On building the perfect workwear capsule collection with fashion startup Classic Six
Fashion startup Classic Six launched with six initial pieces that can be mixed and matched for any business, professional, or upscale setting. A button-down shirt, a sweater, a blazer, a pleated skirt, a shift dress, and a long coat. The idea: investing in well-made, classic looks that can spawn lots of ideas while keeping your wardrobe minimalist and concise.
But despite a well-honed idea and rave reviews, the new brand had an uphill battle ahead given that it had debuted at a time when people were avoiding the office and social events of any kind.
“I just launched the brand in April of 2020 before I even had product in stock…to get in front of the eyes of people at home consuming more content than ever,” says founder and CEO Diana LoMonaco. “Since then, we have grown exponentially and pretty organically without advertising yet and just through the power of social media.”
Fortune recently spoke with LoMonaco about dressing up at home, the uncertain return to work, and future collections.
The following interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
Fortune: Can you share a bit about your professional background prior to launching Classic Six?
LoMonaco: I started my career designing advertising and packaging for Macy’s. About six years into that job, feeling creatively uninspired, I left to start my own business in graphic design, where I could work with an array of brands that fulfilled my need for both creative freedom and diversity in what I was designing. During that time I had missed the fashion industry, so I decided I would jump on the blogging bandwagon and start a blog about fashion on the side. I wanted to make it visually different and fun, but long story short, it just completely fell flat.
I am thankful to say now that this creative failure actually became the catalyst for Classic Six. I had become so overwhelmed with the amount of clothing I was consuming to create content for the blog that I just wanted to close the closet doors and not even look. I said to myself, “If I am feeling this kind of overwhelm with the amount of options available to me, how many other women are also feeling this same kind of overwhelm?” And just like that, the seed for Classic Six was born.
What inspired you to launch Classic Six? Why just six pieces initially?
I did a little experiment with myself in those early days of this idea. I took all of the clothes that I never wore, put them in my closet, and literally closed the door on them for months. On a rolling rack outside of my closet I kept a really thoughtful collection of my favorite pieces with an intent to see if it was possible to take a wardrobe of just those few items and style them in ways that always felt fresh. It was easier to do than I had even imagined, and later found out it was much more fun. Having less allowed me to be more creative with what I had. The overwhelm was gone, and I was able to more easily and less frustratingly have fun with my look.
It also forced me to look at my closet from the lens of “What do I not have that I wish I did?” From there, I decided to start designing a collection of pieces that would all work together—pieces I wanted for myself but couldn’t find in exactly the right cut and detailing, pieces I knew would stand the test of time.
A key aspect to Classic Six’s aesthetic is being suitable for professional and special occasions. How did the first year fare given the pandemic shutdowns and CDC guidance to avoid social settings?
I am so incredibly grateful to say that we made it through this turbulent year in strides, albeit with production delays that at the time seemed like they would never end. Had we been a fully existing brand before the pandemic, I am sure I would have a different story to tell, but having launched right at the height of it all, the pandemic allowed us the opportunity as a new brand to get in front of the eyes of consumers from a digital perspective when they were forced to stay home consuming content. People were online shopping despite having nowhere to go, and we consistently saw growth month after month even with the shutdowns.
These pieces are really for any occasion, and I think that is what the consumer connected with. I’ve worn our Katharine blazer with sweatpants, and our Twiggy dress with sneakers. Each piece was designed to be versatile and comfortable, so I think as people reassessed their closets during this time—a wardrobe of foundational pieces that can be styled for a night out or a Zoom call sounded compelling.
Although expected to commence this fall, the return to work and pre-pandemic life looks less likely now amid the Delta variant of COVID-19. Do you expect that to affect business at all?
I am hoping not. Over the past year we have developed such a loyal group of customers that have given us such positive feedback, I can only see this brand growing.
Classic Six has lightly expanded upon its six initial pieces, including a few seasonal items, such as a convertible tank and cropped pants for summer. What inspires the addition of new pieces? Do you have any more planned for this fall and winter?
Yes! Our original plan was to release our Seasonal Six all in one delivery, but because of delays in production, we had to pivot a bit and take an even more slow-fashion approach. We had two new silhouettes launch for spring 2021, with two more arriving in late summer and then two in the fall. Again, they can all be combined with each other and with the original six to create endless looks.
Looking ahead, how do you want to see Classic Six evolve in the next five years?
I want us to be a brand that paves the way for a more conscious consumer— inspiring her to evaluate what she needs and wants before she buys. I see us expanding the line but keeping this mentality fully intact. We want to reduce the overwhelm women feel with the amount of options presented to her by presenting the options in a way that cut through the clutter of choice. We don’t want to just present her with what we think she needs, we want to show her how to wear it, what to wear it with, and how to style it in more ways than one, so that choice is not only easier, but more thoughtful as well. Being a more conscious consumer doesn’t mean you need to become a minimalist.
And Classic Six doesn’t mean you should only have six pieces in your wardrobe. It means you are more thoughtful about what you consume. You are thoughtful about quality and versatility. You are thoughtful about longevity in style and construction. You take a second to breathe before you impulsively buy something. I think Classic Six has an opportunity to reshape the narrative of conscious consumerism in a way that feels less intimidating and more attainable.
This is an installment of Startup Year One, a special series of interviews with founders about the major lessons they have learned in the immediate aftermath of their businesses’ first year of operation.