When it comes to fashion, Sarah LaFleur, founder of MM.LaFleur, believes that working moms should not have to compromise style and functionality. Frustrated with the lack of affordable workwear options during her days in corporate, LaFleur created comfortable and chic ensembles featuring pencil skirts, dresses, and tops that are as professional as they are versatile. MM.LaFleur’s mission is to provide working women of all ages with clothing styles that go beyond trends to fit their hectic lifestyle.
CEOMOM interviewed Sarah LaFleur to learn more about the vision behind the brand and their new shoe line which launched this fall.
What inspired you to create a clothing line specifically for the working woman? Why is MM.LaFleur perfect for today’s modern mom?
I graduated from college in 2006 and began my career as a management consultant. I was working 70 hours a week and traveling constantly, and the idea for MM.LaFleur came from my own frustration shopping for workwear as a young professional. I grew up watching my mother, who worked in high-end fashion, dress for work. She always looked so put-together, so I had a vision of what I wanted to look like at work, but I quickly found that the workwear options at the price point I could afford fell far short of that vision. All my colleagues were wearing clothes from the same handful of brands, and the options were boring, ill-fitting and uncomfortable. I struggled to get dressed every morning, and I never really felt like myself in those clothes. On top of that, the shopping experience was such a chore—I didn’t want to spend my precious nights and weekends sifting through racks of pantsuits in a department store. I always used to say to my co-workers, ‘You know, someone should solve this problem for women!’ When I was 27, I realized that I could be that person. I still say, ‘I am my customer,’ because I lived that life. I remember how desperate I was for office-appropriate, stylish, easy-to-care-for, travel-friendly clothing—but also for a shopping experience that felt thoughtful and efficient. I wanted to feel that the brands where I was shopping truly understood my lifestyle. So at MM.LaFleur, we strive to serve our customer on her terms. Whether she wants to receive a Bento Box at home or have an in-person experience at our pop-ups or showrooms, we will meet her wherever she’s most comfortable.
This combination of product and service is especially important for busy moms. They want to spend their time and energy where it matters—on their families and careers—rather than on figuring out what to wear every day. Our stylists help moms and expectant mothers curate wardrobes that are ideal for their lifestyles. Many of our styles are machine-washable and super comfortable, so you can wear them to work and then chase your kids around in them. We also have a number of styles that are maternity-friendly, so you can wear them before, during, and after pregnancy. Maternity-wear can be expensive (and not particularly stylish or professional). So we’ve developed a number of styles that have tons of stretch. They’ll adapt to your body while you’re pregnant, but can also be worn long after pregnancy. Our stylists are here to help women navigate the tricky terrain of dressing for pregnancy while still maintaining their professionalism and personal style.
This combination of product and service is especially important for busy moms. They want to spend their time and energy where it matters—on their families and careers—rather than on figuring out what to wear every day.
What makes MM.LaFleur so functional?
We’ve taken the time to get to know our customer incredibly well, and we make all of our design decisions based on her specific needs. She’s a busy professional who wants to look polished but remain comfortable— whether she’s working at a desk, sitting on stage, running between meetings, or traveling for business. Our design team is aware of what’s happening on the runway, but we don’t chase trends. Instead, we aim to help our customer build a wardrobe that is beautiful, functional, and enduring. If it’s beautiful but not comfortable, that won’t work for her.
To us, that means selecting fabrics that feel great but are also practical (travel-friendly, wrinkle-resistant, and often machine-washable). It also means integrating features like pockets and snaps to hold bra straps in place. Our best-selling Foster pants can be worn at two different lengths to accommodate commuters who want to switch from flats to heels when they get to work. It’s that kind of specificity that sets our designs apart.
Walk us through your design process for your new shoe line? How did you develop a functional and stylish shoe?
It took us years to develop our shoes because we wanted to make sure they were different from anything else on the market. They needed to uphold the elegant aesthetic we’re known for, but also be as functional and comfortable as the rest of our collection.
