When I heard from Cami Téllez, the founder, CEO, and creative director of underwear brand Parade, news had just broken that its latest venture capital investor, Stripes, tossed the company an extra $20 million in light of upcoming expansion plans. The latest investment brought the value of Téllez's business to an estimated $140 million after just two years in existence. As the 24-year-old daughter of Colombian immigrants, it's a far cry from what her parents expected of her.
"I dropped out of college at Columbia University in 2018," Téllez tells InStyle in an email. "To my family, an Ivy League degree was the epitome of success in America, but seeing me pursue my passion made them even prouder. And even though I knew only 10 percent of startups succeed, it was worth swinging for the fences."
Téllez founded Parade in 2019 with the goal of creating a more inclusive, ethically-minded underwear industry. From the start, every piece has been available in sizes up to 3X, all made from various combinations of recycled materials. At checkout, customers can donate one percent of profits from their purchase to an organization of their choice.
"To me, it was never just about sustainability, or diversity, or a charitable aspect," Téllez says. "It's about rewriting a cultural script by weaving all these strands together to build a brand at the vanguard of the category."
Téllez is quick to note how her heritage has informed her business model and design process, citing Colombian fashion designers like Johanna Ortiz, Haider Ackerman, and Mercedes Salazar as major creative influences. "Perhaps more than the rest of the world, they understand the potent experience of color on the body," she explains. "All of their history, their creativity, and their willingness to color outside the lines has impacted me in so many ways, especially as Parade's creative director."
Parade is widely known for its network of micro-influencers, who are invited to sample new styles and post about the ones they like, no strings attached. It's all part of a larger community-building strategy that extends to real-life events — the brand has hosted pop-ups and outdoor dance parties in cities like New York, Boston, and Austin — another piece of the intrepid approach that Téllez says is inspired, in large part, by her background.
"My parents taught me the power of imagination as they envisioned a new life for themselves here in the U.S. and fought for the American dream," she explains."They're both visionaries within their communities — imaginative leaders that understand the power of the future and of innovation."
This Hispanic Heritage Month, Téllez is supporting Latina-owned brands like Chillhouse and Ceremonia — but we'd recommend supporting hers, too. Below, she reveals her favorite Parade pieces and what makes each stand out.
Silky Mesh String Cheeky
Shop now: $11, yourparade.com
"This is an absolutely iconic new style that we launched this summer. It's been flying off shelves, but the fit is exceptionally flattering and I'm wearing it as much as I can — definitely date night vibes. My favorite color is Dayglow, a beautiful faded neon that we handpainted."
Universal Hip Hugger
Shop now: $9, yourparade.com
"It feels like wearing nothing — buttery and smooth. The new color, Blackberry, is a deep flattering wine purple and perfect for fall. You can wear it under jeans, leggings, even to sleep!"
Shop now: $10, yourparade.com
"I'm getting back into working out, and I've started to wear our Sport+ thong, and it's actually a miracle. For the first time, my underwear isn't drenched in sweat after a run."
Silky Mesh Plunge Bralette
Shop now: $34–$38, yourparade.com
"I'm going to wear this as part of a Halloween costume, but it looks so good under sheer bodysuits — under anything, honestly. The Very Cherry print is one of my favorites. It's '90s-inspired and super playful."
Re:Play Scoop Bralette
Shop now: $28–$32, yourparade.com
"This is a style I've seen so many people wear to summer parties as a top, and now I've started to wear it under blazers. It's timeless. I'm loving it in our Caramel shade from the Ice Cream collection."
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