The fashion industry is hard to break into but Mimi Plange has done the impossible. First Lady Michelle Obama wore a Mimi Plange A-line skirt to an appearance on the “The View.” Today, Plange’s designs can be seen on celebrities and fashionable women worldwide.
Born in Ghana, she grew up in California. Her mother and her uncle sparked her creative interests. Her uncle is an architect, and he indoctrinated her with his love of art and music. Plange went on to attend Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in California and then she obtained a BA in Architecture from the University of California at Berkeley.
After graduating from the FIDM, she relocated to New York City, where after a few odd jobs, she landed a position at a major urban wear label. There, she learned the business side of the industry.
Eventually, she and her husband started their own line, first under the name Boudoir D’Huitres, which she later changed to the current eponymous label, Mimi Plange.
Many come to New York with similar aspirations of rising, but Plange attributes her success, in large part, to her work ethic. She seems not to have been seduced by the successes she’s had relatively early in her career.
Mimi Plange clothes are unique–they have an architectural bent. For example, her adaptation of the Italian embroidery technique, trapunto in some of her designs. She uses the technique to interpret scarification, which is a traditional West African body adornment where the skin is etched into decorative patterns. By using trapunto, Plange is referencing her Ghanaian roots.
Here, Plange tells TNJ.com more about her brand:
TNJ.com: What led you to start your own design firm?
Mimi Plange: I always wanted to be a designer. I got my Bachelor’s in Architecture before attending the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco. Right after school, I moved to New York with a plan. I worked my way up starting as a fashion design assistant and eventually becoming a creative director. I learned so much and fell in love with the process of designing, finding the inspiration and creating a dialogue with the clothes and my customers. I wanted to create my own brand and express a new point of view inspired by historic African body adornment in the modern world of fashion.
TNJ.com: What were some startup obstacles you faced?
Mimi Plange: Understanding your customer is one of the biggest obstacles in design, as well as having a very clear point of view. You have to know your customer very well so you can exceed their needs, and in addition, you have to know yourself extremely well so you can express yourself and your work in a strong, clear and distinctive way.
TNJ.com: What have been some challenges in growing your company?
Mimi Plange: Economic downturns affect shoppers’ attitudes and buying habits. Being in the business of fashion, the ground isn’t always solid, so we focus on building a more direct relationship by engaging our customers socially and making sure our customers are buying into the emotional experience our brand provides.
TNJ.com: What are some of your goals for 2014?
Mimi Plange: Solidifying our brand message and providing an even higher customer-tailored experience for our consumers. We also have plans to launch an e-commerce site.
TNJ.com: What has been the biggest business lesson you have learned so far?
Mimi Plange:: Your network is your net worth.
TNJ.com: What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Mimi Plange: I love the process of designing, the researching, the analyzing, and the daydreaming. Design for me is very thoughtful and rewarding. The ability to challenge or interpret the culture of clothing is a gift.
TNJ.com: What are some of your long-term goals for your business?
Mimi Plange: Having a lasting lifestyle brand that is constantly evolving is the long-term goal. We want to provide an experience that is new. We also plan to open up boutiques across the globe and become a vertically-integrated brand.