Not every three-year-old fashion start-up can boast that it has dressed Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris, Elaine Welteroth and Awkwafina. But San Francisco-born Argent can. And now the brand founded by former Cisco Systems executive Sali Christeson is opening its first permanent brick-and-mortar store in New York’s SoHo — with a co-working space built in.
“This is what we believe is the future of retail,” Christeson said of the 2,000-square-foot Broome Street space, a WeWork or Wing-for-all that will offer seating with tables to conduct work, private phone booths to take calls, free Wi-Fi and programming on topics ranging from financial literacy to speed negotiating. “The goal is to offer a place for women to come and stay plugged in if they need to, but also be able to unplug and get a new work wardrobe or one-off piece. Our why is so obvious and ingrained — it’s all about giving the working woman whatever she needs to show up for work and put her best foot forward,” she said of the brand, designed with women on all steps of the career ladder in mind and priced at $58 to $598.
Argent’s design mission is to reinvent the female work wardrobe for the tech generation with blazers that have nifty, hidden interior pockets for pens, lipgloss, phones and credit cards, eliminating the need to carry a handbag, and elastic bands in the sleeves so they can be pushed up. The collection also offers pants (including a flex-waist tapered sateen style, and a Coolmax wide-leg trouser), knits and Ts, that speak to those who want to stand out in bright hues and lively jacquards (Hollywood celebs Awkwafina and Amy Poehler have both worn the same Argent bright pink suit) and those in the data sciences, perhaps, who prefer a more understated look.
“I am our customer. I was frustrated by how fashion had ignored working women and how no one had rethought workwear. There was a void of product and a single go-to,” said the founder and chief executive officer, who now splits her time between Los Angeles (where her husband works at Apple in Culver City), and New York, where most of Argent is manufactured in the Garment District.
The New York store, which started as a pop-up, is designed to be bold but warm and reflect the local flavor. Wall for Apricots, a female-founded creative consulting firm, contributed to the decor, bringing in custom art pieces and vintage furniture. There’s a custom bench by Brooklyn-based furniture designer, Asa Pingree, a Chubby Chair from Jack Rabbit Studio, and a set of table and chairs by Elise McMahon of LikeMindedObjects.
Christeson launched Argent in 2016 with $1.3 million. She just closed a $4 million round in December, led by Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, with an eye toward investing more in marketing, product and adding to the staff of 11.
The brand found early success selling at vendor marketplaces set up at women’s conferences, including the Professional BusinessWomen of California’s annual conference in San Francisco in 2017, where Christeson snuck into a photo line to meet Clinton and give her a blazer. “She had a physical reaction…she had been on record saying blazers don’t have enough function.” In addition to the SoHo store, Argent recently opened a pop-up on San Francisco’s Maiden Lane.