MM.LaFleur & The Revolution Of Women’s Workwear
In 2013, three women launched an online clothing label in New York with the daring vision of changing the way women dressed and shopped for their workwear.
The label called itself MM.LaFleur and its ethos was just as melodious – to make the purposeful woman look and feel beautiful, without having to work too hard at it. These turned out to be more than words on paper; they have well and truly come to life.
Each MM.LaFleur piece is designed with the real woman in mind. The woman who wants to look as incredible as the career she has carved but who has zero time to browse in a mall or online.
In MM.LaFleur speak, this means a beautiful dress that is machine-washable, wrinkle-free and with pockets that actually hold things. Or a pair of cigarette pants that is soft enough to wear on a flight and sharp enough don in a boardroom.
And that is just the icing on the cake. The core of MM.LaFleur’s business, and the reason behind its resounding success, is its ease of purchase and its very personal touch.
A customer fills in an online survey on her personal and professional details. Based on these, a personal stylist curates a bento box of up to six wardrobe staples, separates or accessories. Charmingly, each item is also named after a team member.
Upon receiving her box, the customer has four days to try on the clothes after which she can either keep them all or return those that have not rocked her world. The company has also recently introduced Out Of Office, a physical showroom in New York offering women an -in-person shopping experience with a dedicated personal stylist.
Is there any surprise that MM.LaFleur has built a substantial and fiercely loyal legion of fans?
woman with drive talks to Tory Hoen, editor-in-chief of MM.LaFleur’s digital magazine, The M Dash, about the story behind the brand name, the women who inspire its designs and how MM.LaFleur just about nailed women’s workwear.
What is the story behind your name?
It is really the story of our founder and CEO, Sarah LaFleur. When Sarah was growing up in Tokyo, she watched her entrepreneur mother dress for work every day. For Sarah, being a career-oriented woman was synonymous with looking impeccable, and she could not wait to begin her own career.
After graduating from Harvard, Sarah worked in finance and quickly noticed a serious dearth of workwear options for women in that industry. It seemed that no brand was truly catering to style-conscious women with dynamic careers but almost no time to shop.
She also yearned for more thoughtfully designed options and a more streamlined shopping process. When she could not find it, she decided to start her own company.
MM.LaFleur is actually named for Sarah’s mother, whose nickname is Mémé, which means “eyes” in Japanese.
Did MM.LaFleur launch with the mission to “revolutionise” workwear?
We did not necessarily use the word “revolution” back then. But we did intend to shake up the workwear market by providing professional women with a missing category – elegant, practical, luxury workwear at an attainable direct-to-consumer price point.
Very few luxury workwear brands understand the functionality of workwear in a real woman’s life. How did MM.LaFleur get it so right?
We listen to our customers. Every customer is matched with her own personal stylist who puts together her Bento Box and answers questions about fit and styling.
We also take customer feedback straight to our designers. If a product needs tweaking, we iterate and re-release it. We are less concerned with trends, and more concerned with crafting beautiful pieces that will endure and serve our customers over many seasons.
Which are your best-selling pieces and why are they so loved?
One is the Etsuko dress. It has a killer combination of things people love – it is machine-washable, wrinkle-resistant, has three-quarter sleeves, real pockets and is stretchy so it works on a variety of body types.
Another is our Sant Ambroeus jardigan, a category we invented. It is a combination of jacket and a cardigan, hence the term “jardigan.” It is a knit with the structure and sharpness of a blazer.
And finally, our Foster pant. When we launched it last winter, it sold out in 24 hours. It is almost like a yoga pant but is structured and formal enough for the office.
MM.LaFleur also pays great attention to storytelling via social media and The M Dash. How do these segments contribute to the brand as a whole?
Our clothes are elegant and understated so we use our communication channels to really show who we are as a brand. It is a chance for us to have a wide-ranging conversation with our customer that goes way beyond what she is wearing.
At the end of the day, we are doing more than building a brand. We are building a community of ambitious women who are doing amazing work. We champion and celebrate that work through our content.
Tell us about your hashtag, #BetterThingsToDo.
Last spring, Fast Company wrote an article that dubbed us “the brand for women who hate to shop.” We wondered if that was true, and concluded that we are actually the brand for women who have better things to do than shop.
Many of our customers travel and work long hours. They do not want to spend their free time combing through racks of pantsuits at the mall. So we use the #BetterThingsToDo hashtag to talk about the important ways women spend their time when not bogged down by shopping for workwear.
How do your clothes celebrate women?
We like to say, “A woman’s outfit should be the least interesting thing about her.” People are surprised to hear that from a clothing brand! MM.LaFleur clothes should not speak for you; they should allow you to speak for yourself. Our clothes are designed to emphasise the woman, not the other way around.
How is MM.LaFleur inspired by its clientele?
How are we not? Our stylist team is in close contact with our customers on a daily basis so we hear the little details of their lives to the larger challenges they face, whether it is being the only woman in the office or figuring out how to dress for work during pregnancy or postpartum.
We are also inspired by stories of their successes. Our customers have taken companies public, won court cases, accepted their PhDs and given keynote speeches in our products.
We are honoured that they “take us with them” during those pivotal moments in their careers. Many customers tell us that our clothes have made a difference in their lives, and it often moves us to tears.
*MM.LaFleur currently only ships within the U.S. but hopes to expand internationally in the future.
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