From Kamala Harris to the founder of Glossier, Argent’s functional yet stylish suiting is becoming a staple in the closets of the career-driven. Hear from founder Sali Christeson how her women’s workwear brand got started, about her fundraising journey and how she thinks fashion will evolve.
Q: I think the unique thing Argent offers is a product that abides by workplace dress codes without surrendering one’s individuality. On top of that, your hyper-functional detailing is the most thoughtful I’ve seen in a women’s suiting. How do you achieving this triple-threat when making product decisions?
Sali: Argent exists to simplify the lives of working women by engineering solutions to make their day-to-day lives easier.
When we first started talking about Argent and what it was going to be, we knew it couldn’t be just another line of work clothing. We talked extensively with working women, from lawyers to tech leaders to creatives, and drew on personal experience to address their similar pain points. We knew we could engineer functionality into the design to create a completely new category.
Modern working women are on the go, but they didn’t have clothing options that were stylish, comfortable and functional at the same time. You can see the engineering across the collection in pieces like the reversible suits, media and stylus pockets, microfiber pocket bags (for cleaning glasses and iPhone screens), and moisture-wicking material.
Q: Can you share a bit about your experience as a boutique retailer operating 100% in the US? How do you get all these cool functional details in, and in correctly?
Sali: We manufacture everything in the garment district in NYC (right down the street from our office) which allows us to work closely with our partners and deliver a high-quality product to our customers in a timely manner. It is important to us that we give our customers the best possible value. We do this through our premium fabrics and functional details. We are direct to consumer which allows us to deliver our pieces at the best possible price based on our domestic production, high-quality imported fabrics and functional details.
In terms of supply chain barriers, we often sell out of our items quickly because we are a smaller operation. Customers find they need to purchase things right away to ensure they get the item before it sells out. We are constantly getting emails requesting sold out products and while we generally do not re-cut past season items, we take note of what works and what doesn’t so we can continue improving season over season.
Q: Along that….you left tech because you were a smidge over the tech boys club, but then you launched Argent and found yourself wedged between two other (very different) male-dominated industries: manufacturing and VC. So what has that been like?
Sali: It has definitely been a learning experience. That said, when people get the brand, they really get it and are so inspired by the innovation we bring to the table. Argent is different than most consumer brands because we are re-inventing the category when other brands are delivering more of the same and I think that gets people excited.
Q: I totally get that. I mean…what’s it like fundraising in front of people that aren’t your target buyer, and may not really know the market?
Sali: We once had a meeting where a VC told us that “function does not belong in women’s clothing”. The way women respond to our pockets clearly proves him wrong but I think his comment demonstrates the way many people think about the workwear space. They are not interested in looking at things in a new way but in reality, the customer is craving change and we are delivering it to them.
Q: Sooo, now that Cara Delevingne wore a suit to that wedding do you think more women will think of suits as outfits for outside the workplace? Like do you imagine a world where more women will ditch their sundresses for a solid double-breasted?
Sali: We can already see this happening. Our customers regularly reach out to us for wedding or occasion looks. In fact, one customer recently got married in Argent. I think women are feeling more free to dress exactly how they want to. We are seeing an increase in functional clothing that not only looks good but delivers something more.
Q: Gloria Steinem. Kamala Harris. Hillary Clinton. Glossier’s Founder and CEO Emily Weiss. Ali Pincus, co-founder of One Kings Lane; Meena Harris, the founder of Phenomenal Woman Action Campaign; and a lot of women in your IG stories make up one hell of an Argent army. How do all of these high-powered people hear about Argent at such an early stage?
Sali: Women across all industries and all levels are supporting Argent because they fall in love with our high quality product and believe in our mission, to give women their seat at the table. The clothes are a physical reminder of our values and community, and they exist to give women confidence in their day to day lives. Word of mouth has been extremely powerful for us at all levels and we feel incredibly fortunate that our customers are responding to positively to what we are building. Together, we believe that we will be able to drive real change in the workplace for women.
Q: You have great events. And I like that you open them up, inviting all genders into the community. How do you view Argent’s role as catalysts for change in the workplace, beyond workwear?
Sali: It is very important to us that our brand is accessible for all. We invite everyone to join our events and we make sure they are always free to attend. We strongly believe the conversation needs to include men and women to move forward. We want everyone to feel welcome to join the Argent community.
Q: If you could raid one person’s closet – shoes included – who’d it be and why?
Sali: Emma Stone. Her appearances are a bit rare but when she steps out she always strikes the perfect balance between elegant and interesting. Plus, I just love her. I mean, how you could not?
Q: What brands or designers should we follow on Instagram right now and why?
Sali: Dirty Lemon, hands down some of the funniest social media work I’ve seen. I also love Leandra Medine of Man Repeller and Outdoor Voices.
Q: What do you think of a website that features only brands created by people of color, women and/or the LGBTQ community?
Sali: I think people like to buy things that have a story they identify with. Many big name brands have lost their sense of community so spotlighting brands that deliver something unique is becoming more and more important.
Of the 15 apparel brands in Fortune 500, none are run by women. DAMN! Drop your email on the line to discover more brands like Argent and NORBLACK NORWHITE, all run by women, people of color and/or LGBTQ individuals.
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