We’ve always been told to “dress the part” — but these days it can be hard (and expensive, time consuming, stressful) to nail the look. Regardless of how stylish and organized you are, building a wardrobe that takes you from the boardroom to after-work date night can seem daunting. A day in the life for New York City women is always go go go – from working out in the morning, meetings during the day, happy hour and dates after work. Clothing line Of/Mercer is the perfect solution for today’s working woman looking chic and appropriate styles to wear to the office while still looking flirty and fun after hours. What more do you need?
In anticipation of our upcoming event, we spoke with co-founder, Dorie Golkin Smith to hear more about her brand, Of/Mercer, how to dress for specific professional settings, and how to achieve the coveted work-life balance. Dorie will be presenting at Webster on June 13th, and will be featuring a rack of Of/Mercer collection, and 15% off coupons for all attendees. Read on!
How/when did you come up with the idea for Of/Mercer?
After college I worked in management consulting and struggled to find work apparel that fit my needs. I wanted to look chic and polished, wear high-quality clothes, and not pay a fortune – but somehow that seemed to be too much to ask! When I was at Wharton Business school, I met my now co-founder Emelyn Northway, and funny story, we were wearing the exact same dress! Emelyn and I bonded over the struggle to find clothes that made us look and feel our best.
How did you make that idea come to fruition and take the leap to open your own business?
As business school students, we were very data-centric. We held focus groups, sent out surveys, and talked to as many working women as possible. It turns out the issue wasn’t specific to us, but one that plagued many professional women. While at school we created a beta line of 5 dresses and sold them to our classmates, friends, and family. It’s easy for someone to say they would buy something in a survey, but getting actual sales data helped us learn customer preferences (e.g., color, fabric, fit, and price). The beta launch also proved to us that the market was there, and we decided to move full steam ahead after graduation.
Can you talk about how you dress and present yourself can significantly impact your success and overall confidence?
Anecdotally, it makes sense that wearing something that you are comfortable in increases your confidence. You know you look good, so you stand a little taller and speak a little louder. But even more, there have been many studies that show your clothes actually affect your mental and physical performance.
As on example, a paper in August 2015 in Social Psychological and Personality Science asked subjects to change into formal or casual clothing before cognitive tests. Wearing formal business attire increased abstract thinking—an important aspect of creativity and long-term strategizing.
All of your items are designed and produced in NYC – one of the biggest fashion capitals of the world. How do you come up with the designs?
Our head designer Aja Singer is the one with the inspired creativity. We pair her genius with customer feedback and create new silhouettes to build out our offerings.
How do you continue to evolve your pieces to stay on trend and continue to stay relevant to your demographic?
Most of our styles are very classic, and not too trend-driven. We want to make clothes that women can wear for 10 years, not one season. We involve high fashion trends mostly in colors and fabrications. We take customer feedback very seriously – What are people loving? What isn’t working so well? And we adapt our collection to make sure we’re suiting their needs.
What are your wardrobe must haves/favorite pieces in your collection?
I wear our Sutton Wrap Dress at least once a week. It’s ultra-flattering, comes in beautiful bold colors, and works as well for a business meeting as for date night. I also think everyone should have a pair of Essex Pants in their closet – they feel like yoga pants but are totally HR-approved.
Your blog provides amazing insight to building on a career you love. What are some of your most coveted tips for achieving this?
The most important factor in being happy day-to-day isn’t the work you do, but the team with whom you surround yourself. Work at a company that has people you respect and enjoy spending time with – because let’s face it, you’ll see them more than your spouse/parents/best friends.
What tips would you have for a woman looking to start her own business?
Have patience! Building a company takes time and persistence. Be prepared to grind it out for years before feeling like you’ve succeeded.
Webster women are from all over the world, with jobs in various industries. What would you say all women in NYC should know when it comes to finding that work/life/relationship balance?
I find the hardest thing to do is to turn off work when I’m at home. As an entrepreneur, I never will stop working, but breaks are important. It is surprisingly difficult, but I try to take an hour off from looking at my phone/computer once a night. Whether it’s during dinner with my husband or watching the latest episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, it gives my brain a break from being 100% “on.”
What’s a typical day in the life for you?
Tricky question! I oversee all of our product development, so I’m often looking at sales, inventory, and managing production schedules. But for today, for example, I was planning an upcoming photoshoot, looking at retail space in DC, and refreshing our social media strategy.
What’s it like to work at Of/Mercer?
We have a lot of fun! We have a small (but mighty!) team, so everyone gets to be involved in all aspects of the business. While we work hard during the day, we make sure to have some fun team outings. We recently did Escape The Room, and in a few weeks we’re going to see The Mets!
We hope Smith and Northway’s story inspire you to dive deeper into your passions and strive for the career of your dreams. Join us on Tuesday, June 13th for an exclusive event where Dorie Golkin Smith will share expert tips on dressing from day to night and insight on starting a brand (plus you’ll get a free manicure!). Event details: 7 — 9:30 pm at the Reception Hall, all attendees will receive a discount card for Of/Mercer.