Retail

Reimagining Women’s Workwear

There is something singularly uninspiring about women’s work attire. Lots of beige, boxy cuts, unvarying designs — not a whole lot to get excited about.

For most working women, this reality is something of a sartorial crutch they’ve gotten used to bearing. Fun clothes are for home — clothes for work are whatever looks least terrible.

Former tech executive Sali Christeson and J. Crew/Tory Birch veteran Eleanor Turner, however, were unwilling to keep making their peace with unfortunate and uninspired women’s workwear.

“The lightbulb moment came when we went shopping and I saw firsthand how limited the options were. The experience did not cater to the many roles and industries women represent in our modern-day workforce. The simplest example is that the salespeople didn’t ask what work we did and consistently tried to dress us in dull suiting. There was an obvious void in the work apparel category, and it needed a major facelift,” Turner explained.

Because other than simply being unenjoyable, being badly dressed actually costs women at work in demonstrable terms. Study after study indicates that appearance very much affects a women’s career trajectories. But while it is not clear whether being perceived as attractive is a good or bad thing for women professionally, there does seem to be some agreement that being confident in one’s appearance makes a huge difference.

Christeson noted that this is something of a “depressing truth.” If appearance is going to have an effect on one’s bottom line, then the best bet for women looking to advance is to at least have better control, and better options, for curating their wardrobe.

“We launched Argent with the goal of giving women confidence through their clothing and solving at least one of the many challenges they face in their work day today.”

Argent’s goal is to give customers a wide array of colorful, creative pieces for workwear that can be mixed and matched in a variety of ways that highlights function as well as form — and at affordable prices — so that professional women aren’t always required to tote around purses made heavy by phones, wallets and cosmetics.

“We decided to engineer what women today need right into each piece of clothing,” Turner said.

That focus on function shows up across dozens of small details stitched into pieces by Argent. The “Crossover Blazer” — the brand’s most popular item — is designed to make it easy to thread earbuds through the sleeves and comes with extra pockets for things like phones, makeup and pens. Pants sold by the brand have a loop on the belt line where a corporate ID can be attached and special hidden pockets for carrying plastic cards. Some pants and blazers are reversible and can be flipped inside out for extra options.

Argent is a very new startup. Thus far, it has only raised about $1.5 million in angel funding. It distributes its brand nearly entirely through eCommerce avenues — plus or minus a few pop-up shops in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

“E-commerce is a challenge for any brand, especially a new brand,” Turner admitted.

And Argent has faced its share of challenges — often around inventory and supply.  Most of Argent’s clothes are produced in Manhattan in close proximity to its headquarters. The retail brand allows for a lot of oversight and direct control, which means Argent has, at times, struggled to keep up with consumer demand, as items frequently sell out of popular sizes.

It is a problem common to fashion startups, but a difficult hurdle when a brand is still attracting an audience — as they risk turning off a potential customer very early in the relationship.

But Argent is committed to expanding, upping its production capability and continuing to design for the the range of professional women out there in desperate need of something more interesting, and useful, to wear than a beige suit.

“We are committed to empowering our customer through our brand and the product. Design-wise, with function as our driver, we are evolving our core product and iterating on new ideas,” Turner said.

Argent will also be rolling out support video content designed to “inspire women to take action.”

We’ll keep you posted as when it premieres.

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