The New York-based, direct-to-consumer suiting brand Suitably launches today, aimed at women who are beginning their careers.
The online business, at suitably.com, was cofounded by Annabel Gatto, chief executive officer, and her husband, Phil Gatto, who will serve as chief operating officer.
According to Annabel Gatto, the concept originated when she was an undergraduate at Cornell and realized that the process of dressing for work is more complicated and expensive for women than it is for men. Her boyfriend at the time (now husband and cofounder), found the experience of shopping for his first interview “super easy.” He went with his dad to Jos. A. Banks, and was able to get a charcoal gray suit, a navy suit and a tuxedo (buy two, get one free) for less than $500.
“They weren’t super fancy, but they were easy and affordable to get exactly what he needed for work,'” she said. “Mine was so painful. I had no idea what was work appropriate, and I spent a lot of time going from store to store, trying to piece together a work wardrobe. Brands were oftentimes too expensive, or the pieces were poor fitting or not flattering, and a lot of time the stores didn’t have the essentials I needed, like a classic blazer or sheath dress.”
As a summer associate at Morgan Stanley and later at Columbia Business School, where she started blogging, she found other women had similar frustrations. “I was looking for a creative platform, to connect with women and share my day-to-day outfits. I’ve always loved fashion and styling, and I also wanted to share tips I learned at business school. The more I was sharing my tips, I came to realize that the struggle that I faced wasn’t just my own, and they were really universal,” she said.
For the launch of their business, they surveyed thousands of women, including mostly Gen Z (she started with 50 friends and asked them to pass it on to two friends each) and used that proprietary data to crowdsource what mattered and what styles Gen Z women liked best. She also reached out to Women in Business (alumni) Clubs throughout the country. “We wanted our customers to feel like they were stakeholders in the brand,” she said.
She would show the women six designs for a blazer, for example, and ask them to rank them. She would then have conversations to create qualitative feedback, aggregate all the data into a package and take it to the patternmaker to bring the blazer to life.
Gatto found that the women wanted seasonless and classic styles, and price was everything. They wanted washable fabrics and functional features like pockets in the blazer. Eighty percent of these consumers complained that current brands are too expensive, so every piece within Suitably’s launch collection is less than $100. The line is being manufactured in a factory in Shijanzhuang, China.
For their launch collection, Suitably’s offerings include minimalist suiting styles that are seasonless. The four pieces, all in black, are The 24/7 Blazer, The Suite Skirt, The Intro Dress and The Keynote Dress. The pencil skirt retails for $58, the dresses are $88 and the blazer is $98. All pieces are machine-washable and wrinkle-free and made with a proprietary, poly/rayon/spandex blend. Sizes range from 00 to 16. Eventually they plan to add more styles and colors as the business grows. Two pants, two blouses and two sweaters are in development for fall. Exact colors haven’t been determined yet.
Suitably will handle all fulfillment itself. They are shipping out of Manhattan Mini-Storage. The couple are working out of their Upper West Side apartment in New York and will eventually move into offices once they complete their first seed round of funding.
A key aspect of this venture is building a community to offer advice on dressing for a professional setting. The company will have style guides, live events and forums, as well as additional tools to encourage women as they enter the workplace and move into leadership roles. For example, the site will have a blog as a resource for career and style guidance. The “Women at Work” feature will interview women about how they got ahead and what they wear on a daily basis. There will also be a weekly question-and-answer with Annabel Gatto about career and style advice. In addition, the company plans to visit 10 to 15 college campuses this spring to meet with women and business clubs. On the list are Columbia University, New York University, Fordham University, Brown University, Boston University and Cornell University, among others. The founders have relationships with more than 40 clubs on campuses and will host talks and lectures on work style, career advice and women’s empowerment. They also plan to advertise on Facebook and Instagram, and engage the blogger community. Between Gatto’s Instagram and Suitably’s Instagram, they have more than 100,000 followers.
On the product pages of their web site, they will feature style guidance on how to wear the pieces for business formal, business casual, casual and after work. Eventually, the company plans live events and conferences and Annabel Gatto intends to do a podcast.
Suitably has partnered with Dress for Success and WayUp in an effort to give back to professional women in need.