Turning 10 for a brand is a huge deal (we know from experience, after all). But for Monrow, the West Coast–based company that’s been leading the athleisure trend since before it was in our lexicon, turning 10 could also mean it’s about to enter its most impressive year yet.
The brand was created by college friends Michelle Wenke and Megan George, who were looking for a chic and pared-down alternative to the logomania casualwear of the early aughts (Juicy Couture, for instance). But while it’s commonplace for brands with a decade’s worth of experience to have seen a lot of change, the things that remain constant for Monrow are the same things powering its success.
“We launched with the vintage sweats and the basic tee,” Wenke said when we chatted with her over the phone, “which are still offered in the line today–still our top sellers.” In fact, Monrow told us the brand sells 10,000 units each of the camo Vintage Sweats ($135) and Granite Fitted V Neck Tee ($58) every month.
Below, we chatting with Wenke about why her collection is still leading the pack in an athleisure-saturated market, and why we (and our moms) should all own a pair of her cult-favorite sweats.
WHO WHAT WEAR: Congratulations on reaching 10 years! Take us back to the beginning: What inspired you to start the line?
MICHELLE WENKE: We came out when Juicy was big, and Free City. Megan and I birthed Monrow out of the idea that we really wanted to look put together when you go get a coffee or run an errand, but we don’t want to go out in very loud and a hey, look at me [outfit]; we wanted something a little bit more low-key and sleek and sophisticated.
WWW: Right, there’s no obvious branding on your products. Do you think that’s been something that’s helped you maintain your success over the years?
MW: Yes, I think we built this cult kind of following who’s devoted to us because of the fit and quality of the product.
WWW: Can you recall the first real time you realized how much of a cult following the brand was gaining?
MW: My first one was when we signed with our first PR firm seven years ago, maybe eight. We were like, Okay we need to—it’s time. And I just remember having a phone conversation with [our first PR girl], and her voice saying, “Your brand is like the biggest little brand. People that love it are like diehards.” That’s the first instance where I felt like, whoa, we really do have like this cult following.
WWW: You really had no idea?
MW: Megan and I work at the office; you kind of work in a bubble. And then when people find out that you own Monrow, you started Monrow, you can see on their faces how much they love it.
WWW: You just opening your first stand-alone store this month, as well. Why did you wait this long to do so?
MW: It really came organically. Megan and I, when we started Monrow, we both were like, never want to get into retail. I was always looking for a place to put our stuff for sample sales, and I just could never find the right place. Then I stumbled upon this Venice shop, and all the stars aligned. We just decided to take the leap because it was the right location, and it was just a place where we could show all the product that we have, and it’s a way to show your viewpoint to the customers versus the buyers. We do 60 new styles a month, 11 deliveries a year, and like 40 of them get produced, and there’s just so much that people don’t get to see.
WWW: Wow. So if you didn’t have that one-on-one customer experience before, how did you connect with customers at the start?
MW: It was really what celebrities were wearing; there weren’t any bloggers or influencers. We really got put on the map by Rachel Bilson when she was wearing our Kate tee, and that got us into Teen Vogue, and just that kind of celebrity placement really launched us back then because that’s where people were looking for their fashion influence.
WWW: In your eyes, what are the qualities that you attribute to your long-lasting success when it comes to products that really resonate with people?
MW: I think to build trust with consumers, you need to make sure that your fit and your quality are always consistent, and then that you’re giving the customer what they’re looking for. I think the Monrow woman wants to feel put together, wants it to be an effortless process to get dressed, but she wants to look like she’s on trend and she’s in the know of fashion, but she’s not a fashion victim.
And flattering. It’s the quality and fit that make things flattering for every body type.
WWW: And it feels very inclusive in many ways.
MW: Yeah. My mom is 66 and my mom wears Monrow all the time. And then I have a friend, she’s 14 years old and she wears Monrow all the time. But to me that’s what I like about Monrow: It’s not pigeonholed.
Shop Monrow's 2 Top-Selling Pieces
Are you obsessed with Monrow sweats? Let us know below, and be sure to visit the store’s new Venice Beach location at 564 Rose Avenue.