M.M.LaFleur CEO on evolving how the company helps women dress for work
Retail Gets Real episode 308: Listening to the customer and following their lead
May 16, 2023
Every working woman has faced some uncertainty when it comes to dressing for the job, particularly after the pandemic.
“Everyone, whether you were in fashion or not, understood that the dress codes were evolving. Dressing for work — whether you’re staying at home or you’re going to the office — the angst around that exists no matter where you’re working from,” M.M.LaFleur founder and CEO Sarah LaFleur says on this episode of Retail Gets Real.
“M.M.LaFleur exists to help women answer those questions and style her and be there for her. At M.M.LaFleur, we’re not a workwear business. We’re a company that supports working women,” she says.
The company was founded to make it easy for women to dress for the office. So a differnet kind of pandemic-era challenge arose for M.M.LaFleur — an existential one. If women aren’t going to the office, what does the brand mean?
The answer came from customers. What LaFleur heard from her customers post-pandemic was that they wanted clothes to help them dress with ease for all aspects of their professional life, whether hopping on a Zoom call, going into the office or attending a conference or work event.
NRF Nexus 2023
Learn more about how retailers continue to evolve with online shopping and tech at NRF Nexus.
“We started offering what we‘re calling ‘power casual’ now,” LaFleur says. “It‘s one step below business casual, but one step above truly casual. We started offering that as our proposition — the alternative to the way women had been dressing — and that really struck a chord with our customers.”
M.M.LaFleur started as an online company but always had showrooms to conduct fittings and individual styling in person.
“We started online because we really didn’t have the money to open a store. It was a costly proposition back then. It still is now,” LaFleur says. “We would often invite our customers to try on clothes in our office. When we had our first kind of real office on Broadway in Houston … we rented a space right next door and turned that into a mini showroom.”
Today, there are two new M.M.LaFleur stores in New York City, as well as appointment-only showrooms in Chicago and Washington, D.C. “A lot of what our customers turn to us for is not just the clothing itself, it’s the styling advice. We always saw a lot of power in that,” LaFleur says.
“Even going into bricks-and-mortar, we’re not in the business of just kind of trying to sell [the customer] a shirt. We’re really trying to show her how to style it, what to pair it with, what occasions it works for.”
Listen to the full podcast to hear LaFleur’s career journey from management consultant to retailer, the first time she saw one of her creations on a famous woman, what it means to “lead from the front” and her style inspiration.
The retail industry impacts everyone, everywhere, every day.
NRF’s podcast features unfiltered, insightful conversations with the industry’s most interesting people. Hear retail executives, industry experts, entrepreneurs and influencers discuss trends, their career stories and the future of retail.