You may not immediately recognize the name Susan Gregg Koger, but you definitely know her work.
Does ModCloth ring a bell? Thought so! It's only one of the trendiest stores on the internet, with a dreamy stock of retro dresses, party-perfect accessories, modish home décor and everything in between. And since launching their first namesake label this summer, the booming brand's swiftly becoming one of the biggest (and best) names in the biz, boasting celebs like Taylor Swift and Amy Schumer as regular shoppers.
At the helm of it all is ModCloth's co-founder and chief creative officer, Susan. And lucky us, the busy fashionista took the time to chat on everything from how her business came about to her dream celebrity to dress (hint, hint: we've got no doubt this lady would be thrilled to wear ModCloth).
Now read on to hear from Susan herself!
What was your first job?
I got my first job at the age of 14. I was a sales associate at a gift store at my local mall in the Southern Florida suburbs. I learned that I was actually pretty good at sales, despite being a bit of a quiet kid, and that heavily scented candles gave me a headache.
How did you get started in your career?
ModCloth started as an outlet for my love of thrift shopping. Back in high school, I was purchasing so many great vintage finds—some that weren't even in my size—that I was pawning them off to friends. In 2002, my then-boyfriend (and now husband), Eric, helped me create a website to sell those extra pieces. After we graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 2006, we both made ModCloth our full-time careers. It was a huge leap of faith, but I've never regretted making the decision to go for it.
What is a typical day like for you?
It really depends on the day! I travel a ton—between our three office locations and to market to keep up with trends, meet our designer partners, and seek new designers. As chief creative officer, I partner with our merchandising and marketing teams to curate our unique product assortment, and craft stories with that assortment that will speak to our customer. This could mean that one day I'm in our Los Angeles office, looking at proto samples of an upcoming collection with our design team, the next I'm in San Francisco for a board meeting, or working with our creative team in Pittsburgh to review outfits for our latest marketing photo shoot.
Tell us about your office décor. When did you last give your office a makeover?
We refresh our office lobby every month with the latest product from our site—right now, it's the September collection from our ModCloth label, styled with bags from our exclusive partnership with Brit Stitch. It's fun to see the fruits of your labor right when you walk in the door. Throughout our space, there are samples for fittings, inspiration boards, and just generally a lot of garments and fabric. We have an open floor plan in all of our locations, so there is no such thing as the "corner office" at ModCloth.
What's the best part about your job?
Seeing our product out in the world. Our customers wear ModCloth for both everyday and special occasions in their life. It's amazing to be part of that and have a hand in helping someone feel their best. I also get to work with a pretty kick-ass team!
What inspired you to launch ModCloth's new namesake label? How long has this been in the works?
In July, we introduced our namesake label collection, which was directly inspired by our community. The introduction of the ModCloth label was a natural next step for us. Our community is very engaged – telling us what they like to see in terms of fit and details in their reviews and comments—we incorporated all of that feedback to create a line that is truly the best of ModCloth.
What sets your designs apart from other retailers on the market?
When designing the ModCloth label, we used our community's feedback to determine our customers' must-have details such as feminine silhouettes, exclusive prints, luxe linings and pockets for dresses. We also got inspired by pouring over photos from our online style gallery, where our customers submit their own outfit photos. As a general rule, we also do three times the typical sample fittings - with both regular and extended size models. It was really important to us to offer this collection in a full range of sizes—XS to 4X—so that everyone, regardless of size, can enjoy the label.
What's next for ModCloth's namesake line? Would you ever consider doing shoes or accessories?
We'll be introducing a smaller collection over holiday—lots of layering pieces and a few special occasion dresses. But we're really looking forward to our spring collection for 2016. Every collection, we just want to continue to grow and develop the label. We've come a long way from our first tests with private label - we're growing up into a more feminine, sophisticated look, while keeping that unique edge that makes us ModCloth.
Do you ever see celebs wearing your designs? Which ones?
Amy Schumer is one of the most recent—she was spotted wearing our "Simply Snuggly Cardigan" from the ModCloth label out with friends; it's a perfect layering piece for fall. Taylor Swift was one of our first celebrity fans. She's been known to wear our pieces at various events and even in her music videos. Tess Holliday is a major champion of our label's consistent sizing and came by our temporary San Francisco Fit Shop to try on the 2015 Fall Collection—she loves the "Fiore Your Entertainment" dress.
Who would be your dream celeb to dress?
Gwen Stefani. She was my first celebrity crush and I've always loved her style.
What's the most daring career risk you've ever taken?
Choosing not to get a "real" job (and a real paycheck!) after graduation and diving into ModCloth full-time instead. Facing down those student loans was scary, but worth the risk.
Who are some of your career heroes?
I think Orla Kiely has done an incredible job of building a large, recognizable brand that still feels very special and very true to her aesthetic and sensibility. I don't know her (yet), but I've worked with members of her team and it seems like she's built a great place to work, too, which I really respect. On the other end of the spectrum, I think J.K. Rowling is a complete genius. I just love her story and her perseverance. Her creation has brought joy and wonder to so many people around the world—how cool is that?
What is the best piece of advice you've ever received?
The best professional advice I've ever received was, "never apologize for your age." Our lawyer told me that years ago when we were raising institutional funding for ModCloth for the first time and it's always stuck with me. It doesn't mean having a "know-it-all" attitude, but it's about trusting your instincts. I'm a firm believer that creative and fresh perspectives can tip the scale.
Finish the sentences below:
Today for lunch I had… a Vietnamese rice bowl with roasted pork and pickled veggies.
The first website I log onto every day is…The New York Times.
My usual Starbucks order is…iced coffee, unsweetened, black.
If I wasn't doing this job, I would…run away and join the circus! I've recently discovered my love of the aerial arts.
My favorite place to visit is… anywhere that I haven't been before. New sites, delicious food, interesting people!
List five things that are on your desk right now: a Hint water, my iPhone, colorful pens, a small Lisa Simpson action figure, my notebook.
My favorite Instagram account to follow is… @designlovefest always nails the ever-tricky balance of being totally aspirational but with a really personal touch.