The Perfect Work Dress

M.M. LaFleur makes office-appropriate clothing that somehow isn’t lame

Sarah LaFleur hated getting dressed for work. As a consultant for Bain and later a portfolio manager in private equity, she felt limited to “drab, uninspiring options from Banana Republic and Ann Taylor.” LaFleur, now 30, saw a hole in the market for elegant yet reasonably priced clothing for “real professional women,” she says. “They want to look cool but have to think about stuff like not showing their bra straps.” So she left finance and in 2012 created M.M. LaFleur, recruiting Miyako Nakamura, formerly of Zac Posen and Jason Wu, to head up design. The online-only company started with a collection of “seven perfect dresses for the workplace” and has since grown into an innovative e-commerce site that helps shoppers navigate by asking questions about shape and style. (Do your shirts pull at the bust? Are you edgy or classic?) The sleek, simple dresses retail for $150 to $300 each and closely resemble Carolina Herrera sheaths, which average about $1,500. M.M. LaFleur only features presentation-worthy looks—nothing too short or low-cut—but with fashiony detailing such as interesting necklines and on-trend colors and fabrics. I tried a black dress called the Sarah ($195) that hit above the knee and had modified cap sleeves. It ran slightly big and had to be hemmed and taken in, but once tailored it looked smart and not too formal, the kind of dress you could wear to a meeting, a cocktail party, or even (God forbid) a funeral. “Who, other than managing directors at Goldman Sachs, has thousands to spend on beautiful clothes for the office?” LaFleur asks. Happily for her, not too many women: M.M. LaFleur won’t give actual figures but says sales quadrupled in 2013, and the line expanded into separates and accessories for fall.

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