How A Women’s Suiting Startup Has Navigated The Past Three Years
When I met Annabel Gatto, Founder and CEO of Suitably, in February of 2020, I began digging into the formal workwear market. I was about to publish a story right here a month later, where I was going to tell you that – despite offices having become more casual over the prior decade – 54 percent of hiring managers in Miami, New York City, and Washington, D.C. wanted to see candidates wearing suits to interviews and even tech companies thought jackets were appropriate for an interview.
At that time, I also validated that for business occasions when suiting isn’t technically necessary, wardrobe choices can be more difficult for women than men, either because of fashion decisions to be made or because women feel suiting connotes authority they otherwise may be perceived as lacking.
Given all of this, I was excited about Suitably’s entrance into the market. Unlike the older Theory or the newer Suitsupply, it immediately resonated with me as a reflection of a new way of working and living. From the beginning, the brand has leveraged innovative fabric that’s high quality, seasonless and machine-washable, relies on stretch, and is travel-ready with wrinkle-resistance.
While it didn’t make sense to publish the story on my original timeline, I was curious about how Suitably had fared over the past three years and recently caught up with Gatto. She reminded me how she had created Suitably to fill a void for “quality workwear staples” that aren’t too trendy yet aren’t too expensive. Each of its four pieces initially retailed for less than $100 (even now, the most expensive is $138 and the “starter kit” of all of them is $298) and can be worn as separates when the day doesn’t call for a full suit.
Before the world began working from home in March 2020, sales following Suitably’s launch the month before were strong. But they vanished immediately. Gatto watched as other brands pivoted to selling masks and sweats and many suggested she do the same. “But I founded a workwear brand,” said Gatto, “and I didn’t want to cheapen it.”
Instead, Suitably stayed the course with its laser focus on women with careers and what they needed. Marketing suiting no longer made sense, but creating a community and providing value to it did. So Gatto doubled down on the brand’s newsletter and blog, creating content including a popular guide on how to dress for different types of video meetings. And she personally met – virtually, of course – with nearly 100 customers and target customers to help where she could and hear what they needed.
In a pre-launch survey of more than 2,000 women, Suitably had heard that Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z had very similar feelings about the frustration of shopping for work basics, the lack of value-for-the-price in the market, and the need for options that don’t require dry cleaning. Moreover, college students in particular hadn’t yet found a workwear brand that resonated with them. Now, according to Gatto, the brand has proven to be very popular with mid-career women who value the products functional benefits.
Throughout periods of tough sales during the height of the pandemic, Gatto clung to her conviction that the market for her product would return when in-person work did. And she was right: Suitably is now a successful brand on Nordstrom.com and Gatto has received encouragement and advice as a part of the Tory Burch Foundation’s Fellows Program. But getting to this point required discipline and tenacity.