After sitting with the women from Dudley Stephens for just a few minutes, one thing was for certain; these women were meant to do this. Dudley Stephens was started four years ago by a mother and two sisters.
Bonnie Dudley went on a boat ride to dinner and realized there wasn’t anything on the market to solve her problem: a fleece that would keep you warm on a boat but still look nice enough to be able to wear to dinner. That’s when Lauren jumped in and started doing her research, which included finding the right fabric and coming up with the perfect design.
Dudley Stephens First Clothing Item: A Fleece
Lauren found samples of various fleece fabrics. They put their heads together and designed the first Dudley Stephens fleece.
A seamstress made their designs, and when they tried them on, they fell in love with what we all know as the Cobble Hill Turtleneck. Lauren did her research and found a factory that could produce these fleeces, and everything fell right into place.
Well, almost everything.
They were a week away from the launch when they realized their website wasn’t quite ready yet. That’s when Kaki got to work finalizing the website, in just a few days, for the first official launch of Dudley Stephens. In four short years, these fleeces have become a highly coveted item.
Knitting Their Way into Ecommerce
They launched Oct. 7, 2015.
After launching, they did a few local trunk shows to help spread the word about these amazing fleeces. Their biggest turning point was a local holiday boutique trunk show in Greenwich. They met so many women and friends who were finally able to see the fleece, and that’s when Dudley Stephens started to become a household name.
This reassured them that there was a gap in the market and women wanted this fabric, durable and versatile, and something stylish. In their first holiday season, they sold out of almost all their designs in all sizes.
A Higher Purpose: Eco-Friendly and Recycled Clothing
Since day one, Dudley Stephens has been dedicated to sustainability. When presented with recycled and nonrecycled options, they will always choose the recycled version. It has always been a no-brainer for the brand.
At this moment, 90% of the materials used to make Dudley Stephens fleeces are recycled.
Each day, they work closely with their factory to raise that number to 100%. Four years ago when they first started, sustainability wasn’t that important in fashion, but you see it everywhere now. Everyone’s attention is on sustainability.
In their initial messaging, the brand was always dedicated to sustainability, and new technology has allowed them to give the word more meaning. From choosing fabrics to designing the collections and finalizing the products, the Dudley women are heavily involved in the entire process.
They work with a production company in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, who happens to be the best of the best. The factory understands the fabric and how to work with it, and it works closely with the Dudley team to help their vision come to life.
Putting Customers First: Communicating and Listening with an Open Mind
The hardest part about running this business has been quality control and making sure customers are happy. They take customer feedback very seriously.
As entrepreneurs, Dudley Stephens take it very personally when someone has criticism, but they’ve learned to take criticism and use it to improve their products. For every launch, they make changes, no matter how minor, to fix any errors so that customers are satisfied with their purchases.
The business owners want to make sure anyone interacting with the brand, whether it’s purchasing or online through Instagram, to feel like a part of the community and to feel good about the brand. As the brand has grown, they’ve learned that things happen, and they do their best to fix it.
Creating a Network of Productivity
One of the best parts about running the business has been the amazing connections they have been able to make. It's the people they’ve met, the support system and how passionate people have been about the brand. Hearing the feedback from happy customers has kept them going these past four years. This has set the tone for their business. With more eyes on them, they realized the power of their brand and the product.
Where Creativity is Derived: Dudley Stephens' Incredible Designs
Inspirations for their collections come from all over. They put their heads together to figure out what women want and need.
The team constantly sends ideas to each other, which helps shape ideas for future products. They take these ideas and create products which they try on, tweak to get the perfect fit, and then perfect before launching.
The fabric, color and the fit has to be perfected before a launch. If something isn’t right, they fix it before going into production.
As a startup, the customer feedback has been invaluable.
They take customer feedback and suggestions in real-time and apply it to their products. It helps them improve current products for future drops. The customer feedback also gives them insight on what their customers are looking for, and they work to create it.
One of their customers mentioned that they should make joggers, and they did. They also pull inspiration from runway shows and fashion trends. In response to the gaining popularity of high waisted jeans, they created a cropped blazer. The blazer included a puffed sleeve for a slimming effect. With each drop, they build on their current collection instead of replacing products.
Transcending a Moment in Time: Making Clothing that Lasts
The biggest inspiration for the brand’s design process has been creating timeless pieces. They take classic pieces, make it more modern, and create closet staples that their customers will wear year after year. There is so much to look forward to with the brand including new fabrics, new designs, and new colors. Learn more about this amazing brand and make sure to follow them on Instagram!