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Prior to launching modular workwear brand Twenty Five Bedford online this year, Keri Ferry worked in the world of finance, and she was beyond frustrated with the limited—and frumpy—options considered work-appropriate in the corporate realm.
"Dress codes for women in the workplace aren't as clear as they are for men, she explained to Racked. "[The rules are] unspoken. If a meeting calls for business formal, that means a matching suit and tie for a man. For a woman, what does that mean? Should she wear a pantsuit, a skirt suit, a demure dress with pearls and a kitten heel?" With that grey area comes a safety retaliation: "She might have wanted to wear something more in line with her personal taste, but reverts back to the same old pant suit in a grey wool color because that's safe."
As a shopper, Ferry trusted only Theory and J.Crew for workwear, and was limited to three silhouettes: The pantsuit (oof), the skirt suit, and the sheath dress. "How is it that the women's apparel industry is a hundred and twenty billion dollars and we're this really attractive, large group of women investing heavily in fashion, spending 80% of our day at work—how in the world do we only have two brands to turn to? We're not excited about what we're wearing, yet we're spending all of our time in these clothes." The void was obvious. "There's very little innovation in the category [of workwear] because we feel that the brands don't understand—and haven't lived—all of the nuances and rules that underline the corporate dress code for women."
Ferry felt she had an advantage here. "We can make this more exciting and fun and more relevant because we know all of those nuances and therefore have the ability to innovate." Enter Twenty Five Bedford's collection of office-appropriate essentials in happy colors and quality materials, produced in New York's Garment District. "We wanted to use fabrics, cuts, and styles, so that she felt okay bridging the rest of her closet into her work wear and not thinking of it so much as a completely separate category. [Our shopper is] time starved, and she traditionally loathes this category because she's always coming up short and not looking like herself at work. We wanted to make the shopping experience very, very straight forward where everything could be mixed and matched."
Working with a fashion designer, she began by tackling two of the most frustrating pieces: The pencil skirt and the dress. "A lot of the suiting that's out there is based off a pantsuit, and the coordinating dress and skirt is designed in that same fabric. As a result you're getting dresses and skirts that are designed in pantsuit fabric, and that doesn't always translate. We [looked for] skirt and dress materials that we love outside of traditional suiting, that look beautiful on the body but are also tailored enough to build a matching blazer and are professional enough in the work place."
Next up was the issue of color. "Most of the options that exist out there are in a muted, neutral color palette. There really aren't any rules against color, so we felt very comfortable in these sensible styles incorporating more fun, bold colors and having that opportunity to really show women how to wear them and get a bunch of versatility out of a traditionally bold color." Twenty Five Bedford's palette is nearly impossible to mix incorrectly, offering hues like nude and mint for tops and rich jewel tones on bottom. "If you see a poppy skirt, you might be scared at first, because you've been wearing navy and black and gray. We're going to show you not to be afraid of poppy—that you can wear it more than one way and here's how."
Twenty Five Bedford is available online-only for now, a choice that Ferry made for cost purposes. "By retailing online, we are avoiding that retail markup," she said. "We are able to make a product that's a lot higher quality, using the same supply chain as premium contemporary designers, then retailing it around J.Crew prices because we're online." Skirts are $135, blouses are $165, sheath dresses are $235 and blazers and long-sleeve peplum dresses are $255.
· Twenty Five Bedford [Official Site]
· How Trina Turk Keeps Up in a Fast Fashion World [Racked]
· Career Advice From Hukkster: 'Never Wear a Black Suit' [Racked]