Mimi Miller is a business owner native to the Washington D.C suburbs. Fed up with the fast, revealing designs saturating the market, she founded her fashion brand Mimi Miller Womenswear in 2015 under a philosophy of “Ethical Production + Quality Fit + Excellent Textiles = Effortless & Modern Pieces”.
What inspired you to enter into the fashion business and start your brand?
Mimi: Ever since I was little, I loved art and creating things, especially designing clothes and sewing. I established my clothing brand because I couldn’t find clothing that was longer and looser at an accessible price point. I could only find these styles available from luxury designers and their price point was out of my reach, so I wanted to have a line that was more accessible for women and ethically made.
What challenges does a small business face in the industry?
Mimi: From my experience, a few challenges faced by small businesses are meeting production and fabric minimums, and exposure. Many factories overseas have large MOQ’s (minimum order quantities) and as a new and/or small business, you might not have the capital to produce 500 pieces per style or be willing to sink that much capital into inventory that may or may not sell. Finding factories that produce smaller quantities is a real challenge. Sourcing fabric typically poses the same issue, though not as bad. Most novelty fabrics or sustainable fabrics in seasonal colors have high MOQ’s as well. This makes it difficult for small businesses to purchase fabrics that are on trend for the season. Many fabrics available in smaller quantities tend to only come in a few neutral colors or the prints/designs aren’t as engaging. There are so many clothing small businesses out there so standing out can be a real challenge. You really have to be able to find your voice and your niche customer to help propel you forward and stand out from the crowd.
What do you see as the greatest challenges to ethically produced fashion?
Mimi: I think the greatest challenge in the fight for ethically produced fashion is getting customers to stop buying fast fashion. We need more ethical brands that are easily accessible to customers, something I am working on with my own brand. Right now, fast fashion brands are easier for to customers to access than ethical ones so when they need something in a pinch, they shop with the fast fashion brand. They might only shop there every once in a while, but over time it adds up and is what continues to keep these fast fashion brands in business. We need more ethical clothing brick + mortar stores.
Have you noticed any differences in interaction with your brand between the physical storefront or online presence?
Mimi: Yes! Whether I’m at a pop-up, market, etc, interaction and sales are always better than being strictly online. People might like your product, but I believe the ability for the to talk with the designer/maker and to hear the story and have any questions answered is what really sells them; when shopping online you don’t have that same interaction.
What kind of customers do you generally attract?
Mimi: My demographic tends to be women to live in/near metropolitan cities and are about 30 years and older. They are supporters of sustainable and ethical fashion.
How have your transparency and sustainability values impacted your brand’s success?
Mimi: Customers are beginning to ask more and more questions about where/how their products are made. Being transparent about my values has allowed me to build trust with my customers which is key for growth.
For the fashion designers of tomorrow, do you have any advice?
Mimi: My advice is to do what you want, experiment, and have fun! Back in the day, the industry operated on a very rigid model, whether it was how to design/create a collection, how many collections to produce a year, etc. Right now, the industry is going through a big change and I think it’s a great opportunity to experiment since the rules are being rewritten as we speak. It’s younger designers like us that have the power to shape the industry how we want.
Lastly, where do the greatest opportunities for improvement lie within the current fashion industry?
Mimi: Where to begin! In addition to the common issues of ethical and sustainable fashion, as well as size inclusivity, I’d love to see the U.S. value and appreciate the art of sewing and clothing construction like they do overseas, especially in Europe.
Mimi Miller’s brand can be found here: https://shopmimimiller.com/. A big thank you to Mimi for her time and graciously answering my questions.
How would you challenge the norms of the fashion industry?