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Designing Woman

Youth is anything but wasted on this twentysomething fashion maven.

Building a successful business poses a formidable challenge at any age. But for entrepreneurs in their early twenties, it may seem all but impossible. Those in need of inspiration need look no further than 22-year-old Toronto-born clothing designer Elle Hamm. Vying for position in the frenzied world of fashion, Hamm, perhaps the personification of today's new age of "girl power," has strategized her way into a niche that's as comfortable as her funky dress styles.

"I haven't seen anything else out there like this," says Hamm of her clothing line. Her Rudwear Inc. designs combine form-fitting femininity with an athletic edge and can be worn as either daywear or eveningwear. Commanding her growing business from a corporate suite in Beverly Hills, California, Hamm's Rudwear Collection boasted 1998 sales of $100,000.

Just how did Hamm gain entree into the exclusive arena of fashion design at such a tender age? Very carefully. "A lot of times I don't tell people my age because I don't think they'll take me seriously," she reveals. When it's time for power lunches with the big players, Hamm trades her everyday braids for a more sophisticated "do" and transforms herself into a fellow suit.

But her outer transformation is just the beginning. In dealing with corporate types, "I may not look equal," she says, "but I feel equal."

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This article was originally published in the January 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Designing Woman.

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