Who Makes Your MM.LaFleur Clothes? (Part 1)
May 05, 2017 | Filed in: Your Closet
There are a lot of things that set MM.LaFleur apart from other retailers (hello, Bento), but one of the lesser-known differentiators is the collaborative rapport we have with the people who produce our clothes. When we launched our company in 2013, we made all of our products in New York City. As we’ve grown, we’ve moved some of our manufacturing abroad, but whether we’re producing in NYC, Hong Kong, or Vietnam, our approach is the same: We form enduring, meaningful relationships with our factory partners.
The factories we work with in New York’s Garment District are a quick 15-minute subway ride from our offices in Soho. We’re proud to support local businesses, and we’re lucky to work with some of the industry’s most talented sewers and patternmakers. What’s more, we believe that fostering strong ties with our manufacturers results in higher-quality products. Our design team works hand-in-hand (sometimes quite literally) with our New York factory managers to produce small batches of inventory—a collaborative, multi-step process that allows us to obsess over every detail. The outcome of this nose-to-tail approach? Fewer mistakes, less waste, and more beautiful clothing—win-win.
Some of these factory partners have been with MM since our very first collection (lookin’ at you, Mr. Liu); not only do they know our designs inside and out, but they’ve also become our friends. “I really believe that the factory workers feel more accountable to us because they know us so well,” says Katie Elks, a product developer at MM. “We genuinely care about each other.” She and Courtney Frevola, another product developer, are among MM’s primary liaisons with the factories; three to four times a week, they pack up sketches, fabric samples, and garment bags to make the rounds. Here, they introduce us to three of MM’s most essential Garment District partners.
Erica, factory manager
Currently working on: The Femi dress
Favorite MM piece: The Davis top
Erica: “I love the Davis top so much that I made a few for myself, in different fabrics—I wear them on weekends, sometimes to church. I also love the Hanna dress, and the Samantha, too. I make so many, and I love them all! I have a daughter who lives in Seattle and is in the navy; she sent me a picture of herself recently, and I said, ‘Wait a minute, are you wearing a dress by MM.LaFleur?’ She said, ‘Yes.’ And I said, ‘I made that dress!’ It was the Etsuko. She was so excited, and she told everybody that I worked for MM.LaFleur; all her friends wear it, too. I’ve been working in this business since 1984, so my daughter knows good clothing.”
Courtney: “From a development standpoint, Erica is great to troubleshoot with. She knows a lot about sewing and construction, and she’s an amazing resource. Whenever we’re having trouble with a more complicated design, she helps us figure it out. We often come to her with our most technically difficult pieces.”
Mr. Liu, factory owner
Currently working on: The Vesterbro trouser
Favorite MM piece: The Tory dress
Mr. Liu: “I’ve worked with MM from the beginning, when it was only five people, and now it’s so big! I never would have known. [Ed. note: True. We’re 170 people now!] It was a surprise, but we are so happy to see the company grow—then our business grows, too.”
Katie: “Mr. Liu is the first factory partner that MM worked with, so he made all of our earliest pieces. Most recently, he made the Tory 3.0 dresses for summer. He also played a big role in creating the Foster pant, which is a consistent bestseller, and he continues to do a lot of our trousers.”
Courtney: “His work ethic is incredible. He’ll call me at any hour of the day—or night—to ask me questions about samples, because he’ll work as long as needed to get them done just right.”
Phoebe, factory owner
Currently working on: The Toi dress in ripple
Favorite MM piece: The Inez dress
Phoebe: “I’ve been making clothes for 15 years, and I own this factory with my husband. I’ve been working with MM for several years now, and I often wear the Angelou shawl—it was a Christmas present from Courtney and Katie.”
Katie: “Phoebe is incredibly patient, which makes the development process much easier. A big part of our jobs is to lay out patterns, look at samples, explain the designs—and then do it again and again until everything is just right. We try to finalize pieces in five samples, but sometimes it’s more like ten. There are a lot of checkpoints throughout the process, and Phoebe really gets it—she always wants to improve, just like we do.”
Courtney: “Phoebe is incredibly kind—she’ll turn something around extra-fast if she knows it’ll make your life easier.”
For the next installment of this article, we’ll introduce some of our international partners. Stay tuned!
Photos by Maria Karas.