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For the past few months, we've been working with internationally renowned fashion designer Maria Pinto to help her launch her new business and fashion collection on Kickstarter. This has been a real labor of passion for me personally. Maria is one of the smartest, most gracious and humble people I've ever met. She, like many entrepreneurs, has taken it on the chin professionally a couple of times over the years, and I'm working my hardest to help her get going again.
For those unfamiliar, Maria Pinto is well known in the fashion world for her work designing for Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and other celebrities, and for her high-end, highly constructed clothes. We owe the whole cultural consciousness surrounding "Michelle Obama's arms" to Maria's decision to put Michelle in a sleeveless dress at several prominent occasions. These dresses retailed for over a thousand dollars, with some reaching truly stratospheric levels (see Page 10 of the Spring 2010 collection for a yellow chiffon dress that has to be seen to be believed).
All of the excitement of the 2008 Obama campaign inspired Maria to expand her operations and open a retail store. Business was great for a while, but the economic headwinds of that era took their toll on her customer base, and Maria closed her store and stopped producing new collections.
I met Maria through our mutual friend, Emmanuel Nony, the fantastic restaurateur behind Sepia and NoMi. He mentioned a “fashion designer friend” who was considering re-launching her business on Kickstarter, and I had to hear more (admittedly, I knew who this friend was, and was very excited about the possibility of helping her with the campaign).
When I met up with Maria, it was clear that instead of re-launching her ultra-high-end collection, she was planning to create a new brand called M2057, named for the year she will turn 100. The new line is stunning, but better reflects the times in which we live. M2057 takes the same principles of structure and design, but the pieces are much more accessible: high quality, high value (dresses are $250), and designed to fit most body types and sizes. These dresses are perfect for any busy woman on the go, be it for work or for pleasure. I happen to be married to such a woman, and she concurs!
Since then, we've been working very closely with Maria on this, consulting on the project and building the M2057 website, so I've had a chance to see and touch the samples. The fabrics of these dresses are incredibly beautiful and they don't wrinkle, are machine-washable, travel well, and can be styled in many ways. I've watched rooms of women at the events we've been having around town light up when they see the product in person—the dresses are really that great. They've also gotten a lot of positive press attention.
In order to get the new business and clothing line off the ground, we've turned to crowd-funding site Kickstarter. The only way to buy the clothes is to "pre-order" by becoming a backer to support the campaign. We'll only be able to launch this new line if $250,000 worth of product is pre-ordered by October 14. When the goal is met, we'll go into production of the dresses and we will follow up with all backers on size, style, and color choices. Product will be delivered to your door in/around March, well in time for the spring season.
It’s been a fascinating opportunity and challenge working on this campaign. Nobody has really cracked the nut of online retail for women’s apparel; the personal experience is so important when it comes to high quality fabric and design. Furthermore, to a bunch of techies, Kickstarter seems easy to use—you can create an account directly or just link it to your Facebook account. All payments are handled securely through Amazon. And you don’t pay unless the campaign closes. But to those unfamiliar with crowdfunding, it has proven quite daunting in various cases.
We’re right in the thick of the campaign now, with less than 20 days left to meet our goal. We are optimistic that we’ll get there, but it hasn’t been a walk in the park. So, if you’re inclined to check out the video and maybe support the campaign, that would make my day. It’s not everyday you have a chance to buy something truly special for you or a loved one and support a fabulous independent entrepreneur in the process. We’ll look forward to sharing more stories from the trenches and lessons learned from Kickstarter in a subsequent post.
Labor Day Weekend marks the end of summer. For some of us, it signals the time to put away the summer clothes and dig out the sweaters. But for the team at Table XI, this Labor Day marked a different kind of fashion milestone. Over the weekend we helped Chicago-based designer Maria Pinto launch her newest collection, M2057 by Maria Pinto, offered exclusively for pre-order on Kickstarter. Maria is one of the first internationally known designers to launch a collection on the crowdfunding platform.
For anyone who follows Chicago fashion, Maria Pinto is a familiar name. With more than 20 years in the fashion industry, she’s dressed some of the world’s most stylish and influential women, including Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Brooke Shields. Her return to the fashion world has already started a buzz: This weekend the story was covered by The New York Times and Huffington Post.
It’s been an amazing opportunity to partner with Maria on such a pioneering campaign. We’ve had the chance to be involved from the initial brainstorming and strategy, through the video shoot (take a closer look and you’ll even spot our own Kat Achenbach!), to the launch.
M2057 on Kickstarter is a disruption of the fashion industry. It represents an innovative way to connect with customers, develop product in small iterations, and improve manufacturing efficiencies. The collection is something entirely new to the market, and is the result of years of customer feedback from women who couldn’t find high quality and high value in the same pieces.
Anyone who talks to Maria can feel her excitement. “M2057 merges form and function with an urban flair, and includes seven dresses, two jackets and four accessories. The collection is designed to complement a wide range of body types and sizes. Each piece is made from high-quality Italian fabric that is machine washable and travel-friendly, and can be styled a number of ways,” Maria says.
M2057 Kickstarter backers will have the chance to pre-order garments from the line at levels ranging from $75-$250. At higher levels, backers can spend a day with Ms. Pinto in her studio, or host a party with her for 50 friends at Chicago’s Sepia (a restaurant, coincidentally, that sits right below the old Table XI office, and one of our longtime favorites). All Kickstarter backers will receive a signed thank you note from Maria, be listed as special contributors to the M2057 collection, and be granted special access to online previews of future collections.
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