What does it mean to dress for success?
With workplace dress codes that are increasingly more casual than in decades past, the answer to that question no longer comes easy. In a fast-fashion world where athleisure is still one of the largest growth categories in women’s clothing, it can be downright stressful to find clothing that is suited for the many places life may take you...including work.
In 2013, Sarah LaFleur hoped to make the process easier when she founded MM.LaFleur, a web-based clothing brand designed to help women find work appropriate clothing with minimal effort. Unlike subscription boxes that combine a range of brands into a box based on preferences, MM.LaFleur offered its Bento Box, a curated collection of four to six proprietary designs for professional women on the go. Also unlike a subscription boxes, the Bento Box is not a subscription. There is no commitment. Customers can request a box whenever they need a wardrobe update.
Though she never intended to take the brand into a brick and mortar environment, when LaFleur began hosting pop-ups in New York City sales exploded overnight. Several internet-breaking styles later, the company opened additional showrooms in Chicago and Washington, DC and pop-up locations in six more cities including the Atlanta Pop-up which opens March 5 at the Shops Buckhead Atlanta.
As with many other online brands that now offer an in-person shopping experience, the pop-up showrooms are designed to give customers the individual attention and personal touch they crave.
In a storefront facing Buckhead Avenue formerly occupied by the now defunct Kit & Ace, MM.LaFleur offers a wide open space with minimal clothing on display. The space can accommodate parties as large as 70 for those who prefer a styling experience with friends, but the real magic takes place in the six dressing rooms in the rear where guests are served their choice of prosecco or coffee before trying on a rack of pre-selected garments.
The showroom experience, a throwback to a long-forgotten retail practice, is an hour-long appointment with a dedicated stylist who helps women determine the proper sizing and styles for their needs. The obvious advantage of showroom shopping over online shopping is the opportunity to get things right from the start rather than several rounds of multiple sizes and styles sent back and forth via mail. Once selections have been made in the store an order is placed online and the items are shipped free of charge directly to the customer’s home or work.
MM.LaFleur clothing, designed by Miyako Nakamura, includes suits, dresses, pants, tops, skirts, jackets, knits, shoes and accessories all designed to travel well and pair well with other items in the collection. Sizes range from 0P to 22W since 2017 when extended sizes were added to the collection.
Some garment names may ring a bell -- Winfrey, Didion, Bronte -- and some come with a numeric designation that indicates a redesign. Revamped garments are often driven by customer feedback.
“There is a team that synthesizes feedback from stylists online and at showroom locations and pop-ups,” said Regional Manager, Ashley Bolding. Nakamura takes any feedback on fit, design and what women really want into consideration when making small tweaks or design overhauls.
The Sarah, one of the first MM.LaFleur designs is on its seventh update which made it machine washable. In 2015, the best-selling Tory dress sold out and racked up a waiting list of more than 1,000 customers. The wrap-dress style garment has since been updated to feature a more tailored top and defined waist. It is machine washable, wrinkle resistant and features removable underarm pads so you don’t have to wash it as often. Catch a glimpse of the Tory at 0:32 in the 2015 Spring Collection video:
Another popular items has been the Jardigan, a wrinkle resistant topper which feels like a cardigan but has the structure of a jacket. It comes in a short length (the Sant Ambroeus) and a longer length (the Woolf).
While there are some regional differences in what is popular -- Bostonians love the knits for example -- some items just seem to resonate with all women. The challenge for the company is in managing that demand.
A recent check of the online shop shows many styles with limited availability. Showroom shoppers generally receive delivery of their items within 7 days, said Bolding, though stylists are sometimes able to accommodate special circumstances.
Price points for MM.LaFleur clothing ranges from $165 to $595 for dresses; $90 - $325 for tops; $195 to $245 for pants; $130 - $325 for skirts, $165 - $595 for jackets and $110 to $395 for knitwear. There are currently two styles of shoes, the Vanessa Pump ($295) and the Federica Flat ($265). Accessories include jewelry, belts, scarves and travel pouches priced from $45 to $325.
New merchandise is introduced seasonally in two collections per season with new colors, fabrics and styles. The opening of the Atlanta showroom coincides with the roll out of the second half of the Spring collection.
“It will be interesting to see how Atlanta develops,” Bolding said. “Hopefully women can come in and be outfitted from head to toe without worrying too much.”