Clothing can be sustainable and yet still fashionable. – Mimi Wong, Founder and Designer of Minan Wong
It may read as a simple statement, but not all designers can make this claim. In today’s earth friendly culture, consumers want fashionable clothes that can sustain the earth. Gone are the days where sustainable [Eco-friendly] fashion was considered frumpy. The execution of this statement is powerful and can be seamless with the right mindset. Mimi Wong has that mindset and has built it into her design practice. Her focus is style, comfort, and quality with the sustainable emphasis on longevity. Yes, what an interesting concept to invest in fashion again!! Her collections are investment pieces for long wear and are timeless against the fast trends.
What a pleasure to meet and talk to Mimi during this fashion week season. She is based in NYC and produces in the USA with a sustainable supply line in both materials and manufacturing. Although seasoned in the business, has worked for Donna Karan and Eileen Fisher, she is an emerging designer that has got the edge to make a positive impact on our fashion culture. Mimi Wong of Minan Wong is on the EDGE radar.
Here is what she had to stay about her journey, marketing her brand, her perspective on the industry, and her passion for designing . . .
Mimi, how and why did you get started in the fashion business?
I have been working in the fashion industry for over 18 years and in just the last year and a half, had a burning desire to share my vision with the world.
Tell us briefly about your journey in getting you where you are today?
My journey started when I was a little girl of 8 years old, watching Audrey Hepburn movies and getting inspired by her. I have always known that I would learn to make clothing for women so after high school, I went straight to FIT, and then worked for 18 years before feeling ready to go out on my own.
What’s at the core of why you design fashion?
Clothing can be sustainable and yet still fashionable.
EDGE champions fashion businesses like yours that find sustainable practices in their business model. We thank you for that!
What motivates and moves you?
I have 2 small children so naturally they are the source of my motivation and living in the big city, energizes me!
With the sea of sameness and lack of innovation in this industry, how do you position your brand, how do you see your designs differentiate from the masses?
While others aim to be big, I aim to offer small lots/runs that are exclusive. Less is more and I hope to educate the modern consumer to purchase investments rather than dispose. Timeless fashion vs fast fashion. Hope to go back to the days of couture, we all need it.
How important is exposing your collection through the fashion show medium?
It’s great for publicity but it does not necessarily reach the direct targeted consumers or the buyers.
Designers/brands invest thousands of dollars to participate in a fashion week runway show. Do you feel that this 10-20 minute catwalk gives you a return on your investment, and how so, if it does?
Unfortunately, the fashion business is very expensive and the 10 minute runway show does not give you the return but helps to create a media buzz. This is part of the industry and I’m not sure if you can shy away from it when you are just starting out?
Since it doesn’t meet your strategy in getting buyer orders placed, what other avenue(s) do you use to build commercial success?
Finding the right showroom that can sell your brand and having smaller trunk shows selling directly to the consumers.
I agree, Mimi, and that makes good business sense where you can be more in control.
With the broad exposure to fashion shows, detailed photos of the runway collections accessible on all devices and most importantly the consumer, the fashion industry is revisiting its relevance. Historically, fashion events have been business-to-business vehicles for industry professionals only, closed to the public. Today’s phenomenon [digitally accessible by the public] puts pressure on the system to respond to a “see now, show now, buy now, wear now” trend. Fast Fashion brands have the ability to develop; interpret; “copy”, if you will, the runway looks and deliver months before the traditional 4-6 month delivery schedule.
Given this consternation of change, what is your position and/or point of view regarding this?
This is an ongoing issue in the fashion industry and now, in a larger scale, in the digi world. My feeling is that it’s a different customer and the quality/ fit/workmanship is different. I personally would not purchase an article of clothing if the quality, fit and workmanship isn’t there, even if only $20. I would not want to be caught in the public wearing the same $20 brand with the masses. I prefer to wear exclusive and that’s what I want to offer my customers.
In marketing your brand, do you find that your social media platform meets your business objectives? If so, are you able to measure its financial benefit, if any? Feel free to elaborate on the pros and cons of social media in building your commercial success, in actually getting orders.
Social media is a powerful tool for marketing that will lead the direct customer to your website if done right. Stores hesitate to write orders with new brands but if they see traffic to your website and love the story you are telling, it helps the store buyers see your vision, too. Social media is a great brand awareness tool but not necessarily a tool for the store buyers.
Mimi, you have been in the business for over 18 years. With the saturation, complexity, and competitiveness of the fashion industry, what business tip or advice would you give to emerging brands new to the industry?
I’d say if you have a story to tell and a great product to offer, keep on going until you get picked up by a store. Nowadays, it takes longer to get noticed so staying power is the key. Most importantly do it for the passion and not for the money because the worst case is that you will get stuck doing what you love!
What do you want the consumer to ultimately experience and express while wearing your designs?
I want the consumer to experience the fashion first, and then notice the sustainable edge and at the same time the fit/workmanship/quality. To feel put together in a polished way and be supported by the clothes through the everyday challenges. The woman should shine and not the clothes.
After seeing your line and talking with you, you certainly shine with enthusiasm and love for this business.
EDGE congratulates you, Mimi Wong of Minan Wong, on your journey so far and extends continued success for the future!
All Photography: Jason Young