In a world where fashion brands seem to be everywhere, Meghan Kinney’s eponymous women’s clothing boutique, Meg Shop, stands out. With brick and mortar stores (five in New York City, one in Toronto) and a thriving online business, Kinney is putting on a one-woman clinic in how to become a successful fashion brand that can outlast trends, of the sartorial and business kind.
Kinney attended the venerable Fashion Institute of Technology, which has a reputation of producing some of fashion’s most bold-faced names — Calvin Klein, Nanette Lepore, and Nina Garcia, just to name a few. Knowing that going from student to designer was going to take more than just a diploma, Kinney sought out advice from an FIT mentor. “I was advised to put together a collection, knock on doors and see who will buy,” she remembers. At “the dozenth door,” the one Kinney wasn’t going to knock on, she scored her first order. And that order was from none other than Patricia Field, credited with changing the way women dress via the show she styled, “Sex and the City.”
So Kinney borrowed $5,000 from her parents and opened her own East Village boutique, which quickly bloomed to multiple stores in four cities.
Here, Kinney shares how she found business success thanks to a startling realization that would become the key to keeping her business going for decades.
THE END OF THE PARTIES
As my business outgrew my little East Village storefront, I opened stores in Toronto, Ireland and Los Angeles. At the time, I was doing a lot of fashion shows and was featured in lot of articles about the New York art scene. All of that was great.
But then I got a piece of advice that led to a big pivot. A friend said, “If you’d like to continue to throw a party, do fashion shows.” Those shows weren’t cheap — around $10,000, though that was a fraction of what some people spent. But more importantly, they weren’t where I needed to be. If I actually wanted to make money, I realized I should bow out of the shows, and just make great fashion and sell it. The fashion industry doesn’t tell you that. Most designers think they have to keep slogging and the right person at the right show will see your thing.
It was a wake-up call, and I scaled back, closing the stores outside of New York and Toronto and really focusing on my product.
In my case, it wasn’t a risk. Rather, it spoke to my business style: cautious and conscientious. I haven’t borrowed money for the business since that original $5,000 from my parents. If I had taken investments, perhaps I might have grown bigger or faster, but the flip side is I feel really close to my business. I can feel and sense what’s working and what’s not working.
I knew that producing small batches locally was the best way for me to keep tabs on my line. By producing small and locally, I can control it instead of waiting for the cartons from India and China. I also use the clothes I create to support causes dear to me, like raising money for disaster relief and raising awareness for pet adoption.
“If I actually wanted to make money, I realized I should bow out of the shows, and just make great fashion and sell it.”
ANOTHER BIG REALIZATION
Plus, as I engaged in the process of bowing out of the glitzy New York City scene and re-focusing on my business, I discovered another truth: Having a kid can make you incredibly productive.
I was 38 when I got pregnant — my daughter is now nine years old. I had learned a ton in basically 20 years of business, but having a child makes you attempt to be a better person. These days, I accomplish more before 9 a.m. You get smarter about using your time.
Lately, she asks me every day if she can come to work with me, and she is aware of my activism. It feels good to know my daughter is proud of me.