Two former Vogue employers launched Maisonette, a high-end children’s clothing site with designers like Dolce & Gabbana, Stella McCartney and Chloe
This is what Net-a-Porter for kids looks like — and it’s not playing around.
Maisonette, a luxury shopping site that features designer children’s clothes, toys, furniture and home decor, aims to be the one-stop shop for parents with expensive taste to splurge on their little ones.
Browsing the chic children’s site created by moms Sylvana Ward-Durrett and Luisana Mendoza-Roccia, two former Vogue employees, feels like you’re shopping the pages of the glossy fashion magazine — only for the pint-sized crowd.
“We made an intentional decision to create this aspirational brand,” Ward-Durrett tells Moneyish. “Millennials are shopping in a completely different way, and have an interest in quality over cost. They care about design. They aren’t just satisfied with the Fisher Price-plastic, multi-colored offering. They want to make sure that the things their kids are wearing and sitting in and sleeping in are good quality.”
That includes a $185 ruffled pink and red floral cotton wrap dress by Juliet Dunn; a Dolce & Gabbana $975 black tuxedo; and a silver belted puffer jacket that runs from $705 to $945 among some of the pricier items. Since the site launched in March, Maisonette has garnered a cult celebrity following that includes Karlie Kloss, Seth Meyers, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Keri Russell, among others.
There are also finds for under $100, including raspberry Stella McCartney overalls for $98; a $44 avocado print swimsuit; and adorable accessories such as a $70 flamingo-printed backpack and a $38 Fedora. There’s also an upscale assortment of beds, cribs, nursery chairs, dressers, toy chests and duvet sets.
“When you’re faced with the chore of buying things for your children — bedroom furniture, toys, clothing — it’s an incredibly fragmented market,” says Ward-Durrett. “There’s athletic shoes on one site, special occasion on another; it’s so time consuming. We sought to — basically as most startups do — solve our own problem.”
Like high-end e-commerce fashion sites Net-a-Porter and Modi Operandi, Maisonette partners with boutiques from around the world to curate hundreds of children’s brands, allowing shoppers to select styles from their favorite designers such as Chloe, Stella McCartney and Fendi all in one place. Clothing is neatly sorted by brand, age range, color, size and price.
These momtrepreneurs learned how to build a high-end brand after years of studying together at the ultimate fashion school: Vogue. Ward-Durrett and Mendoza-Roccia both worked as Vogue editrix Anna Wintour’s assistants early on before graduating to more senior positions. Mendoza-Roccia held the accessories editor position from 2005 to 2008, and Ward-Durrett became the director of special projects, and still has a hand in producing the annual Met Gala each year.
They met as colleagues at Conde Nast, becoming fast friends while working closely together in the accessories department. Outside of Vogue, they teamed up for “Runway to Change,” a fashion event asking American designers to create merchandise for the Obama campaign in 2009.
While Wintour has a rep for being a tough boss, the duo credit her for preparing them for running a business.
“She’d always say, ‘Think bigger: it’s not just about producing the pages of the magazine, but what does Vogue mean on a larger scale? How do you bring this brand to life beyond what it does on a day-to-day business level,’” Ward-Durrett says.
“Anna’s work ethic was a huge takeaway for us,” adds Mendoza-Roccia. “Yes, she’s demanding of her team, but she’s equally, if not more, demanding of herself. You have to hold yourself to that standard, and be uncompromising with your vision in business.”
“Shadowing Anna taught us you have to figure out what you’re good at, and what you’re not,” adds Ward-Durrett. “When you’re switching industries, there’s going to be a lot you’re not good at. Hiring for your weaknesses is so important.”
So the working moms leaned into their network of fashion friends, retailers and venture capitalists that they built at Vogue to learn how to navigate a business plan and make it happen.
They also ran their business pitch by Wintour. “When I talked to her [Wintour] about Maisonette, she was not only excited, she’s been incredibly helpful. The magazine covered our launch,” says Ward-Durrett, adding: “Anna has been such an ambassador and a champion of anything I’ve wanted to do.”
But women founders are still a minority in the startup world. All-female teams got just $1.9 billion of the $85 billion total invested by venture capitalists last year — only about 2.2% of 2017’s total investments — according to data from M&A, private equity, and VIC database Pitchbook as reported by Fortune. Meanwhile, all-male teams received about $66.9 billion — roughly 79% of the total venture dollars invested. That could be because investors are predominantly male, as well. Only 8% of the investing partners at the top 100 venture are women, according to a Crunchbase Women in Venture report.
“We don’t come from a tech background. We were not only female founders in the kids’ space creating e-commerce solutions — we were creating a tech product, which was daunting,” Ward-Durrett admits, adding that she and Mendoza-Roccia sought out entrepreneurs that they knew to be their mentors.
“We’ve been really lucky, because we’ve had a lot of great advisors on our side to give us advice and challenge us to build a solid business with solid order economics,” says Ward-Durrett.
Since Maisonette launched, the women say they have raised $4.3 million seed capital from lead investors NEA and Thrive Capital, which helped them get the business up and running.
And these business women recognized that there’s a demand for kids’ clothes, considering the global market for children’s wear is forecast to reach $321.6 billion by 2024. And despite having a high price point, the duo says 60% of their sales so far are from products under $100, which they understand is also important to stock.
“We feel like our customer, just like ourselves, we’re shopping in high-low price points,” says Ward-Durrett. “You might invest a little more in certain piece, but when it comes to something the kids might grow out of, like the leggings, you might be less willing to pay a heftier price. We like to lead with design, but try and find the product with a wide range of price points.”
If anything, customers can expect their kids to look like fashionistas before they can even spell the word — the ladies say good taste is guaranteed
“We don’t sell anything we would not buy for our own children,” assures Ward-Durrett.
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