There’s about to be a lot more M.M.LaFleur on the campaign trail.
The women’s workwear brand, founded by Sarah LaFleur, Narie Foster and Miyako Nakamura in 2011, aims to provide “a more practical, inspired wardrobe” for professional women. And this week, the brand announced that it wants to extend that mission to the women running for public office across the United States—for free.
In an Instagram post on Monday, M.M.LaFleur announced a new initiative: The brand will lend its clothes, without charge, to women running for office across the United States. The program will direct female candidates to a special page on the brand’s website where they’ll be able to choose up to five garments.
M.M.LaFleur first dipped into politics in 2016 following the election of Donald Trump. LaFleur told Adweek that the brand had—like much of the rest of the country—anticipated a victory for Hillary Clinton, and had planned a pantsuit-themed email to go out the morning after the election.
“Genuinely, the feeling in our office was, ‘Let’s just talk about what happened and what we want what we hope for in the future,'” LaFleur said about why the brand chose to offer clothing to candidates this week. “So that was the message that we sent out.”
Within 48 hours, the company had 1,100 responses from across the political spectrum, with the resounding sentiment being the desire to see more women in public office. Having already worked with several female politicians, LaFleur said the response to the brand’s offer made them think about how to be more proactive about getting women elected.
“We’ve had so many women, so many female candidates and politicians reach out to us and say, ‘Your clothes are perfect, and it’s one less thing for me to worry about when I hit the campaign trail,'” she said.
Female candidates interested in taking advantage of M.M.LaFleur’s offer can email the company, which will request proof of candidacy and to learn a bit more about who they are and their platform. LaFleur—herself a registered Democrat—said the company is open to lending clothes to women across the political spectrum, but reserves the right to refuse to lend clothing to a candidate whose values don’t align with its own, saying the company will stay away from working with extremists.
In the past, M.M.LaFleur has donated clothing to the International Rescue Committee, and LaFleur signed an open letter in June 2019 condemning bills that severely restrict abortion access, which ran as an ad in the New York Times.
“This is actually just about really increasing female representation in government,” she said. “So I think we’ve really purposely tried to be as nonpartisan as we possibly can.”
The reaction to the initiative has been almost entirely positive, said LaFleur. It even got a shout-out from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who shared the brand’s post on her Instagram story, writing, “When I was running for office (even now!), accessing clothing for the job was a challenge both logistically and financially.” She added: “As a candidate, a large part of asking people to vote for you is helping them visualize you on the job. As a member, that professionalism helps you challenge subconscious bias.”
In the first day after M.M.LaFleur announced the new program, it heard from over 300 female candidates who wanted to take advantage of the new service. By Thursday, there were nearly 900 who had contacted the brand. The initiative is also connected to the brand’s ongoing Ready to Run campaign, which they’re partnering with the organization She Should Run on.
“This is part of our corporate social responsibility initiative,” LaFleur added, “but hopefully it will have legs in terms of marketing as well.”