For women, dressing for work can be a job in and of itself. It is a very subtle issue, but clothing has become a somewhat important point of contention in the fight for gender equality in the workplace.
“When you meet people in business, there’s a sort of clothing analysis that happens,” writes The New York Times. This analysis can be critical for women, especially for those in executive positions, as it has been widely concluded “... women are judged more harshly on average for things that have nothing to do with their performance.”
In order to gain the respect of their co-workers, female employees have to think harder about what they’re wearing — what a skirt could imply as opposed to a pantsuit. Clothing can be used to evoke masculine or feminine energy, and as people continue to associate leadership with masculinity, women have to think of how they can emulate or challenge certain qualities.
While there are a number of clothing stores and services for women, M.M. LaFleur is unique because of its sole, specific target audience — working women — and its focus on personalization and comfort.
The company’s tagline, “Live with purpose. Dress with ease,” embodies the mission of helping women find the styles that elevate them in the workplace; that help them gain the deserved respect of their male co-workers.
M.M. LaFleur is a company run by women for women. The idea was first conceived by founder Sarah LaFleur after completing her undergraduate degree at Harvard University. Working her “dream job” at a management-consulting firm in New York City, LaFleur found that she “didn’t feel like that powerful woman in [her] poorly tailored, ill-fitting clothes.”
For LaFleur, clothes have always been a symbol to represent power. She references a memory of her mother getting dressed for work as part of her company’s inspiration: “Clad in impeccably tailored Parisian suits finished with a slick of red lipstick, Sarah’s mother was, to her, the most powerful woman on the planet.” LaFleur’s mother, who she is named after, has always been a driving force behind her work.
The young entrepreneur went on to partner with co-founders Narie Foster and Miyako Nakamura, who collectively started M.M. LaFleur in 2013. The first product launch was small — a collection of 10 dresses paired with a website for online orders. The dresses were applauded for their relative affordability and style; but most importantly, for filling the gap in the market for easily attainable, attractive women’s workwear.
Today, the company sells hundreds of styles online and in stores:
- Acessories and jewelry
There are multiple pop-up locations around New York where customers can meet with professional stylists, and showrooms in cities like Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.
The most innovative service M.M. LaFleur offers is its online personal styling and flexible leasing, which closely serves the company’s core guiding principle, “When women succeed in the workplace, the world becomes a better place.”
About M.M. LaFleur
The success of M.M. LaFleur thus far can be traced back to two factors:
- The ease of using its online service — you don’t have to leave home unless you want to in order to find clothes that empower you.
- The clothes are extremely high quality, produced in New York, and designed by the former head designer for Zac Posen.
In the past, M.M. LaFleur used an algorithm-driven approach where products would be recommended after a short survey taken in what LaFleur described as a “virtual changing room.”
Since then, the company has dropped its “bento box” service, which included a clothing lease where customers could try clothes for free and purchase only the products they loved after the trial. Instead, M.M. LaFleur now has a simple shopping platform, still focused on specialization, but less hit-or-miss.
For those who want the decision-making responsibility partially taken out of their hands, “The Omakase Menu” offers pre-designed capsules with 2-weeks worth of outfits. Product names like “For the Disruptor,” “For the Multitasker,” “For the Power Player,” and “For the Frequent Flyer,” ensure the packages are versatile and can accomodate women in many different careers with sets of easy-to-style shirts, pants, dresses, and more.
The beauty of M.M. LaFleur and its mission is that it’s truly filling a void in women’s workwear. The products are diverse, distinguished, and range in size from 0-22W. They are meant for any and all women.
Each dress, shirt, or pair of pants is named after a stylist at the company, so even the names of the clothing are extremely personalized — a nice shift from cold, mass-produced alternatives.
It’s evident that empowerment runs in the veins of this company. Inc. magazine applauds the carefully thought-out details of the clothes: “The brand’s approach to a woman’s wardrobe is quality over quantity … Part of that is the brand’s attention to details busy women care about. Many of the fabrics are machine washable, snaps hold in bra straps, pant legs are adjustable via a hidden button, and certain tops have underarm pads to absorb sweat.”
Despite all the positives M.M. LaFleur offers, what has been lauded the most by reviewers is the way M.M. LaFleur treats its customers. It’s not a surface-level commitment to women, but a genuine desire to facilitate the success of working women — and it shows. “The site features more compelling profiles of women than do many journalism websites concerned with professional people,” writes The New York Times.
Finally, through its practical styles and free stylist sessions, a workwear company is putting women first; not just trying to push a product onto the market as quickly as possible without a real thought for the consumer.
After all, in the workplace, the last thing women should have to worry about is their clothes.