The first step was finding amazing manufacturing partners, and we’re thrilled to be working with some of Italy’s most talented and experienced shoemakers. Initially, they were surprised by how ambitious we were. They thought we were crazy when we said we wanted to create ultra-comfortable shoes with flexible soles that looked as beautiful as the most coveted high-end shoes. We went through dozens of design iterations, and after many trips to Italy, we finally achieved our vision. Our pumps are made using an Italian process named “sacchetto” (or, glove flex technology), which means that they mold to your foot and allow for ultimate flexibility. For the foot bed, we used an extra-thin but extra-supportive Poron™ memory foam, so they’re super comfortable, breathable and naturally odor-resistant. We also created scratch-proof heels for our pumps, so our customers can feel free to sprint through the subway without worrying about wear and tear. In addition to our two pumps, we created a modern loafer and two ankle boots. The knit Lana Boot is particularly innovative—it’s made using an eco-friendly 3D knitting process. We’re very proud of this launch and look forward to expanding our shoe offering in the future.
How would you describe your new Winter Collection? What can we expect from your Spring Collection?
Our winter collection is an homage to the tuxedo. We focused on classic tailoring, sculptural silhouettes and a crisp black-and-white color palette. These are gorgeous pieces that you can wear from the office to a holiday party, and because they’re quite neutral, it’s easy to dress them up or down. They’re the perfect canvas for those who love to accessorize and make each look their own. And unlike a lot of holiday clothing, these pieces will look great year-round.
For spring 2019, we’re revolutionizing the pant! That might sound basic, but pants are a perpetually tricky category for many women. No matter what your body type, it’s hard to find that perfect, tailored fit. Our goal for spring 2019 is to help every woman find her ultimate pant (or pants). We’re offering a thoughtfully edited selection that will flatter a range of body types (including plus sizes), and we’re excited to change the minds of women who currently think, “Pants just don’t work on me.” Beyond pants, we’re offering an entirely new category of workwear: the professional woman’s answer to athleisure. Our goal has always been to help women “live with purpose and dress with ease,” and this new category will take that concept to the next level. We’re debuting pieces that combine our signature tailoring with increased function, performance, and movement. This is more than an extension of our collection—it’s an entirely new category of womenswear, and we’re so excited to lead the charge.
Tell us about your Bento Box. How does it work?
With our Bento Box service, we offer a stress-free shopping experience that saves the customer time by cutting down on decision-making. The customer takes a quick online survey, and an MM stylist creates a personalized box for her that includes 4-6 wardrobe items (dresses, skirts, tops, knits) and a few accessories. Once her Bento arrives, she has four days to try everything on at home before deciding what to keep. She isn’t charged anything upfront, and she only pays for the items she keeps once she returns her Bento. After her first Bento, the customer can “Re-Bento” as often as she likes (there’s no commitment). Along the way, her MM stylist keeps her updated about new offerings that would work well, based on her preferences and body type. It’s a highly-personalized and time-efficient way for the busy professional to build her wardrobe.
What’s next for MM.LaFleur?
World domination! Just kidding. But we would ultimately like to dress every professional woman in the United States, and ultimately, around the globe. In 2019, we’re excited to expand our collection to meet even more of the professional woman’s needs. Whether she is traveling constantly or transitioning her wardrobe to accommodate a new phase of life like motherhood, we can help her build an impeccable, versatile wardrobe that balances style with function. Next spring, we’ll introduce a new clothing category that combines the ease of athleisure with the tailoring of workwear. For summer, we’ll introduce more relaxed (but still professional) looks for work. And in fall 2019, we’re excited to launch capsules that focus on specific needs like travel and desk-to-dinner dressing. Beyond the clothes, we’re excited to continue to build our inspiring community of women. We love stories of women who have met through MM and gone on to build friendships and collaborations. At our showrooms across the country, we look forward to holding more events that bring women together.
Shop MM.LaFleur at https://mmlafleur.com/.