This week I had the privilege of having a phone chat with Susan Gregg Koger, the founder of ModCloth. ModCloth is one of my favorite places to shop online, so it was such fun getting a chance to talk to the person behind the amazing company.
Me: Hi Susan! Tell us a bit more about yourself and ModCloth.
Susan: My title is the chief creative officer which basically means that I sit above the creative side of the organization. I work with the marketing, photography, design, styling, writing, merchandising and buying teams. I am also the head buyer which means I travel with a team and visit trade shows.
Me: Ohh, that sounds like fun!
Susan: Yes, I feel pretty lucky that I get to shop for a living!
Me: Why did you decide to start ModCloth?
Susan: I founded ModCloth with my boyfriend (now husband), Eric in 2002 when I was 17. I loved to thrift and that summer found so many vintage things that I couldn’t wear them all. Eric knew a bit about web design, so we decided to start a website. I taught myself Photoshop and did all the banner designs for the website while literally sitting in a dorm room.
Me: Wow! That’s amazing you were able to teach yourself all that! Did you have a ‘click’ moment of this is what you want to do?
Susan: Approaching graduation, I realized I was passionate about fashion. I took a look at the website, and realized that we had a lot of traffic, but a bad business model. Because everything was one-of-a-kind vintage, it was hard as a customer to find something that fit. So, we started stocking vintage inspired designs from independent designers, and it’s grown from there. We’ve become one of the best places on the web to find one-of-a-kind vintage clothes and vintage inspired designs.
Me: What would you say your vision at ModCloth is?
Susan: Our vision is to really focus on getting our customers involved in everything we do. We want to democratize the fashion industry!
Me: Why the name ModCloth?
Susan: Ooh this is a great question! When Eric and I founded the company in 2002, we knew we needed to get a domain name that wasn’t already registered. We came up with a bunch of ideas that had vintage in the name. Then Eric came up with the name ModCloth and it kind of stuck. And we were able to buy the domain so we went for it.
Me: Why did you choose Winston the pug as your mascot?
Susan: We got Winston a few years into running of ModCloth and I’ve always loved pugs. He was so cute, I just wanted to share him with the world. He comes to the office every day with us and gets to hang out with everyone!
Me: Aw, how cute :)
Me: How would you describe your style?
Susan: My style is definitely a bit of a mix. It pretty much depends on my mood. I wouldn’t pin my style to one particular vintage decade or one trend or look. I look at all the trends that are happening and pick and choose my favorites.
Me: Any particular designs you especially like?
Susan: I love vintage a-lines and silhouettes. I do enjoy being very girly.
Me: What’s your current favorite item in your closet?
Susan: My favorite piece of clothing is a leopard print coat from the ‘60s that my grandmother wore. I used to always dress up in it in her basement and do little fashion shows when I was younger. Then when I was 14, she gave it to me.
Me: What is your favorite part about your job?
Susan: #1: I get to work with really amazing people. #2: The clothing; I get to be around fashion all the time; I get to be the head buyer of ModCloth. It is so exciting and it’s so much fun. I’ll go to a trade show for 8 hours and feel like I’m energized as opposed to being drained like so many jobs are.
Me: Yes, that does sound like fun! What would you say is the most stressful part?
Susan: Being an entrepreneur and being the one in charge can be fun at times but it can also be really stressful. I think that’s the hardest thing: if the going gets tough and things get overwhelming there’s no leaving work at work and going home. My work is absolutely a part of who I am. I am the person who’s ultimately responsible.
(from the ModCloth scrabook)
Me: Any advice to people who want to get into the fashion industry?
Susan: Well I was completely self-taught and didn’t study fashion or design. That’s a great way to start.
Me: So you think you can teach yourself?
Susan: You can absolutely can teach yourself, especially the way the Internet has changed fashion. Read fashion blogs, look at runway shows posted at places like style.com. So much is finding what you like and don’t like. I currently read 100-150 blogs a day. I think that’s so important. For someone who really wants to get into the industry, my advice is don’t wait to get an internship or go to school, start now and become part of the community.
image sources (in order of appearance): photo of susan, photo of eric: unknown, photo of winston, modcloth, winston in glasses, modcloth.