The Companies that Care podcast highlights companies and business leaders who are making a difference in the world, like Mallorie Dunn, founder of Smart Glamour in New York City.
Mallorie has been interested in clothing her whole life, and her grandmother taught her how to sew. It never occurred to her it could be a job, though, until she enrolled in her high school’s fashion design program. She then attended the Fashion Institute of Technology and the Pratt Institute.
She found that corporate fashion was not her cup of tea, because it mass manufactures clothing at scale for very low prices and matching low quality. Mallorie also began noticing how badly women and femme people feel about themselves in their bodies…and how difficult it can be for people to find clothes that fit them well and are made well.
She started Smart Glamour in 2014, a customizable, ethical fashion brand based on the idea that everyone deserves clothing that is not exploitative of the people that make it.
“Everyone deserves clothing that fits them properly and can be exactly what they want. And then when people look at that clothing to buy it, they should see people who look like them.”
Smart Glamour’s size chart goes from XS to 15X and beyond. All of the clothing is customizable to sizes above and below that chart.
“I have models of all shapes, sizes, ages, heights, weights, gender expressions, disabilities, skin tones, and on and on. When people go to my social media or my website, they see people they can relate to and will feel included instead of feeling excluded, which is what the fashion industry does so well.”
Astonishingly, Mallorie is a one-woman powerhouse. She produces all of Smart Glamour’s clothing herself, shoots all the photography, organizes the models and fashion shows, and manages most of her own communications and marketing. She also has a podcast and a private Facebook group for her 180 models.
“I firmly believe that because I am a straight size cisgender, heterosexual white woman and the majority of my models are not, I have the utmost responsibility to protect them at in-person events like photo shoots and runway shows but also online on the Internet. I heavily moderate my comments.”
Mallorie believes in honoring her models and customers:
“If I'm going to be running a company where I make money and I'm being lent the likenesses of these incredible human beings, then they deserve to be safe and treated properly…at our shoots and our runway shows, everyone feels safe and equal to one another, which garners and creates these wonderful friendships among all of my models.”
During the pandemic, she sewed masks and offered them for pay what you will. She started a podcast interviewing her models and other makers. She also shares videos of her making things or giving sewing tips. She’s also a part-time professor at The New School and the Fashion Institute of Technology.
Mallorie feels strongly about providing all types of clothing for plus-size people, customized to fit as needed.
“The majority of people are plus size in this country, yet they are vastly underserved. Once you get above 3X and especially once you get above 6X, people do not have options.”
To make her business processes sustainable, Mallorie makes everything to order. She purchases 90 to 95 percent of her fabrics directly from small family-owned discount fabric stores in New York City. Most of it is overstock that was going to be thrown away or burnt.
“Enough fabric already exists in the world, so I am only buying from companies that already have those things…I’m trying to keep small businesses open and running in New York City, which can be very expensive for them.”
She uses every scrap of her fabric, holding leftovers for what she calls Smart Glamour surprises.
Mallorie also is committed to producing affordable, ethically made clothing.
“There's proven workplace discrimination against plus-sized people. They make less money, so if I'm going to be offering accessible clothing to all people and to disabled people, to all these folks who have marginalized identities, I have a duty to make sure it is as affordable as possible.”
On Smart Glamour’s website, you can shop by model…selecting a model to whom you most relate, from models who are of all sizes, heights, ages, and abilities. Before the pandemic, she recruited models twice a year for her inclusive runway shows. (You can catch them online!)
Mallorie has integrated social impact into her business by creating products that benefit nonprofits. A portion of the proceeds from her Amelia products benefit LBGTQIA charities, and a portion of the Cecile products are donated to Planned Parenthood.
“I am interested in making a positive impact on the fashion industry and on the world, making sure people have the access they deserve. Once I figured that out, I realized now I have a reason to make clothes.”
The Companies That Care podcast is brought to you by Fertile Ground Communications. If you like what you hear or read, wander through my website to find out more about my work. I alternate the Companies That Care podcast with my original podcast, Finding Fertile Ground, which shares personal stories of grit and resilience. On both my podcasts I strive to highlight voices from historically excluded populations, people who don't always get a platform.
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