You can bet that the Madam Vice President age is ushering in a new era of pantsuit-powered style. Here to outfit future CEOs (or anyone in need of a better blazer) is Madison/Savile, a new Los Angeles label that's blending London's renowned tailoring with office-ready suiting.
Founder Diana Nguyen knows a thing or two about dressing for the corporate world. Before launching Madison/Savile, the L.A.-based entrepreneur was on a mission to find the perfect luxury blazer that was comfy enough to wear from morning to night.
"The idea came about when I was working at Microsoft, almost six years ago. During my corporate career, I noticed a lot of women around me at work and in my network, who would talk about how much they love blazers, but how hard it was for them to find the right one with the right fit and design," Nguyen tells UncoverLA.
She continues: "Fit is everything, not only can it make a garment look amazing, but it allows for comfort and mobility. I saw a gap in the market. I love how a suit with the right fit looks on a man, so sharp and powerful and I wanted the same for women!"
Nguyen left her 15-year career in finance to turn her idea into reality, and spent two years finding the right multi-tasking fabric that offered two-way stretch and didn't pill after regular wear. She settled upon the name of Madison/Savile, which nods to London's legendary men's suiting mecca of Savile Row.
The result: A debut collection of tailored and timeless jackets ($595 to $695) and trousers ($365) cut and sewn from stretchy, wrinkle-resistant material sourced from Japan, and available in neutral shades and patterns like black, ivory, camel, and dark plaid. Every jacket features the collection's mantra, "unstoppable and fierce," sewn onto the lining, and the silhouettes are designed for maximum movement (yup, no tight shoulders) plus handy pockets on the outside and inside.
The classic blazer features a chic shawl lapel and pockets that can be turned into welt or flap closures, while the shawled jacket features a longer, more relaxed silhouette. Madison/Savile's soirée-ready tuxedo blazer is finished with a jacquard lapel and lined with fabric featuring a dreamy water painting of a swan created by a female artist.
Everything is made to order in Los Angeles to avoid excess fabric and manufacturing, and local factories mean a lower carbon footprint. Nguyen adds that the brand's small-batch production model means that orders may take extra time to arrive, "but we believe we are targeting a consumer who is willing to adapt in order to make better and more sustainable decisions."
The founder says that the company is also exploring other ways to "help drive a more circular economy," so keep an eye out for more on that later in 2021.
Another thing to love about the brand? For the entire month of March, the company is donating a portion of sales from its first collection to Elizabeth House, a nonprofit that supports mothers and children experiencing homelessness.
We recently sat down with Nguyen to learn more about the meaning of Madison/Savile, some of the biggest challenges she faced going from finance to fashion, the starry women who inspired the spirit of the brand, and a few of her favorite L.A. power lunch spots. Read on for more, and shop Madison/Savile here.
What inspired you to leave your career in finance?
All my life I knew I wanted to do more and that I had a higher purpose or calling. It kept getting louder, but I didn't have clarity on what that was earlier in my life. I got a career coach that helped me narrow it down to being an entrepreneur, which eventually led to the idea of reinventing and redesigning the blazer based on the gap in the market I observed.
However, that still wasn't enough for me to take the leap until it aligned with my passion and purpose to help and empower others and to inspire a more beautiful world inside and out. Thus, the name Madison/Savile, which defines the two worlds I'm combining. Madison means "gift of God" and "warrior" — inspiring others to bring out their inner warrior, reminding them of the gift that only they can bring to the world — and Savile is for Savile Row in London, which is known for its bespoke suiting.
Can you describe the moments that turned your idea into a full-fledged project?
There were many moments, but the very first was when I started taping on my wall pictures of designs that I liked and eventually that inspiration wall grew bigger and bigger. What made it official was when I trademarked the name Madison/Savile and incorporated the company.
It was originally called "Suited" when I first started until I tried to trademark the name and found out that it had already been trademarked by one of the big e-commerce giants. Although devastating at the time, everything happens for a reason. If it wasn't for Suited being trademarked already, the name Madison/Savile wouldn't have come about. The name has significant meaning and represents what the brand truly stands for.
What were some of the challenges you faced going from finance to fashion?
The biggest challenge was that fashion is a completely different beast than finance. Finance was about numbers, processes, accuracy, organization and deadlines — linear and logical. Fashion, behind the scenes, operates in a very old-school manner.
Coming from a tech and finance background to fashion, you see an industry that has been mostly unchanged until now. The fashion industry is now embracing digital transformation and re-evaluating its processes to reduce waste and provide more visibility. Especially with COVID, it really forces companies to rethink everything. It's the mindset of "if it's not broken why fix it," until something like COVID really forces your hand.
There is a lack of visibility and accountability. My background has been in auditing businesses to implement process improvements and efficiencies and the more I'm in the fashion world learning the process, the more I see a lot of areas that can be improved with better processes and implementation of systems and technology.
That's easier said than done, as it takes a huge overhaul and budget for companies to dedicate to a new way of doing things, but with the way things are heading and consumers' demands, it needs to happen. If retailers are being forced on how they operate and sell, it will force their suppliers and manufactures to do the same.
For someone new to the fashion industry, you can end up spending way more than you need to because you don't know what the right price is to negotiate for the best price. Everything can be negotiated, there is no set price.
If you are in the know and in the network, you save a lot of money by working with the people that have been in the business for a while and who work with all kinds of brands, but don't advertise because they don't need to. I am fortunate enough that my operations manager has been in the industry for 10 years and knows how to navigate it.
It's not as glamorous as people think behind the scenes, it's a tough industry to break through to find the right suppliers and factories and negotiate the right price. It really takes sticking to your principles and values because even though you are paying the supplier or whoever you are working with, it doesn't mean they treat you with the best customer service or respect because you are new, or not an established brand yet.
How did your finance and corporate backgrounds help you when starting Madison/Savile?
My experience in finance and corporate has helped me tremendously. Knowing the numbers and being able to put together your own financial model helps to see where your costs are, your profitability and set expectations for growth and long-term projections. Being in the corporate world is all about project management and in finance lots of deadlines, which helps in project managing building your own business, setting priorities and deadlines.
Who are you some of your style icons as you developed the brand?
Some of my style icons are Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Charlize Theron, Audrey Hepburn, Janelle Monae, Cate Blanchett, and Blake Lively.
Where are a few of your favorite LA "power lunch" spots?