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While working at the UN in Geneva, Switzerland, Citizen’s Mark founder Cynthia Salim realized at 23 the same thing every working woman inevitably does: It’s hard to find credible clothes to wear to work. In fact, it’s oddly hard to do.
Like Salim, most professional women are familiar with feeling pigeonholed between workwear choices that all seem mutually dissatisfying. It’s way harder than it should be to find blazers that are tailored, but not “sexy,” and clothes that aren’t “cute-ified” with bows and trendy lapels, but also aren’t boxy or masculine either.
In essence, Salim realized that she and her female peers had a career the fashion industry didn’t seem to know they had.
Instead of resigning herself to a life of cardigans, Salim decided to build the company she wished existed. In order to change a stubbornly inept system, the disruption would need to come from an outsider who didn’t just think they knew what the modern woman wanted, but in fact was the modern woman.
And given the integral misunderstanding of women that has lead to such rampant “cute-ifying” of their clothes, Salim knew her task would not only be to create quality workwear but to fundamentally shift the perception of women from hollow consumers to multidimensional, dynamic people.
It was a revolutionary idea that shouldn’t, really, have been so revolutionary.
As she got deeper into plus size womens clothes the institution to found Citizen’s Mark, Salim realized how such a large contingency of buyers and their needs had gone so vastly underrepresented. The makers of the high-quality menswear, which theoretically could manufacture the same for women, liked to follow an 80/20 rule common in business. Since 80% of their profits come from the men’s collection, investing in that 20% of women’s collections — modernizing fit, testing merchandise — seems risky and unattractive. Perfect fit (as we well know) is more difficult to master for women, returns could be high, and they could be more demanding customers — all of which sounds unnecessary from an 80/20 perspective.