclaims, slumping in her chair, eyes rolling back in pure I-can-die-now awe. “It was UH-mazing,” declares Butcher. “We stayed up until 5 a.m. rewatching it.”
We’re sitting in a downtown café near where the two graphic designers and co-founders of Gxxrls, a Toronto-based creative collective, share an apartment. It’s an ideal living arrangement that facilitates everything from late-night Bey worship to all-hours brainstorming. “I’ll run to her room or she’ll run to mine; we’re constantly bouncing ideas off each other,” says Daranikone, 25, who first met Butcher, also 25, in July 2015. They immediately hit it off—so much so that by November, they had decided (as entrepreneurial millennials do) to “do something” together.
Their first idea? Create apps. Their second was far more compelling: take their biggest struggle (women are still a minority among graphic designers) and celebrate the shit out of it. “The creative industry is very male-dominated. We wanted to change it up and push the message of female equality and women supporting women,” says Daranikone.
They named their agency Gxxrls (the “xx” represents the female chromosomes) and proceeded to squad up. Today, their crew is eight babes deep, including a photographer, stylist, web designer, videographer, makeup artist and DJ. In addition to branding, web design and event production (clients include New York–based fashion label Odessa Rae, radio personality Alicia West and Toronto-based organic tampon company Easy), Gxxrls also features inspiring #bossbitches via an online profile series called Gxxrls Tour, promotes womens’ issues through initiatives like a multi-platform breast cancer awareness campaign and mentors young girls (they’re planning workshops for aspiring creatives in the near future).
“Finding a job in this industry is very difficult,” says Butcher. “That’s why Gxxrls is so important—if we can’t find these opportunities, we’re going to make them for ourselves and kick ass.”
“Right now we’re pretty local, but the plan is to go global,” adds Daranikone. “One day, take over the world…” She pauses, glancing at Butcher with a twinkle in her eye. “Who run the world?” All together now.