Molly Moorkamp, a 29-year-old women’s wear designer who cut her teeth at Ralph Lauren Corp. and doing custom design, is striking out on her own.
She is launching a direct-to-consumer online business on Nov. 1 under her own name in partnership with her 25-year-old brother and cofounder, Sam Moorkamp.
For five years, Moorkamp has been working at Ralph Lauren designing dresses under the Lauren label. During that time, she developed a custom business on the side, where she made clothes for women for debutante balls and bridal events, such as the rehearsal dinner and brunch the day after the wedding. She designs, drapes, cuts and sews all the clothes herself.
A St. Louis native, Moorkamp has set up her company in her New York apartment on the Upper East Side, which she shares with her brother. They plan to move into their own office space within the year. Some 90 percent of Moorkamp’s business will be direct-to-consumer, with the remaining 10 percent specialty stores. In her custom business, she has done trunk shows at stores such as Tootsies in Houston; Canary in Dallas; Cheree Berry Paper in St. Louis; Sotheby’s in Greenwich, and private homes in New York and the Hamptons.
“After doing custom for two years, I found there’s a whole market of women between 25 and 40 whose mothers wore high-end designers, and they just want classic, beautiful, traditional clothing at a better price point,” she said. Her holiday collection starts at $350 for tops and goes as high as $1,650 for gowns.
For holiday, she will offer wool coats, shift dresses, tweed tops and skirts, short-sleeve dresses and pants. The colors range from shocking pink and orange to turquoise and cool mint. Everything is made in New York, where she has a sample room at 307 West 36th Street. For holiday, she is using fabrics such as silk faille and wool. For spring, she’ll add softer fabrics and will do some prints. She described her aesthetic as “very feminine, polished and clean.”
Moorkamp’s brother is an interior designer who will continue to pursue that career, as well.
“We complement each other very well. I’m more of the technical side of things. I drape, pattern, embellish everything, and he’s more of the big picture thinker and gets everything done,” she said.
Moorkamp graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in 2011, having studied eveningwear and bridal design. She interned at Oscar de la Renta and Marchesa.
She said she’s not concerned that her customers can’t try on the clothes before buying them, and she offers free returns. “For me, I’m all about the customer, beautiful packaging [in blue packaging] and trying to create a luxury experience in a direct-to-consumer way. I think at the end of the day, people want a better price point than the convenience of trying it on,” she said.
“That’s another great thing about being direct to consumer. It gives us a lot of flexibility in terms of when we would have to put out new product. It’s what our customer reacts to,” she said. When she does trunk shows, she can see what her customer reacts to and if there are any kind of fit issues “I have immediate control,” she said.
Moorkamp is launching with about 20 different styles and plans three different drops during the holiday season. She hopes to get the word out through social media and using influencers.
“I want to start slowly and start with a small amount of product for holiday,” Moorkamp said. The sizes range from 0 to 14.
Moorkamp plans to include some looks in the line that she made for her custom clients. She will always ask them for permission and usually names the look after them. She writes a personal thank you with every order.
Moorkamp doesn’t plan to immediately add more categories. “I want to stay very focused. I don’t think I’m a lifestyle brand. I’m never going to make jeans or flip-flops. We may want to expand into knitwear,” she said.
Based on the attendance at her trunk shows, she has discovered her customer is a woman anywhere from 25 to 65 years old. “She just wants to look nice. She takes pride in her appearance. It’s women who want to look tailored and timeless,” she said. She plans to do two major seasons a year: fall and spring, with several drops in each.
Moorkamp wasn’t able to provide a first-year volume projection. “I’m going quarter by quarter,” she said.