Pictured: MM.LaFleur founders Sarah LaFleur, Miyako Nakamura, and Narie Foster. Photo by Jody Rogac
Whether or not you like shopping, it’s no fun when it feels like a chore. Finding clothes for work can often feels like just another item on your weekend To-Do list (when work is exactly what you’d rather not be thinking about).
Enter MM.LaFleur. Founded in 2013 by Sarah LaFleur, Miyako Nakamura, and Narie Foster, the company's goal is to help professional women "take the work out of dressing for work." They believe shopping for clothes shouldn’t be a source of stress and frustration (don’t we all have enough on our plates?) -- so they simplify the process.
MM.LaFleur offers a signature stylist-enabled “Bento Box,” as well as an e-commerce site and personal stylist appointments. In short, the company makes it easy to put together outfits that are tailored to your individual needs. “We design and produce all of our own clothing, based directly on the feedback we hear from women about their requirements,” MM.LaFleur CMO Annie Thorp explains.
With a design team coming from such high-end fashion houses and brands as Zac Posen, Jason Wu and Theory, MM.LaFleur’s pieces are created with not only meticulous attention to detail, but also with convenience in mind (many are wrinkle-resistant, machine-washable, or feature pockets).
MM.LaFleur has grown quite quickly. What began as a group of eight at the beginning of 2014 grew to 50 by early 2016 -- and now there are around 150 employees. Still, the team is careful to keep a close eye on all aspect of the business.
“We continue to manage our own supply chain and logistics, even keeping inventory and fulfillment in-house,” Thorp says. “Despite our growing size and scale, we maintain a meticulous focus on product and each step of the customer journey. We take a lot of pride in what we do!”
Like any growing company, MM.LaFleur has had to learn to adapt to various situations and challenges. In their case, e-commerce hasn’t been easy. “It turns out that on a 2-D, backlit screen, almost no one can tell the difference between a $250 black dress and a $50 black shift dress,” Thorp explains. “And we realized: the only way to sell quality through the internet was to let people experience it before buying it.”
That’s why they developed the Bento -- a stylist-curated box that is shipped to a customer after she fills out a brief online survey about her lifestyle, preferences, and body type. Upon receiving the items, customers can take 4 days to decide what they want to keep -- and they’re charged for those items only. The Bento Box was launched in 2014, and MM.LaFleur’s sales tripled overnight.
“It’s a complicated model to manage,” Thorp says, “but it has changed everything about how we interact with and sell to our customers.”
Indeed, the company’s willingness to adapt and respond to its customers has paid off.
Fast Company hailed MM.LaFleur as one of the top 10 innovations that improved women's lives in 2016 -- and the team really is all about helping other women. They’re inspired by other women-led companies like Fairygodboss, Maven Clinic (a digital clinic for women) and Ellevest (which helps women with financial planning and investing).
“We're a company founded by women, run by women, and designed to celebrate the lifestyle and choices of professional women,” Thorp explains, adding that MM. LaFleur encourages active conversations around issues that impact women and has instituted HR policies that are mindful of the needs of women in the workplace. “Part of that has been recognizing that women's lives work better when there is a sharing of work at home, which led us to offer 3 months maternity and paternity leave to all MM.LaFleur employees.”
MM.LaFleur’s culture certainly reflects these ideals; their employees work collaboratively and creatively, often thinking outside the box in terms of what a fashion company can or should be. “We also give back to the broader community of women, focusing our giving efforts on causes that champion under served women in the workplace,” Thorp says. “This has, in turn, stimulated internal conversation about how we as a brand can continue to build and lead a community of engaged professional female leaders.”
Here's a list of other affordable brands like MM.LaFleur for those of you looking for similar options.
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