Madison / Savile is reinventing the blazer with modern styles better fitted to a woman’s body. With an intention to inspire women by armoring them from the outside and building them up from the inside, Diana Nguyen’s new company is setting us all up to dress for success.
Where did the idea come from?
During my time in finance, I noticed a lot of women around me at work and in my network (including myself!) who would talk about how much they love blazers, but how hard it was for them to find the right one. They eventually gave up on shopping for blazers as they believed blazers were uncomfortable and lacking the right style. I saw a gap in the market. I love how a suit with the right fit looks on a man, so sharp and powerful. Fit is everything, not only can it make a garment look amazing, but it allows for comfort. I wanted the same for women. After all, it is a new era for women, and nothing can stop us!
Why is this important to you?
There is a psychology behind dressing up. Madison / Savile is here to armor you from the outside and build you up from the inside.
What makes us different from other brands is our purpose and the design and fit of our blazers. Fit is very important to us, so we have spent the last two years gathering feedback, pain points and searching for the perfect fabric. Hundreds of iterations, numerous fittings and fabric swatches later we truly believe we have created a timeless jacket with a bespoke look and feel that you can function in. Our two way stretch, wrinkle resistant fabric gives you unbelievable stretch so you can go about your day wearing the many hats that a woman wears.
Each collection will have words of affirmation lining the inside of our blazers to remind you of your true power and beauty that is already within you. Our first collection is Unstoppable and Fierce.
What is it about blazers?
A blazer designed the right way is versatile; you can dress up any outfit by throwing one on – even over a t-shirt and yoga pants which is especially beneficial whilst we are all working from home! There’s something about a blazer that when I throw one on it really shifts my mindset. My husband calls it my super woman cape, but I call it my armor thus our tag line ‘Armoring You From the Outside and Building You Up From the Inside.’ What we wear represents our style and personality. What we wear is a form of expression, it’s how we show up to the world and a beautifully designed blazer with the right fit tells the world you are unstoppable.
How did you make the decision?
Being in a role for 15 years that was all about managing risk, I definitely saved up money before jumping. It was, to be honest, the hardest leap to make going from a very risk adverse role to being an entrepreneur which is all kinds of risk. Being in a comfortable position for so long and enjoying a certain lifestyle and then jumping into the unknown as a budget conscious entrepreneur was definitely a huge change.
I calculated all my expenses each month, evaluated where I was able to cut the unnecessary expenses, but still live comfortably, and calculated that out for the year and the next 3 years. I also set aside money needed to get Madison / Savile going, it takes a lot of capital upfront to launch a fashion/retail brand. I had to get comfortable living in the unknown and remembering that it was feeding my purpose. I didn’t want to live a life of ‘what ifs’.
What were the first few steps?
I started looking for classes to take to build my knowledge around design and pattern making to at least understand the basics. I also applied to an online fashion accelerator program to understand the process of building a fashion brand from how to source fabric to launching a full collection.
How did you decide what exactly to create?
I knew I wanted to redesign blazers and I knew what kind of detail and style I wanted the blazers to have. I started collecting design and silhouette inspirations from magazines and Pinterest and taping them on my wall, eventually building out my mood board. The design of the blazers evolved over time from sketch to samples to production.
What logistics go into creating a product like this?
A lot, especially for a woman’s blazer. I quickly learned that I had picked the hardest thing to start with and make in the fashion industry. You begin with sketching out what you want the blazer to look like, then you need to source a sample and pattern maker whilst also providing the materials for them to make the sample. I learned quickly all the pieces that go into a blazer; things I didn’t even know existed! It took a lot of research for the best pattern/sample maker, the best fabric, the best everything. The hardest and longest part was finding the right fabric and creating the right fit. It took many different combinations to create the perfect look, feel and fit. Each time I found a new fabric and made adjustments to the fit, it would take weeks and months to redo and create another sample and do another fitting.
How did you pick fabrics/manufacturers/colors/styles?
I went to a lot of textile tradeshows in LA, Europe and Asia. These tradeshows are football fields of fabric! It was a journey to find the right fabric; it is like finding a needle in a haystack. You can be buried in fabric swatches. I finally found “the one” based on the weight, feel, stretch, and quality of the fabric and ultimately how it looked and functioned all sewn up.
When I first began, my collection was 7 different styles with some fashion forward designs. However, I learned that as a new fashion brand it was better to launch with staple, classic pieces, and colors before introducing more fashion forward designs. You want to test the market and make sure your customers love your product before expanding out.
It was also a journey to find a manufacturer as coming from the technology side I wanted to do on-demand, made-to-measure blazers and suits. There are more and more technology driven manufacturers doing on demand manufacturing and apps. I learned that due to the detailed pieces and the tailored fit, my blazers do not qualify for that model without each blazer costing an astronomical amount. Right now, the on-demand model is for simpler garments with less detail and design, which is why we ultimately went with a manufacturer in downtown LA. The ateliers here are skilled at what they do and have experience in creating tailored pieces.
