Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Having an office environment where the dress code translates basically to "whatever the hell you want" sounds like a dream to many employees, so it makes sense that more and more businesses are adopting the philosophy. But if there's anything that'll have you romanticizing the idea of a Mad Men-esque office full of prim skirt suits and clicking stilettos, it's Of Mercer.
The two-year-old e-commerce brand will open its first store on East 21st Street tomorrow. It's strategically located for the convenience of their target audience: nine-to-fivers living and working in the Flatiron District and Chelsea. Founded by Dorie Smith and Emelyn Northway, Wharton Business School grads who met each other while wearing the exact same dress, the brand specializes in work-appropriate dresses made of Italian wool for under $200.
"We found that [women's workwear] was either oversized or kind of masculine, or brands would call something workwear and it would be miniature and tight," Smith says, explaining the impetus for the business. "The options were either really frumpy and ugly or super sexy."
Although men have always been able to walk into a store and expect to find plenty of suiting and office-appropriate clothes, women's brands are only just starting to catch on. "When I was working in finance, I was wearing a pantsuit every single day, because that was the only thing that was okay," says Northway. "Now, women are getting more comfortable wearing colors. It's not the same boring black outfit that it used to be. It's becoming a more exciting category to shop for."
Partly to thank for that, Northway says, are celebrities. "You can now look to Michelle Obama and Marissa Meyer and say, 'She has awesome style.' And they're wearing bright red A-line dresses!"
Though the clothes are all business, the decor was actually inspired by trends in home design, according to Northway. Inside, you'll find Pinterest-perfect exposed brick, tufted velvet furniture, sheepskin throws, and mood boards with sayings like "9-to-5 never looked this good."
What makes the store extra special is the duo's commitment to allowing it to act as a kind of satellite office space for its core customers. There's a desk where freelancers can plug in and use the store's Wifi, and the back living room area includes wine and coffee. "The idea is if you want to come and hang, come and hang," Smith says. "If you're a freelancer or if you're between meetings, we want it to be a comfortable place for people to come, bring a client, have a meeting." Later on, they'll be organizing workshops and networking events in the back area as well.
Another unique section is the small inlet where each month or so, a different partner brand will take up temporary residency. A Manicube shop-in-shop, where businesswomen can have a manicure and personal shopping appointment for a twist on the traditional client outing, is on deck.
"We wanted it to be more than just a shopping experience," says Northway, "where people feel comfortable spending a lot of time getting fitted, shopping, or simply relax and work." Scroll through the gallery above for a tour of the space.