THE MNY SPOTLIGHT

Meet Annabel Gatto, Co-Founder & CEO of Suitably

Introduce yourself!

Hi everyone! My name is Annabel Gatto and I am the Co-Founder + CEO of Suitably. I grew up in Houston, TX and currently live in Greenwich, CT with my one year old daughter, husband and our mini goldendoodle. I went to Cornell University for my undergraduate degree and Columbia for business school.

Annabel wears the Elle Barong Top

Tell us more about Suitably and the journey creating it!

Suitably is a professional womenswear brand that offers capsule wardrobe pieces - all machine washable, ultra comfortable and travel friendly. We are redefining the way women shop for workwear by offering a simplified shopping experience, superior product and community to lift women up in the workplace.

Suitably was born out of a personal problem that goes back to when I shopped for my first blazer in college. I believe that every woman–no matter her background or economic status–deserves a wardrobe that helps her feel confident. Throughout my professional journey, I never found a workwear brand I loved. The process of shopping for workwear was frustrating - I found that most offerings were overpriced, unflattering, uncomfortable, dry clean only or stores had too many pieces to choose from. The entire process was overwhelming. I experienced this frustration at every point in my professional journey. I have always loved fashion and believe that style creates confidence. When I was in my second year at Columbia Business School, I experienced how the workwear landscape was just as bleak as it was when I shopped for my first work wardrobe 10 years ago. Women deserved better and I knew the process could be improved. After all, it was always easy for my husband to get exactly what he needed for work, quickly and at a fair price. After collecting data from over 2,000 women, I realized that my frustrations were not mine alone. I found that 8 out of 10 women did not have a workwear brand they loved. I set out to solve this problem by creating a workwear brand that would provide a superior product and capsule pieces that every woman needs. From this, Suitably was born!

Suitably launched right before the pandemic! In such a “work-from-home” environment, how did you continue with sales of professional workwear?

After launching in February 2020, with sky-high momentum, the pandemic quickly sent millions of women to work from home. We went into survival mode and we immediately shifted our focus from promoting the collection to doing everything we could to help our community. I made myself available for virtual coffee sessions and hosted over 100 of them during the pandemic. Next, we partnered with a good friend — a psychologist — and churned out free resources on everything from staying positive in a crisis to professional advice, life hacks and everything related to Zoom, from how to dress for a Zoom meeting in every industry to basic Zoom etiquette. The groundswell was immediate and powerful — women craved this information and this connection.

Suitably’s pieces are capsule wardrobe pieces that can be worn season-to-season and will not go out of style. During the pandemic we made an effort to highlight the versatility of each item. By showing the versatility of our products, we were able to capture customers who were not necessarily shopping for workwear but could use the products elsewhere (ex. A socially distant dinner with friends).

By the summer of 2020 we found that many women from our core demographic, who were previously working from home, had returned to in-person work. We ramped our marketing back up and it’s been uphill from there!

As a Tory Burch fellow, you place a lot of emphasis on uplifting other women who are passionate about their craft. How do you incorporate these values into everyday life at Suitably?

I found it incredibly challenging to navigate the corporate world as a woman. I oftentimes felt lonely and had no one to turn to for advice. In particular, I found many of the women who had climbed the corporate ladder themselves, were not interested in helping other women. At Suitably, we are dedicated to helping give all women a leg up at work by providing clothes they feel confident in and a community of free resources to lean on to help navigate complex workplace dynamics.

Shop Suitably's assortment of workwear at https://www.suitably.com/

Similarly to Mestiza, Suitably realizes the importance of creating designs that are machine washable, to take the hassle out of taking clothes to a dry cleaner. Why is this design element important to you?

Machine washability takes the hassle out of workwear. Who wants to be working and then have to worry about dropping clothes off at the dry cleaner? I intuitively knew machine washability was critical to our customer so I worked with our fabric mill to develop our proprietary blended all seasons stretch fabric that is incredibly soft, stretchy, premium to touch and still machine washable.

What advice do you have for young women entering the workforce?

You are given a large volume of professional flexibility in college and in your 20s. It is likely your career will be circuitous and it is incredibly common to make professional changes - don’t sweat it! Optimize for a role at the intersection of your skills and interests. If a role is not the right professional fit, do not be afraid to find a new job.

What is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned while starting a business in the fashion industry?

In fashion, and in particular product development, it is important to work with experts in the areas you are not an expert in. Be sure to thoroughly vet someone's background before bringing them on for a project. Pre-launch, we wasted several months (and rounds of samples) by working with a technical designer who misrepresented their skills to us. After a few months of working together, it was clear the product was not where it needed to be. When we did find the right technical designer, an industry veteran with 30 years of experience under her belt, we had an exceptional launch-ready product in just a few weeks.

What advice do you have for others looking to start their own brand?

Learn to say no and do not do things out of obligation or  guilt. For most of my twenties, I thought I could do everything and was always saying “yes” to peoples requests. This was the #1 drainer of energy for me and can lead to burn out! In the beginning of building my brand, I would take on everything because I felt like I had to. I was starting to get burned out so I learned to say no to things I was not 100% invested in or things that were not beneficial to the brand. This has helped me both preserve my energy and be a better leader.

Follow along @suitably & @annabelfgatto

What draws you to the Mestiza brand?

I met Louisa at an event for Tory Burch Fellows. Mestiza’s story immediately resonated with me. Like Suitably, I love that Mestiza is woman-owned. Before meeting Louisa, I actually first came across Mestiza on Instagram and was so impressed with Mestiza’s product offering. Each piece is thoughtfully designed and the brand truly has it’s own unique style. It’s a style that is sophisticated, chic, feminine and fun - all in one!

How does wearing your Mestiza piece make you feel?
I wore my Elliana Barong top with jeans and leopard flats to a lunch meeting on Greenwich Ave last week. I paired it with our Suitably 24/7 Blazer for a classic fall look. It was perfect! I love the Elle Barong top because it is so easy to dress up or down. I’ll pair it with the Penelope Pencil Skirt for a friend's baby shower later this fall, it will be so chic! I feel powerful and feminine in my Mestiza pieces.
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