MM.LaFleur The startup that wants to dress you for the office


It’s a tough moment to be a woman shopping for business attire.

As the “athleisure” trend keeps up its long tyranny, many retailers are ordering up loads of jogger pants and stylized sweatshirts instead of tailored trousers and silk blouses Knickers & Bras.

Meanwhile, mid-price stalwarts such as Ann Taylor and Banana Republic seem to be operating with a broken fashion compass Shoes. Department stores are chasing hard after shinier objects, trying to win over millennials with trendy casual clothes.

All of this has left a serious vacuum in the marketplace. And that white space is where women’s apparel start-up MM.LaFleur hopes to make its name.

The brand, an e-commerce site just beginning to branch into physical retailing Handbags & Wallets, is aiming to become a wardrobe go-to for harried 9-to-5ers. So it has just opened its first local store on K Street Northwest — smack in the middle of their turf.

The theory? The way to get into the closets of Washington’s overscheduled lawyers, government contractors and nonprofit executives isn’t via a posh storefront in Georgetown or Tysons Corner. Instead, plant the store in their natural habitat, so they can dash in on the way home from a client meeting or when they have a spare hour before a networking event.

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It’s an unconventional approach, and it’s one of many ways that MM.LaFleur stands out in the retail landscape. At a moment when fast-fashion reigns and many retailers are scrambling to respond to trends more quickly Team Sports, MM.LaFleur is betting there’s an audience for classic, timeless garments. The store does not offer discounts or use promotions, which have practically become table stakes in the apparel business. Its $200 to $300 price tags are an invitation to middle-class cubicle warriors to change their mind-set about shopping Hoodies & Tracksuits, to scoop up investment pieces rather than constantly refreshing their wardrobes with cheaper goods.

In a sense, MM.LaFleur is wagering that the retail industry has been wrong about what a huge swath of 30- to 50-year-old women want. With its expansion into physical retailing, it is taking a major step toward figuring out whether that assessment is right.