Interview with: M641
M641 business partners Subu and Ina had been friends for years before launching clothing line Madras 641 in Spring 2007, just months after putting together the initial business plan.
“In January 2007 during a visit together while our little ones were playing she shared her dream to have her own clothing label one day. Since both of us were at home full-time now with our little ones, we realized had so much in common and yet such diversity to share” says Ina, the company’s marketing director.
Subu, who grew up in the garment industry, serves as the creative design mastermind of the brand. The name Madras641 pays homage to Subu’s roots in India–Madras is where she hails from, and 641 is actually the zip code.
Both women are currently based in the Cincinnati area, which, let’s face it, is not the usual choice for fashion designers. So why did they choose to base their business in Ohio of all places? “Well, with children and husbands who have ‘real jobs’, we have stayed situated with our families.”
Ina, who lived in Manhattan and “misses it on a daily basis”, admits that location–especially in the world of fashion–can be vital to businesses like theirs. Fortunately, they’ve had success showing the line at industry events and working with sales agents all over the US. And of course, the fashion-focused internet community and built-in social media network has helped them develop a cult-like following.
“So actually, we’re really kinda everywhere.”
M641’s Fall 2009 Collection is entitled ‘Independence Rising’–based on Subu and Ina’s vision of the future, where hope rises proudly from the current economic wreckage. They’ve already begun creating samples for next spring, which will be M641’s largest collection to date. The concept and design work for next spring and summer actually began in March, and the collection includes wonderful party-ready dresses and tops, plus ten amazing tunics, camis, dresses, and a first for the line–shorts!
Who’s that girl?
Ina describes the M641 customer as a gal who recognizes her own uniqueness from the standpoint of her many accomplishments. “She doesn’t have to be a celebrity but if she were, we envision the likes of Kate Hudson in M641.”
What really makes them proud, though, is the feedback from satisfied and stylish customers.
“There are days when a customer can email us after a purchase, sending along pics from an event where she wore an M641 design, and we are just giddy and humbled by those.”
Marketing the brand
Though they participate in the social media sphere (follow @M641 on twitter), they claim to be pretty traditional in terms of marketing methods. Ina strongly believes in growing slowly and steadily, so they focus on good old fashioned word-of-mouth, especially since the conventional route of paid advertising and campaigns can be costly.
“As an emerging brand we’re careful to not spend money unnecessarily. In that respect, we saw that things were moving a little slower than we would like, so we went direct for our PR outreach.”
Though the brand was initially sold via online marketplace etsy, that experience was valuable but short lived.
“We were getting orders from both our boutique buyers and end customers and we couldn’t keep up with doing things by hand.” (etsy is a marketplace specifically for handmade goods).
As a result, manufacturing came into play almost immediately, and they moved from small, handmade quantities to bulk production. As far as the etsy experience, “What changed was the way we produce goods; what didn’t change was our independent artisan style mindset.”
So what’s next for the line? Ina says they’ll dabble in fabrications other than 100% woven cotton, and they’ve already begun adding in a few new subcategories–including bottoms. They’re also working out the details of a partnership with a showroom in LA in order to further grow the brand. Their hard work and creative outreach seems to be working:
“We just recently had the CEO of a major online retailer ask to see our samples in NY. Her interest speaks volumes about our reach and how far we’ve come.”
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