From MBA to Runway

JUNE 30, 2014

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The word “powersuit” has never seemed particularly attractive to me. The point of the term is clear: an office ensemble that gives you “power” and control in the workplace.  However, for modern women, something about a “power suit” seems dated, oozing with flashbacks of Melanie Griffith in Working Girl trying to fit into someone else’s clothes and persona.

Today’s working women have so much to bring to the table; intelligence, ambition, confidence, and individuality. Why shouldn’t these traits be reflected in modern workwear?

With their clothing line, Of MercerDorie Golkin and Emelyn Northway – two Wharton MBA Graduates turned entrepreneurs – seek to give working women stylish yet office-appropriate attire.

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Offering  pieces with both on-trend silhouettes and sharp tailoring, Of Mercer pieces exude style and confidence. In addition to style and fit, Of Mercer offers two elements that can be hard to find at boutiques and department stores: affordability and consistency. By cutting out the brick and mortar or online retailer, all of the pieces remain affordable without sacrificing quality.  While styles are continually updated, all Of Mercer clothing adheres to guidelines that keep it office appropriate. You’ll never find that the hemline on a shift dress you ordered for a Monday meeting is only appropriate for Saturday night.  By keeping their point of view cohesive and clear, Of Mercer makes is easy fill your closet and dress to be your best self.

Check out our conversation below with the two Co-Founders about their journey and their brand!

You mention on your site the struggles of finding feminine, yet work appropriate attire out there in the market. In you previous jobs in finance, did you find that there was a correlation between the way you dressed and the way coworkers and clients treated you?

Emelyn: There was definitely a correlation between my confidence level and the way that I was dressed, and that affected how co-workers treated me.  I noticed this particularly when I left investment banking and started interviewing at private equity firms, many of which were all male.

I left my go-to work dresses behind and turned to my awkward-fitting, manly pantsuits, thinking they would help me fit in.  But they were a departure from my personal style, and my discomfort definitely came through in interviews.  What I didn’t realize then, was that manly pantsuit or not, firms were certainly not going to hire me if I didn’t come across as confident in myself and in my abilities, let alone in my own clothes.

 

What are some of the stylistic elements that set Of Mercer apart from the usual workwear suspects (JCrew, Theory, Club Monaco, Ann Taylor, etc…)

Dorie: When we were shopping for workwear ourselves, we were frustrated by the inconsistency of brands. Sometimes their pieces would be office-appropriate, other times they’d be nightclub-appropriate. So all of our pieces start with a conservative silhouette, and we add edgy details and fashion-forward elements to appeal to the range of working women and office dress codes. Our pieces span from always-needed work staples, such as the classic Fifth Avenue sheath dress, to the more fashion-forward color blocked Stanton Dress.

 

As per your website, you two originally bonded over a “go-to confidence-inducing professional outfit”. What elements of style and of Of Mercer Clothing give you that confidence?

Emelyn: First, it’s about fit and precision tailoring.  We really invest a lot into perfecting the fit of our pieces and ensuring that we have styles that work for a range of body types.  Wearing a dress that fits you perfectly is the first step to a confidence-inducing professional outfit.

The second element is incorporating your personality and style into that outfit, without losing sight of your office dress code.  We make this easy; we take inspiration from high fashion but apply it to our pieces in an office-appropriate way using classic shapes and colors.

 

What is each of your favorite pieces from the collection and what are some confidence inducing staples that you think every Quarterlette should own? How can women who work in more conservative office environments add personal style into their work wardrobe while remaining professional?

Dorie: The Thompson Dress! It takes a classic, universally-flattering shape and livens it up with exposed zipper pockets (both fashionable and functional) and cute pleated sleeves (cardigan, be-gone!).

Emelyn: The Fifth Avenue Dress is an always-classic stylish sheath dress, and one that I think every Quarterlette should own.  It fits like a dream and can easily be dressed up or down for any occasion or dress code.

Sticking to a conservative office dress code does not preclude you from looking stylish. If you’re comfortable with color we recommend wearing it in conservative dress shapes.  But if you’re more into black, then throw on a bright statement necklace or patterned belt to give your outfit more of a pop. No matter what you wear, make sure it is consistent with your personal style, because that is how you will be your most comfortable and confident.

 

What is next for Of Mercer? Since you are direct to consumer, do you eventually see a brick and mortar Of Mercer in the future?

Dorie: We love showing off our clothes in person. Right now we’re focused on pop-up shops and trunk shows, but ultimately we’d love to have showrooms in major metropolitan areas. We are committed to cutting out the retailer and keeping brick and mortar costs as low as possible, so you’ll probably never see us with a Madison Avenue storefront. We want to make sure we maintain the quality level and price point our customer wants and deserves!

 

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