Like many people her age, the 28-year-old sees herself not as
a disillusioned Gen-X slacker, but as part of a generation "taught
to keep asking questions, questioning systems, pushing boundaries,
making changes." She credits her parents--Katharine P. Darrow,
AB'65, a U of C trustee and recently retired senior vice president
of the New York Times Company, and lawyer Peter Darrow, JD'67--with
encouraging her to make changes in her career, helping her to
see that they didn't have to be lifelong choices. Even starting
parents weren't scared at all," Darrow laughs. "Nothing scares
my parents--I've tried really hard. They can withstand anything.
And laugh later. I put my parents to the test. Over and over again.
And they passed. I failed, but they passed."
second of three children, Darrow came to the University in 1989
and studied literature, primarily Russian literature in translation.
She got her start in retail while a fourth--year student, leaving
school to accept a full--time job as assistant manager of an Orland
Park, Illinois, Body Shop store. The Body Shop, an international
manufacturer and retailer of hair- and skin-care products, uses
all-natural products, campaigns against animal testing of cosmetics
products and ingredients, supports fair working conditions and
wages, and works with Amnesty International.
being at the U of C for so long, and so focused on--this sounds
terrible--the trivia of intellectualism," Darrow explains, "it
became so much more important to me to be involved in a practical
experience like a retail business that was making local changes
in the community, huge social changes worldwide."
1994, she met Tunstall, a marketer based at the Body Shop's U.S.
headquarters in North Carolina, when Tunstall was in Chicago on
business. Between long phone calls and occasional visits, the
two became good friends--friends who spent a lot of their time
together shopping--and eventually started to discuss opening their
own business. In the meantime, Darrow left the Body Shop in 1996
to become director of retail at a theme store in the Chelsea Piers
Sports and Entertainment Complex in New York.
she wanted to start her own venture and wanted a partner. A friend
in New York wanted to start a restaurant; Tunstall wanted a boutique.
Darrow chose Tunstall, feeling she would be more dedicated. They
got together for two weekends to talk out their plans. "We just
drank coffee and smoked cigarettes and brainstormed," Darrow recalls.
"We have the funniest notebooks that we wrote, full of these crazy,
really good ideas that were completely half-baked."
the end, she decided to forsake her hometown for her adopted one,
the Knicks for the Bulls. In early 1997, Darrow and Tunstall moved
out to Chicago, sharing a studio apartment with Darrow's yellow
Lab, Wheeler, and waitressing while they crafted their business
plan for a women's boutique. They decided it would be called Phoebe
45: Tunstall had always wished she'd been named Phoebe. In honor
of Michael Jordan, Darrow contributed the 45, Jordan's jersey
number when he returned to the Bulls from retirement in 1995.