Colleen Monroe // Untucked Workwear

If you sense a theme, great people are creating great sustainable fashion brands through Factory45. (You can too – applications open May 17.) So it should come as no shock that I connected with Colleen through this Factory45 emerging designer world. I immediately fell in love with her Untucked Workwear designs when I saw how beautifully she merged design and function. Often we see fashion that is pretty just for the sake of being pretty. But Colleen is also intentional with her designs – a smock jacket with deep pockets, pants that snap to cuff, a top that can be worn multiple ways.

The Untucked Workwear Kickstarter just launched. Go check it out and give her some love.


Kickstarter     //     //     Instagram     //     Facebook     //     Twitter

20170327-_MG_4653[photo credit: Francis and Louise]

Tell us about your journey to launch Untucked Workwear and the story behind the name.

The idea for Untucked Workwear starting brewing when I was living in New York working in costume design on the show, Boardwalk Empire. My life was always on the go — from riding the subway to racing through the city to pick up feather boas in the city to grabbing margaritas with friends in the evening. I wasn’t working in a typical corporate office, so I didn’t need pencil skirts and suits, but I knew I wanted some kind of cool uniform that communicated that I worked in a creative field while looking professional and feeling incredibly comfortable at the same time. It wasn’t until I moved out to Los Angeles when I decided to take the idea more seriously. I sold my car for a year during that time. I biked all around the city, took the bus and train, and walked everywhere!  I needed to wear something professional to meet with clients, but I didn’t always want to bring a change of clothes with me from my commutes. That’s when I started thinking about a pair of pants that looked like a blend between a trouser/jean/legging. To bring my idea to life, I decided to forego going back to school for fashion design, and instead enrolled in a sustainable fashion business accelerator, Factory45, while I took a job at a creative branding agency. Best. Decision. Ever. While I worked during the day, I would come home and work through the program at night with some of my other remote colleagues and began building relationships with people in the fashion industry here in LA.

In coming up with the name, I racked my brain for a one or two words that embodied comfort, function, durability, and an unconventional work life that went beyond a 9 to 5 corporate job — a renegade so to speak. I started thinking about the lifestyles of many of my creative friends. When we get dressed in the morning, we are slipping on sleek leather boots, not stilettos, and reaching for loose blouses, jeans, and breezy dresses. We want an interesting wardrobe that doesn’t require too much maintenance, is comfortable for movement, but we want to look cool at the same time. Untucked’s “Perfect Working Outfit for Women on the Go” is exactly that. : )

20170327-_MG_4927[photo credit: Francis and Louise]

What have been the biggest hurdles and joys?

Me. I was the biggest hurdle. The idea of bringing something to life that hasn’t been created before is incredibly daunting and I was too embarrassed to talk about my idea initially. It was always “just a side project.” I didn’t own the fact that I was an entrepreneur and putting in tons of hours — researching, sourcing fabric, talking to vendors, thinking about my ideal customer, designing in my bedroom until late into the night. No one saw immediate results from it, so I didn’t want to talk up my idea in case it might fail. I sometimes felt silly that I was spending so much time on it. Finally, I reached a point where I was dying to bounce ideas off of others because I couldn’t do it on my own anymore. I felt so alone in the process and decided I was either going to give up the idea or bring it out into the open. As soon as I introduced the idea with others, I received tons of positive and constructive feedback and realized, “I can do this!” I joined an awesome women’s entrepreneurial group where I could share similar frustrations and concerns about startup life. Knowing that others believed in my idea eventually gave me the momentum to keep moving forward with it.

From there, the joys have been meeting so many incredible people along the way and experiencing the close up action on how the garment manufacturing industry works. Ahhh! It’s the coolest thing, to show your research and sketches to your pattern maker and then get to try on your pieces that you created. The process of clothing construction is amazing and I wish more people could experience the behind-the-scenes. I think we’d have more appreciation for our clothing and make more thoughtful shopping choices if we truly understood the garment manufacturing process.

20170327-_MG_4140[photo credit: Francis and Louise]

What did you want to be when you grew up? Any connection to what you’re doing now?

Ha! It’s funny, the more I think about this question, I keep coming back to memories as a kid sitting in the grocery story in my small town of Dayton, Ohio reading every single page of the newest Vogue issue. The meticulous couture gowns and art direction behind the spreads fascinated me and I think I secretly wanted to jump into those pages and see what was happening on those shoots.

Los Angeles. New York. I read about those those places from the articles, but for all I knew, they could have been on another planet. It never occurred to me that I would one day be living in both and be a designer. Sewing, making dresses for my dolls out of Kleenex and thread, drawing — I always loved creating and my imagination was churning out new ideas all the time. I didn’t fathom I could design for a living. The word “entrepreneurship” didn’t even exist back then in my world, but I was always coming up with new little business ventures and hustling them around to neighbors and friends, so I think it was always in my DNA to start a company..

I ended up going to film school in San Diego and just before graduating, landed an opportunity to work as the costume designer on a feature film. That’s when it clicked. Behind every piece of clothing is a narrative.

After that, I knew I wanted to work with clothing in some capacity, but more than just glamorous fashion shoots or runways. I wanted to know the story behind the making of the clothes, which is why I was attracted to costume design in the first place. I loved the process of researching the history and people in the scripts and then working with pattern makers, jewelry makers, shoemakers, and other craftspeople to bring the ideas to life.

While working in film and reading about the abuse and waste in fashion, I knew I needed to do something to get involved and help. Fashion is incredible and beautiful and is a language in and of itself. Abusive working conditions for garment makers has no place in this industry and has to change.

20170325-_MG_3308[photo credit: Francis and Louise]

I love how mindful you are with the details of your pieces, such as how the pants snap and cuff to work with different shoe heights. Can you tell us about your design process and  some of your favorite design details?

Thank you! Honestly, the way I design is from experience and then I have to test everything out in the real world. I want to know that what I’m making is useful and wanted. I approach design a bit like an anthropologist or a journalist. I need to understand the lifestyles of my customers and really get into the minutia day-to-day of their lives.

20170325-_MG_2835-Edit[photo credit: Francis and Louise]

20170325-_MG_3084[photo credit: Francis and Louise]

Can you give us a glimpse at what is coming next for Untucked Workwear?

I’d love to keep building upon Untucked’s “Perfect Working Outfit” that includes, A blouse, trousers, and smock and create a “Perfect Working Wardrobe.” This would include staple pieces like dresses, work shirts, and jumpsuits that are all designed with function and comfort in mind. I also would love to collaborate with local artists to do some fun and modern prints.

20170327-_MG_4193[photo credit: Francis and Louise]

Any advice for women looking to boldly start that thing they’ve been dreaming about?

Jump out of dreaming mode and get started, girl! Even if it’s something small. Create an instagram account for your idea, seek people out to give you advice about it, write out a rough plan on how to take the first few steps, get a book to motivate you. If you’re really getting cold feet about what other people might think of you or afraid that the idea is silly or impossible, imagine yourself being the most daring CEO on the cover of Fast Company. What would they write about you? It’s always cool to read the stories of successful people who “started at their kitchen table” or “worked three jobs, raised two kids, and went going to school at the same time.” Grit brings glory. You just have to stick to it and honestly get over what people think because this is your life, not theirs.


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