My name is Mallorie Dunn and I am the owner and designer of SmartGlamour - a customizable, ethical, inclusive clothing line based in NYC. We make ethically produced, fully customizable, fashionable clothing for folks size XXS-15X and beyond. SmartGlamour was founded in 2014 with a mission to help combat the negative body stigmas that run rampant in mainstream fashion and beauty. That mission also extends to ensuring accessibility of our items both in size and price to as many folks as possible.
Our models and imagery accurately represent the reality of human beings – un-airbrushed, smiling, wearing glasses if they need them, choosing their own footwear – simply being themselves. We tackle fit issues (originated by mass manufacturing) by making every item to order and offering customizations - a la cart or fully made to measure. We reduce our impact on the planet by eliminating the waste of creating stock which involves taking best guesses at sizes and colors. We save scraps and re-use them in Surprise items for customers, and we donate any truly unusable fabrics to local non profits who recycle and re-sell them.
Was starting a business always in your plans or did a specific event or opportunity inspire its fruition?
Launching a fashion company both was and wasn't in my plans all along. I spent my childhood and teenage years very into clothing and design, but not realizing it could be a career. It wasn't until high school, where we had a fashion program, that I realized it could actually be a job. I applied to the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC thinking – I'll learn, then I'll graduate, open a boutique, and sell clothing. It wasn't until I was in college at FIT that I realized that isn't how the fashion industry is run.
After getting a second degree from Pratt Institute in Art + Design Education, then re-entering the fashion industry by working in a corporate office making Juniors clothing – I realized I just disagreed with the majority of the industry at large – and that I wanted to do something to change it. SmartGlamour is that change.
Did your idea for this business change at any point?
SmartGlamour's main mission has stayed the same since day one – however, I am constantly learning and adapting – figuring out the best way to make my products and get them in the hands of my customers.
What was your moment of clarity? When did you know it was time to make it happen?
My moment of clarity came to me while discussing both body image issues and frustration with manufacturing, fit, and environmental problems in the fashion industry – with my now husband. He pointed out that these were the topics I was passionate about – and I set about finding my best way to solve them.
How did you determine your target audience/customer?
What marketing tactic has been the most profitable for you revenue wise? What’s been the best driver for brand awareness?
As a one woman, self funded, small business – the best marketing tactic for me, especially at the start – was social media. I used both Instagram and Facebook to share images, develop a following, and create a community. I utilized hashtags to find other folks who were passionate about body image, ethical fashion, and environmental progress – and partnered with them to grow the business.
In the first two years of our business – I grew our Instagram account from 300 to 20,000, and our Facebook account from nothing to 11K. Unfortunately, right around that time is when Facebook bought Instgram – business profiles were created, the algorithm switched, and it now became pay to play. After trying everything to fight against it for the next two years – I abandoned our old business Instagram account – still stuck at a stand still of 20K – and started a new one. I've kept this account as a personal account, I post less – and I also removed the intense pressure from my shoulders.
In one year, that account has grown to just shy of 4K. I would rather have a smaller reach that folks actually see – than a large number that actually does nothing. I also have a small newsletter I send out a handful of times a month, and I create campaigns to pitch to press – which has gotten us coverage in Buzzfeed, PBS, Oxygen, Cosmo, Seventeen, UpWorthy, Huffington Post, Bustle, Hello Giggles, WSJ, Forbes, Racked, and more.
How do you create appealing imagery or videos to showcase your products?
The final images are edited for lighting and color – but our models are never airbrushed. It's important to show that reality is beautiful, accurate representation is a must, and send a message to the viewer that they are welcome to participate in our fashion world.
Have you had to adjust your business or marketing strategy to remain competitive?
I have adjusted our marketing strategy not necessarily to remain competitive – but just to adjust along with social media and press campaigns changing over time. I have definitely been learning as I go – adjusting where needed – constantly problem solving.
What’s the best piece of advice you would give someone entering into a highly competitive environment?
My best advice for someone entering the fashion industry, which is competitive – is continue to learn, be passionate, be open, and work hard.
Do you tend to put more emphasis on having a unique product or unique brand position in a market with many direct competitors? Why?
SmartGlamour is more about being a unique brand than it is about offering unique products. It is unique to offer clothing to all people (actually all) and have it be customizable – but the passion behind the brand, the growth, community, the educational content – all of that is unique for a brand to promote. I think it is a byproduct of being a one woman run small business – and starting mission first, then creating a brand to problem solve that mission.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?
My biggest accomplishment is not singular – it is running a business for over 6 years, self funded – as one woman. It's having customers from all US states, and multiple countries worldwide. It's changing peoples lives with clothing, helping them feel better about themselves – be kinder to others – learn about people who are different from them. Those are all my greatest accomplishments with this business.
How has having the right fabric supplier made the difference in your business?
Having the right fabric suppliers is integral to my business. As I mentioned, SmartGlamour's accessibility is not only about size but also about price. Ethical fashion leaves a lot of folks priced out – and I want it to be more accessible to all. In order to keep item cost down, I have to use the best fabrics for the price point. I use fabrics that last a long time – that breath, that wash and wear, and that will stay in folks' closets for seasons to come.
Why do you love working with fabric.com and being part of the Fabric Business Program?
fabric.com is a great online resource to add to my local NYC stores. It is easy to navigate, the prices are fair, and I can find a lot of great staple fabrics. I appreciate the ongoing business discount as well.
Which top 3 fabrics do you recommend to owners in your field and why?
My three go-to fabrics are: cotton blend jersey, cotton sateen, and rayon challis - a bonus 4th is scuba/neoprene. I'm all about wash n wear, comfy, soft, breathable, and durable. Good quality for accessible price points.
What piece of advice do you wish you had before starting your business?
The advice I wish I had before starting my business is to remember to relax and take breaks.
What’s the best way to get started?
The best way to get started is to get educated. The more you know how to do – the less you need to hire out. However – also be open to the things you do not know, and find experts who are more well versed than you are to help out.
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