I’ve been in outerwear my entire life. It was my family business for generations, and I worked right here in the garment district where our offices were located almost every summer of my childhood. I definitely know a good coat when I see one, and Michelle Waugh has mastered her craft. Michelle’s outerwear collection is elevated and chic, tailored and classic. She has coats fit for every occasion, but what’s even more special about her line is that all of her pieces can be worn both casually and formally. They are versatile. Her fabrics and fits are stellar, making women feel beautiful and confident throughout their day. Her palette is neutral, and complement any outfit. Michelle happens to be one of the sweetest, most genuine women I’ve met, and her talent makes her a triple threat!
How many years have you been in business in NYC?
I have been in business for 4 years.
How did you get your start and what was your initial inspiration?
I've always known I wanted to be a designer. Canadian born and New York based, I did not take the traditional road into fashion design. I’ve always been very creative and have always known what I liked and what I wanted. What I didn’t know was how to navigate the industry. So instead of taking a design/creative educational approach, I took a more business one. I attended Fordham University and simultaneously accepted a full time position at Christian Dior’s New York headquarters. Working under the LVMH umbrella was an invaluable experience because I was exposed to PR, wholesale, product development and branding. These were all incredibly necessary to understand when wanting to launch and sell a product. I was then offered a job with the Southeast Asian brand RAOUL and we were faced with a huge task to launch a very established Asian based label, here in the United States. It was here I fell in love with entrepreneurship. At this point I knew I needed to learn as much as I could if I were to ever launch my own label. I needed to be stronger in business and needed a deeper understanding of finance.
I left the fashion industry and joined the finance industry to really round out my skills. Working with all men, it was here that I realized the men I was working with had little time to shop for a wardrobe that matched their lifestyle. Over the next three years, my business partner and I, created a highly curated collection to make shopping easier for men. I noticed through all of our travels to find perfect menswear, that women looked incredible in a man’s borrowed coat. My label was then born. I reimagined outerwear for the modern woman. I was feeling confident and I was excited and started introducing myself to anyone who would listen in the garment district in New York. I am forever grateful to the first mills, pattern makers, factories that believed in me.
What do you feel differentiates you from others in your field?
I noticed that a lot of outerwear would fall into two categories. You had your very casual sporty active coats and your very expensive formal outerwear. You could find some great pieces that would be sprinkled in a designer’s ready to wear collection but there was no real label solely doing outerwear that covered the space between the sporty and the formal. That is what we create, the perfect warm coats you will gladly wear from day to night. I also wanted to do this without being a trend piece. The collection is really about quality with a bold modern twist on the classics while remaining very wearable and stylish.
What do you feel gives you longevity in this big city with so many options?
I am laser focused on creating timeless classics that are modern, embodying a downtown ease and at the end of the day incredibly wearable. I create pieces with longevity in mind. I’m not trend focused or high fashion - I like to think of my coats as chic go-tos that can be passed down or shared between friends and generations – they work with denim or gowns and everything in between. The Michelle Waugh woman can build her wardrobe within the collection based on desired style – short puffers, long cashmere, oversized wool, etc. Everyone needs a warm coat and they want sleek and chic options aside from the usual players: Moncler and Canada Goose. Having now been in the business for four years I’m really seeing the repeat client coming back for their second or third coat.
How do you positively impact your clientele?
My whole collection was born with the intent to create beautiful pieces to help women put their best foot forward. With every piece I design and produce I think about how this will make someone feel – from purchasing the piece to wearing it. With that in mind, I don’t cut corners when it comes to quality, fit and manufacturing. When you buy a coat from me you know you are getting beautiful quality, with intricate care when it comes to production. Every piece is made in New York. When our clients purchase one of our pieces they can feel good about the quality (all of our fabrics are from beautiful family owned mills in Italy), practicality (we make sure each and every piece is extremely wearable without sacrificing style), and peace of mind knowing that every garment was ethically made here in New York City. As a company we also engage with each and every client personally. The power of connecting with our clients is invaluable for us. I always want to make sure that any client of ours feels beautiful, strong, stylish and warm in her Michelle Waugh coat and continue to be inspired by the Michelle Waugh woman.
What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part is the freedom to create. Not only from a design point of view but the way I think about branding, marketing, sourcing, producing, PR, events, everything is a constant outlet to express creativity. Having multiple channels to express creativity for me is invaluable. I also love the fact that I’m constantly meeting some amazing women! From my team, to our clients, I’m just in awe of the women around me. Having the opportunity to sit down with Mama and Tata today, for instance is so exciting, inspiring and new!
What is your favorite secret NYC spot?
Sweet Corner Bakery in the west village! The best sea salt and caramel chocolate chip cookies! They also have an awesome custom cake design studio for all of those kiddie birthdays us mamas need to host!
How do you benefit mamas?
I registered my business on May 1st 2014 and found out I was pregnant with my first daughter (I have two girls, ages 3 and 2) on May 10th! So much of my business has been with moms in mind! Raising two girls in the city I’m always on the go. I wanted my pieces to be incredibly practical to wear everyday without sacrificing style, comfort or warmth. The way I brought in the practicality to the equation was making sure that every coat could be worn to the park, school drop-off or a play date, yet you could also wear the same piece out for a client event, date night or traveling and still feel incredibly sophisticated, stylish and feminine. It’s really about day to night outerwear. We also have some great styles that are fantastic pieces during and after pregnancy such as our Chloe long cashmere duster, our oversized Veronica wool coat and our cashmere Vienne wrap coat.
What is the most memorable feedback a client has given you?
I had a client who purchased the Chloe cashmere duster here in New York and wore it to a job interview. She told me how the coat made her feel so strong and confident and that really resonated with me. I couldn’t think of a better way to make women feel in my clothing. It’s actually thanks to her feedback that I’ve kept the duster in every Fall/Winter collection since I’ve founded the label and to this day it is still one of my best sellers. On another note, I’ve had countless of women ask me about scarves. I finally found the perfect fabric and I’m very excited to be introducing scarves for FW19!
Pay it forward and name your top colleagues in the same field or related field.
Hands down Erin Beatty! Formerly co-founder of Suno and now an invaluable consultant in the fashion industry. She has helped me tremendously on the creative front and how to expand my product offering. She has an eye like no other and she’s another fellow mama making it happen. She is currently working on a new venture and definitely needs to be on everyone’s radar!
What is the best advice anyone's ever given you? Or what is your "mantra" / words to live by?
If you are going to dedicate yourself to starting and nurturing a business to success, you better be ready to feel very comfortable in the uncomfortable. From being the visionary, to team building, decision making, financing and overall dealing with the unknown, my dad always seemed to know what to say at any given moment. When the going gets tough, and that’s with anything in life, “never cause permanent damage for something that is temporary”. Moods and feelings are temporary. I think of this when I assess decisions I need to make. Am I making a decision from a place of strength or from a place of exhaustion and defeat? When it’s from the latter, you can act or make decisions in way that can cause damage to an already good thing or something that had the potential to be really good.
As moms, the day can escape us, what is your best time-saving trick?
Mommy brain is real! I got on this organizational app called Any.do and I swear by it! It has made me so much more efficient and proactive. It’s the most efficient way to make lists and preventing anything from slipping through the cracks. I can manage my team, my vendors, freelancers, and my personal stuff such as the kids’ activities; play dates, and school commitments, along with my everyday tasks. I also get this insane satisfaction by crossing things off of my digital lists!