Why do you use a small batch process and what does that mean?
We use a small batch process to minimize waste from mass production. So much fabric is wasted when garments are mass produced; large amounts of inventory sit until sold and the scraps of fabric that results from production is also wasted. When those garments aren’t sold, it all goes to waste. Small batch means we work with our manufacture to produce based on the orders we receive. We do not submit for production until we have met our orders, which means delivery times to our customers may take a little longer, but we believe we are targeting a consumer who is willing to adapt for the sake of the environment.
What challenges did you come up against?
A women’s blazer is very technical, and it is hard to find the right pattern maker, sample maker and manufacturer with the experience and skill necessary to make such a technical piece. Sourcing materials, supply chain, shipping, delivery; everything is decentralized. I have a different supplier for each part of my blazer – buttons, thread, fabric, manufacturer, shoulder pads, lining. Each piece took time to find the right supplier. It was like putting together a puzzle for the design and fit of the blazer except the puzzle pieces were scattered all over the world and it is quite the job to go find them.
Launching a new luxury brand online is a challenge and even more so in a pandemic. The challenge is getting your brand out there, building brand awareness and getting people to actually try it. We believe once they try it, they will fall in love with it just like we did.
What was surprising about the process?
Coming from a tech and finance background to fashion, you see an industry that has been mostly unchanged until now. The fashion industry is now embracing digital transformation and re-evaluating its process to reduce waste and provide more visibility. Especially with COVID, it really forces companies to rethink everything. It’s that mindset of “if it’s not broken why fix it”, until something like COVID really forces your hand.
My background has been in auditing businesses to implement process improvements and efficiencies and the more I’m in the fashion world learning the process, the more I see a lot of areas that can be improved with better processes and implementation of systems and technology. Easier said than done as it takes a huge overhaul and budget for companies to dedicate to a new way of doing things, but with the way things are heading and increasing consumers demand it needs to happen. If retailers are being forced on how they operate and sell, it will force their suppliers and manufacturers to do the same.
It’s not as glamorous as people think behind the scenes, it’s a tough industry to break through to find the right suppliers, factories, negotiating the right price etc. It really takes sticking to your principles and values because even though you are paying the supplier or whoever you are working with, it doesn’t mean they treat you with the best customer service or respect because you are new or not an established brand yet.
What required more effort than expected and how have you overcome it?
When I left Microsoft, I thought having an extra 40-50 hours a week would allow me to launch in six months. It’s now three years later and I am finally just launching the brand. Sure, a pandemic delayed that, but I was still extremely ambitious with my six-month timeline. During the last three years, I have learned so much and been on one hell of an emotional rollercoaster ride. One minute you feel like you are on top of the world, the next you question what you have done and then when you finally feel back up, everything changes again. When the pandemic delayed our planned launch in 2020, I was devastated, but I learned to trust in the process and trust in myself. I needed to be patient as I was learning and executing at the same time. Obstacles may be in your way to redirect your path or just to tell you it’s not the right time yet.
What steps went into getting ready to actually launch?
I had to determine what colors I’d be launching for each style and then get the samples made for the photoshoot in order to have images for the website and social media. The photoshoot was a project in itself. We had a model casting to look for the right model, research for the right fashion editorial photographer and venue; it was a whole event. Once the photoshoot was done, we were able to start building out the website and in between all of that ordering materials for production down to the packaging materials. The thing that was the most challenging was having to constantly chase people to get what we needed. I learned that not everyone shared my sense of urgency.
What are your thoughts on the final product?
I love our blazers and pants! I am so happy with how the blazers turned out, I can finally lift my arms and you can even hug yourself. Each blazer is so comfortable you can sleep in them. The first collection is designed to be timeless, classic pieces and staples in your closet. Our boyfriend blazer is the most versatile; you can literally wear it with anything, even sweatpants, and look good.
How can people buy?
Right now, we are selling only online at madisonsavile.com, but once we get to a place where it is safe to get together again, we will start doing pop up shops.
Some favorite features of the Madison / Savile garments that make them perfect for a working woman are:
- Words of affirmation lining the inside of the blazers
- Five functioning pockets including one for your lip gloss or pen
- Two-way stretch fabric, sourced from Japan
- Classic Blazers have outside pockets that you can interchange between two different styles – welt pockets to pocket flaps
- Signature Tuxedo Blazer has a beautiful swan motif signifying bold and gracefulness which was a water painting done by a female artist exclusively for Madison / Savile.
- Each blazer is designed to be tailor friendly. There are wider seam allowances on the side seams and center back seam on the body of the blazer, and on the inseam of the sleeve. This allows for alterations that would not alter the structure of the blazer. In addition, the Tailored Ankle Pants have extra seam allowance so you can let out the length if you prefer it longer.