Chloe & Reese Does Custom Apparel

Chloe & Reese last week launched a Web store to sell made-to-order clothing for women in creative industries who want classic, well-made clothes.

The Chloe & Reese home page.

Year-old contemporary line Chloe & Reese last week launched a Web store to sell made-to-order clothing for women in creative industries who want classic, well-made clothes and can’t afford designer.

This story first appeared in the December 10, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The line was started by Annmarie Scotto with no previous experience in fashion or outside funding, and is carried by about 40 retailers worldwide, including Neiman Marcus, Henri Bendel, Harrods and Saks Fifth Avenue. Retailers reordered items from the fall 2008 line and placed orders for the spring collection even after the economic drop in October, said Scotto.

Formerly in public relations and marketing for beauty and entertainment companies, Scotto found it frustrating to find work-appropriate dresses and other pieces for the gala events she attended. So she started having things made, and that experience grew into a collection. The idea for the site came about after the showroom received calls from women who had seen an item in a magazine or couldn’t find their size in a store.

“I’m actually just trying to design clothes I would wear and my friends would wear,” said Scotto. The typical customer would be an executive in the entertainment, beauty or fashion industry in her late 20s or early 30s who earns over $75,000 a year and needs clothes for work and going out. Scotto described the look as “feminine and classic with a flirty side.”

Chloeandreese.com offers more than 40 styles and hundreds of fabric and color options. Looks include blouses, blazers, pencil skirts, coats and lots of party dresses. There is a wool jersey dress, a corduroy jumper and a long gown. Prices range from $270 for a blouse to $670 for a coat. All fabrics are natural and linings are silk. A long-sleeve silk charmeuse blouse that was a bestseller at retail comes in 41 colors and costs $285.

Over the past few months, the company has been testing the made-to-order concept with trunk shows in its showroom. The clothes are produced in a Seventh Avenue factory around the corner from the designer’s headquarters on 38th Street. Scotto sketches the looks, and the factory makes the patterns and sews the clothes using Gerber systems. Neither the factory nor the company’s fabric suppliers have minimums.

Because the clothes are custom, returns will be accepted for store credit only. An 800 number is available to answer questions about cut, fit, size and color, and swatches are available. Sizes go from 00 to 14, and shipments arrive two weeks after an order is placed. Generous seam allowances (3/4 of an inch) allow for alterations.

The company ships to eight countries worldwide, including France, United Arab Emirates, China and Japan. Shipping in the U.S. is free.

Chloe & Reese already has a mailing list of 15,000 people thanks to the staff’s connections in marketing, beauty, entertainment and fashion. (The company has four employees.) Scotto plans to hold frequent contests and give away dresses to drive traffic to the site, which will also have a “boyfriend” list (instead of a wish list) for hinting about gifts. A blog will chronicle the adventures of Chloe and Reese, “two modern glamour girls,” said Scotto.

Chloe & Reese could tap into burgeoning interest in customized goods as well as clothing made in the U.S. The company is one of the first to sell custom women’s separates and sportswear online at these prices, although Thread, established in 1999, has a similar business selling made-to-order wedding and bridesmaid’s dresses online. Lands’ End, J.C. Penney Co., Nike, Timberland and IndiJeans also sell customized apparel and footwear online. In the designer category, Selve of Munich and Lori Coulter of St. Louis make custom shoes and swimwear, but the customer must be measured in person at a retail location, at least for the initial order.