Sarah LaFleur and Miyako Nakamura on Five Years of MM.LaFleur
February 02, 2018 | Filed in: Humans of MM
2018 marks MM.LaFleur’s five-year anniversary (that’s right, we’re in kindergarten now). We sat down with our co-founders, CEO Sarah LaFleur and Creative Director Miyako Nakamura, to hear about some of their favorite memories, insights, and their vision for the next five years.
On what’s changed:
Sarah: Our team was so small for the first few years that I was involved in every process. Maybe too involved! I’m better at delegating now.
Miyako: Once, early on, Sarah really wanted to do a shoot with a phone booth. I had no idea how we would do that, but somehow she found one.
Sarah: I tracked down this old, London-style phone booth, and I was told, “You can rent it, but there’s nobody to deliver it to you.” I said, “Can I come and pick it up?” So we rented a truck and loaded what must have been a 400-pound, real phone booth into the back.
Miyako: Then Sarah sweet-talked this restaurant owner into letting us do our photo shoot in front of his restaurant.
Sarah: We put this fake snow all over the sidewalk to make it look like winter. Weeks later, we were still finding the snow in our pockets. Now, we have amazing people on our team who manage these kinds of things. They’re much more capable than we were, and they would definitely figure out a way to have the phone booth delivered ahead of time!
On what has stayed the same:
Miyako: Even though we’ve grown so much, I still feel close to the team. You would think that the company would become less tight-knit because of its size, and it really hasn’t—I love that.
Sarah: I would also say that the mission of the company hasn’t changed, and that’s pretty remarkable. From day one, we knew what we wanted to do: empower professional women through clothing and styling. Our customers have always been amazing. I meet women who are lawyers, bankers, accountants, doctors. I even met a psychic once! And every single one of them is so accomplished and interesting. The drive and passion that they have for whatever they’re doing—that’s always been a constant.
On what they’ve learned from their customers:
Miyako: I’ve learned the importance of marrying form with function. I came from a high-fashion background where the look of a garment was sometimes considered more important than whether it was useful or comfortable. MM customers are demanding (in a good way), and they’ve taught me that every product needs to highly functional as well as beautiful. If it’s pretty but doesn’t have pockets or a perfect fit, she will call us out.
Sarah: I’ve learned that there are so many women who don’t like to shop! It’s one of those things that our culture assumes, but our customers have flipped this assumption on its head. They want to look elegant, but they are happy to outsource much of the wardrobe building to our styling team. Lucky us!
On what they wish they had known five years ago:
Miyako: Initially, we kept our collection really simple: dresses for working women. Now we have immensely expanded the range of clothing we offer and branched out in our designs. It’s so much more of a creative outlet than I could have ever imagined when we were just making a few different garments.
Sarah: In the early days, I often compared our business to what other brands were doing. Now I know it really doesn’t matter. When you trust yourself to create the thing that only you can make, there really isn’t any comparison. We feel we’re in a league of our own now, and that’s freeing. It’s exciting to be in uncharted territory, and we’re really just getting started.
On where they see themselves at the next five-year anniversary:
Sarah: I hope we can continue to bring our customers joy and shine a positive spotlight on working women. The conversation we’re having right now, as a culture, about women’s role in the workplace is really fascinating. But five years from now, I hope we’ve advanced way past it.
Miyako: Five years from now? I can’t even wrap my head around it! I hope we can continue to be a company that makes women feel that their lives are fuller.
On the advice they’d give their future selves:
Miyako: Do the thing you love the most, the best that you can. It’s simple, but from that impulse, really beautiful things can happen.
Sarah: You’re getting your shot to make a difference—so don’t miss it.
We’re also celebrating our five-year anniversary by releasing several of our OG styles in new fits and fabrics. Shop The Comeback here.