Alexandra Spirer of Medium.com's Authority Magazine asked me some really thought-provoking questions about my Classic Six journey. We talked about lessons I've learned along the way, plans for future, and how buying less and being more intentional with our purchases is the only true sustainable option. You can read this interview directly from Medium.com or you can scroll down to continue reading below!
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have forever loved fashion and in some way shape or form I’ve been designing clothes for myself since I was a little girl, however designing clothes for other people always felt far too out of reach to do anything about. I don’t have the traditional fashion schooling, so when my career took a turn towards graphics and advertising, I thought that ship had sailed. That is until an 'aha moment' I had one day as I was standing in front of my exploding closet, looking at pieces I haven’t worn in years, wondering why I even had what I had. I was desperate to wipe the slate clean and start fresh — To have less and only keep the pieces that I could style endlessly and always made me feel like a million bucks. I knew that if other women were feeling this way, I was onto something. Turns out, they were!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I hate to say my most interesting story since our 2020 launch has to be navigating it at the height of a global pandemic. Classic Six made its official debut April of 2020 without a single piece of inventory in stock! At that time, I had just gotten the news that my production was delayed indefinitely, however even without the final product, there was the opportunity to create brand awareness while everyone was home consuming content on social media. I made the decision to launch early in an effort to donate a portion of the pre-sale revenue to Covid relief efforts. Those early months of telling the brand story to the public was a blessing because when the product finally arrived in late June, we had already gained some traction.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?
I am not sure if this the type of mistake you are looking for, but I always laugh when I think about how I went about trying to source fabrics in the beginning. I had mapped out a list of every fabric store in the garment district of NYC and went from shop to shop asking if they could supply what I needed. The amount of time and energy I spent going this route is so funny to me now. (Not funny during, I can promise you that) I very much almost got swindled into buying yards of a fabric that I had no idea would even work, because it was from Italy and the guy was giving me a “great deal.” I am actually laughing as I type this. BUT I will tell you…the conversations I’ve had with store owners, the lessons I’ve learned about the industry, and the amount of laughing, aggravation, and frustration that ensued by doing so is priceless.
What do you think makes your company stand out?
I think what makes us stand out is our less is more approach. I don’t want to bombard you with more and more to buy. I want us to encourage you to be more thoughtful in your purchases — to think about what you buy before you buy it. I want us to inspire you with ideas on how to style, and about how your choices can work for you. I don’t want show you a blazer and say, “this is beautiful, you need it.” I want to show you a blazer and say, “here are all the ways you can incorporate this blazer into your everyday life.”
Are you working on any exciting new projects now?
Yes! We have 6 new pieces coming out later this year. They can be paired with the Original Six and I am excited to say they are unlike anything I have ever been able to find in a store.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
I think clear direction is essential in helping a team thrive. When each part of a team has a very specific need to fill, it allows for more creativity, more efficiency, and less hand-holding. Also, much like any relationship, communication and kindness always wins.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
I would probably say managing a large team is only as good as the team you’ve built to manage! Do the hard work before you even make the hire. Finding the right people is not easy, so don’t skimp. Ask the hard questions. Make sure it is a right fit. Find people that care about your brand and concept as much as you do. I would imagine there are a lot of positives to managing a large team if that team is built on a solid foundation. Just like your wardrobe ;)
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons" and why?
1. Don’t let anyone tell you it cannot be done. The first consultant I hired told me that I would not be able to sell the collection online, most specifically, “you will not sell ONE piece,” if my sales strategy was direct to the consumer. I wrote about it here. If you want anything enough, I truly believe in some way shape or form, you can make it happen.
2. You are never too old or too far down a different path to follow a dream. I talk a lot about the fact that starting a clothing brand always seemed like something way too far out of reach. My excuse was always that I didn’t have the right schooling, or that I didn’t have the experience to do it. Then one day, I realized, life is too short to not at least try…which brings me to my next lesson…
3. You can’t knock it till you try it. Whether that be a new marketing strategy, a new design that may or may not work, or even something as big as starting a business with only the seed of an idea. It can never hurt to try. There are many ideas I’ve had that never came to fruition, and some that I had worked on for years and completely fell flat. Would I have known they wouldn’t work if I had never tried? Would I have known Classic Six could be what it is right now without taking that first step? It would be impossible. Plus, I can guarantee you will learn something along the way. Every step, even if sometimes in the wrong direction, is leading you to your next adventure.
4. Don’t worry about the money. If you have an idea, but you don’t have the money, starting CAN still be done. Be frugal. Be strategic. Figure out ways to get things done as lean as possible. There are so many options and free resources available these days if you are willing to put in the work to make them useful to you. You can get really creative. Will you wear a ton of hats to start? Sure. But isn’t that part of the fun?
5. Know the industry and your competition, but ultimately, do YOU. Staying in the know about the successes and failures of other businesses in your industry is important, but often it can feel like a huge mountain that looks seemingly impossible to climb. People are falling off left and right. Some are getting to the top and some are only making it half way and going back down. You want to get to the top as fast and as efficiently as possible, but I’ve learned it’s best not to compare yourself to the other climbers. There will always be someone bigger and faster, with more connections, more money, and all the right answers. You can’t let it dissuade you from forging ahead one step at a time, as slowly and ‘differently’ as you need to. Your passion, hard work and your own unique creativity will dictate your success, not the amount of time or pressure you put on yourself for it to happen.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
The answer to this question is actually not just one person….It is the group of people that believed in the brand before it was even a tangible thing. The people that spent their hard- earned money supporting a pre-sale before there was even product in production are the reason I was able to launch Classic Six. Our original pre-sale in December 2019 was just for our mailing list, and prior to that I spent a lot of time building a little community of subscribers that were interested in the concept of Classic Six before I even knew I could fully make it happen. I would share with them all of the struggles, failures and successes along the way. I think in some ways, I felt like the people reading about this journey were holding me accountable. It motivated me to keep going. When I eventually launched the pre-sale (about a year later), people were excited. Those initial shoppers and supporters are the people I will forever be grateful for.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
When we first launched, 20% of our proceeds were going towards the Covid-19 relief efforts of the Global Empowerment Mission, Feeding America and Save the Children, and in October we were able to do the same for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. I hope to be able to give back as much as I can as the business grows!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
To be a part of a movement that changes the way people shop. I always say “Less in the new sustainable.” Buying less and being more intentional with our purchases is the only true sustainable option. If we are more conscious regarding what we buy, we can ultimately keep clothes out of landfills. That sounds good to me!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” Martin Luther King Jr. It just takes one foot in front of the other to get you where you want to be. Set your intention and then do at least one thing everyday to get you one step closer. Those things could be as small as sending one email or mapping out a concept! Those small steps will only lead you closer and closer to that intention.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
Diane Von Furstenberg. I read her autobiography several years ago hanging on every word and recently saw her speak on a panel in her store. I continue to be incredibly inspired by her way of thinking, her fearlessness and her downright grit to make things happen.