We owe you, ladies.
We owe you a proper update of what Another Garde has been up to. It took us a while to be ready to share this publicly; it is daunting to talk about the ups and downs of running a fashion startup from the fear of looking indecisive or worse making the worst PR decision startup founders could make. It also took time to just lay out in simple terms the whys and hows and perhaps even more so the why nots of what we did since we launched Another Garde, more than 3 years ago. If you are game to read an unfiltered ‘Get It’ story, please keep reading. Hope you will find it interesting, and true to what we stand for as women entrepreneurs. Spoiler alert: this is not a swan song. This is a fight song - and we are in all the way :)
With Another Garde curating beautiful brands owned by kickass women creatives, it has been exhilarating to carefully pick up versatile collections that would let women move, run, and get on with their busy lives. It has been inspiring to work with women who would dig deep collection after collection to create for women of all ages and silhouettes. It has been exciting meeting so many customers who shared with us the joy they get out from rocking feel good outfits but also their frustration about key fashion players that just could not get them and understand their needs.
It has been freaking scary to design and manufacture our very own first private label small collection in the middle of New York’s garment district. When we left the family owned factory just after making our first samples, we thought: ‘this does not make sense. It costs money to manufacture here in New York, in such small quantities. Who do you think you are?’ And yet we did it because we believe in local and lean manufacturing and we truly wanted to bring some styles like the Penelope dress that would fit diverse women. We were over the moon to see women such as Lyn Slater (Accidental icon) rocking the Lou Button Up . Our first year results looked nothing to be embarrassed for. Brands and customers lauded our ‘Women. On your own terms’ cri de guerre. And it felt right; it felt good.
However, In these last 3 years, we have also watched the rise of Everlane, champion of radical supply chain transparency, and demise of many fashion players from cultural phenomenon Nasty Gal to denim reference brand Diesel that filed for bankruptcy in the first quarter of 2019. The dynamic landscape has been inspiring but also sobering and sometimes heartbreaking. Hardship did not spare some of those we have loved working with since day one.
Fashion is an exciting but also an unforgiving and relentless space; we are telling you. Competition is fierce, customers are rightfully asking more from brands, retail innovation is not longer a plus but a necessity if you don’t want to bite the dust. We know that high turnover of styles are still boosting women’s apparel sales and that an astonishing 3,500 women’s fashion references appear online EVERY DAY.
How could we at Another Garde compete? Not that we would want to compete on a ‘more is more’ battleground; not when we know that for many of our customers ‘getting dressed is getting stressed’ and that they crave for timeless wardrobes, curated choices and perhaps more than anything want to rely on trustworthy customer services invested in helping to make the right choice and not the fast choice. For fashion startups, the anxiety coming from the relentless search for a fireproof formula for success is real. Gut wrenching in fact because, for a small company like ours, there is very rarely any second lifeline. We could not realistically afford onboarding more brands, more styles, immobilizing more cash in inventory, or spending millions in digital advertising, etc. So what, then?
Pivoting for startups should be as natural as breathing. We have always been proud of being nimble; it is our natural state of mind but it does not mean it is an easy one. Picture this: hair pulling moments in strategy meetings, waking up in the middle of the night to frantically blotch down some notes on your smartphone, muted screaming as you work with your sick kid on your lap...Yeah, that is ugly.
But then, it has become crystal clear that our ‘Woman on your own terms’ vision is not about just fashion and clothes but about about women of all ages and silhouettes and their lifestyle, their needs and wants. And when we look around, it is also obvious that most of us are under-represented and underserved. How can we not feel this way when fashion is still disproportionately showcasing younger 5’9” women in their early twenties?
Since day one, we were committed to ultra personalized fashion and the last 3 years serving you has helped us refine how we want to deliver on such a promise. Women’s bodies are beautifully diverse and always changing so it is not surprising that finding the perfect fit is worse than a tequila induced hangover for most of us whether we are a woman who feels petite with broad shoulders or tall with curves. Forget numerical sizing, the petite line, the plus size capsule collection, there is only one fit that matters: yours. So we want to tell you first here; that is what we are going to do next: offering custom made fashion and lifestyle services and offering them with empathy thanks to a dedicated and holistic customer service that gets who you are as a person. We want to change how women buy fashion so that age and fit will never prevent them from feeling great about themselves. And we will listen to you. In fact, let’s start that now!