NEW YORK — Nina McLemore wants her designer clothing company to reach as many businesswomen as possible, and now she has investors to help make that happen.

McLemore, who founded Nina McLemore Inc. two years ago to meet the fashion needs of female professionals, secured $3.7 million in growth financing.

The funding will be used to expand McLemore’s sales force, giving her company a larger presence in its 30 markets and beyond.

“Women don’t want to spend three Saturdays in a row trying to find clothing for their lifestyle,” McLemore told WWD. “The customers are delighted when they find us.”

The funding is led by Aperture Venture Partners LLC, and includes investments from individual investors, Slater Equity and Chazen Capital Partners.

Apparel has long been McLemore’s passion. In 1980, she founded Liz Claiborne Accessories, earning the Accessories Industry Lifetime Achievement Award after making the company a highly profitable division of Liz Claiborne Inc. Prior to that, McLemore was vice president, general merchandise manager at May Department Stores. She also founded a private equity firm.

In her business dealings, McLemore met female professionals who complained they couldn’t find stylish, well-tailored clothing that could be worn in the office and at social events.

“I decided to go out and pretend I’m a customer, and I realized how difficult it was,” she said.

The result was the development of an exclusive line, sold primarily at specialty stores and trunk shows. The clothing, mostly made of natural fibers from European mills and priced at up to $900, is designed to be stylish, yet easy to care for.

McLemore realizes she has competition. In surveys, her customers said they also purchase St. John, Armani, Escada and Yves St. Laurent.

McLemore, though, hopes her line answers a key question: “For the customers who originally bought Liz Claiborne in 1980 and became really successful, where does she go to find her clothing?”

This story first appeared in the July 27, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.