Career Talk is a series where ATPB chats with business leaders who have positioned themselves at the top of their industries and how they got there. This week we’re sharing our conversation with Hassan Pierre and the strides he has taken with luxury ethical retailer, Maison-de-Mode.
Introducing The Man Behind ‘de Mode’
A trailblazer in his own right, Hassan Pierre is at the top of fashion’s sustainable elite. Alongside his equally esteemed Co-Founder, Amanda Hearst, the two launched Maison-de-Mode, an online fashion boutique, now positioned to rewrite the future of retail. The two envisioned a luxury home for ethical fashion, eliminating negative impact while embracing efficiency and transparency. It is no surprise that Pierre settled into a flourishing business, having emerged from an educational background at Parsons School of Design in New York City. The former designer had his fair share of experience as a founder prior to MdM, launching his socially-conscious brand ‘Way It Should Be.’ It was his environmentally conscious label that poised Pierre as a sublime figure to spearhead a retail model that invests in the very brands it carries by way of sustainable consulting.
(Pictured: Co-Founder Hassan Pierre, courtesy of Maison-de-Mode)
We sat down with Hassan Pierre to discuss the future of Maison de Mode. Read on for a special peak into the inner workings of a marketplace-meets-communications complex and how MdM is getting ahead of its’ retail counterparts one innovation at a time.
In Conversation with Maison-de-Mode Co-Founder and CEO
Tamu McPherson: Maison de Mode is a luxury retailer rewriting the future of sustainability in fashion. In championing a hybrid business model, what are some of the best examples of your adaptability as the fashion market fluctuated last year?
Hassan Pierre: We have always been a hybrid (Omni-channel) retailer with our flagship being our online web store. Although we didn’t have an opportunity to host as many pop-ups as we would have traditionally, our online sales grew over 161% in the first months of quarantine. We quickly swapped most of the products we were selling from cocktail dress and high heels to cozy knits and comfortable flats.
TMP: You and your Co-Founder Amanda Hearst are considered leaders in the sustainable fashion movement. From the conception of Maison de Mode, are there any distinct experiences that come to mind which affirmed your mission? In other words, was there a ‘Eureka’ moment that propelled you forward at any point in this journey?
HP: Both Amanda and I had been working in the fashion industry before we launched MdM. I was a designer creating a luxury upcycled collection and she was an editor focused on sustainable design. We met at my showroom when she was going to write an article about my latest collection for Marie Claire. We quickly developed a personal and professional relationship where we both learned of a shared idea to bring sustainable fashion to the masses through a curated hybrid retail model. For us, sustainability has always been tied to our passion for fashion.
(Pictured: Co-Founder Amanda Hearst, courtesy of Maison-de-Mode)
TMP: There are many industry pioneers who support and believe in your mission. Your Series A funding is now underway with a goal of $10 Million USD. What do you attribute to the success of your growth? As you embark on this new goal, what more are you looking for investors to consider when inviting MDM to their portfolio?
HP: Our core value remains. It takes time to build a community. We feel that since our launch we’ve been able to successfully bring together industry leaders to help us bring our vision to the masses through our curated web boutique. We are looking for strategic investors who not only have the capital resources, but the expertise to help us scale our business to the next level. A strong appreciation for ethics and sustainability is also a must.
TMP: In reflecting on the days of your former label “Way It Should Be” (and your experience now consulting sustainable brands at Maison de Mode) are there any decisions you made when running your own label that have translated into points of strategic counsel for your portfolio? What impact has your experience as a designer and brand founder had on the way that you consult other companies today?
HP: Yes! I think that sticking to your vision is key. People will eventually come around, it just takes time and hard work. Being on the other side of retail – having been a designer – it allows me to have a more holistic understanding of the struggles emerging designers face. As a retailer, you can be highly instrumental in the success of brands. The relationship needs to be mutually beneficial for both the retailer and the designer in order to be a success.
TMP: The next generation of designers and fashion business leaders are looking to sustainability as an outlet for creativity in addition to social corporate responsibility. As innovators look to shape the market as more attractive to the everyday consumer, what are your thoughts on balancing impact and aesthetic? How can designers best generate for their audience while minimizing wasteful practices?
HP: Sustainable fashion forces designers to be more creative. You have to take into consideration so many other touch points aside from aesthetics. It forces one to think outside of the box and against the traditional norms of operation. On the other hand, this is still fashion and aesthetics must come first. We always describe ourselves as a luxury retailer that happens to be ethical in all parts of our business. I always say this and it rings true every time: “Even if a t-shirt can save 1000 lives, if it’s ugly no one will buy it and therefore no lives are saved.” Fashion today isn’t used to just clothe our bodies, its self expression. Winning designers moving forward will marry aesthetics and ethics seamlessly.
TMP: What does MDM look for when welcoming brands into its portfolio? In your opinion, what are the most valuable contributions MDM makes to its customers and the brands it represents?
HP: The first thing we look at is the style and quality of a brand or product. Then we look to see which sustainable and ethical characteristics that they might have that fit within the icons that we identify. Those key sustainable touch point branches are essential in order to be on our platform. The most valuable thing we do is educate and provide consumers and brands with a space where smart purchasing decisions can be made. For us, we want our brands to do better and our customers to shop better.
TMP: Maison de Mode saw remarkable growth in 2020. How did MDM pivot in wake of Covid-19? How have you maintained stamina and retained your brand portfolio during such a trying year? What are you looking forward to contributing to the sustainable fashion market this year? Or better yet, what does MDM plan to bring to the global fashion market in 2021?
HP: We were quick to switch our brand and product matrix to support what women wanted to buy during quarantine. Luckily we see a mass acceleration from consumers who have interest in ethical fashion so it is a win-win for us. We are looking towards better and brighter days. That will reflect in the selection of the clothing and accessories we sell, as well as the brands we carry. We’ve added new icons to highlight female-led and BIPOC founded brands. We are always about evolving our brands and products in order to better serve our customers.
(Pictured: Hassan Pierre for Maison de Mode x Lacoste partnership, launching February 23rd)
Editor’s Note: “Our leading image features Hassan Pierre wearing the new sustainable polo from Lacoste in partnership with Maison de Mode. “The Loop Polo” is comprised of 30% cotton that has been extracted from surplus collections. The upcycled pieces therefore vary in composition, with individual stories woven together by Lacoste’s signature short sleeves, two-button neckline, and “petit pique” texture. This partnership launches on Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021. We offer a special ‘Thank You’ to Hassan Pierre and the team at MdM for sharing your mission with our ATPB community. We are so happy to be a part of your bigger picture in promoting luxury ethical fashion. Your hybrid model is advancing the future of retail, and we could not be more pleased to spotlight your strides.”
Leading Images courtesy of Maison de Mode, in collaboration with Lacoste.