Megan Phillips

Photo:  Marisa Boras

Age || 27

Company Name || Megan Phillips Collection

Job Title || Founder & CEO

Company Start Date || July 2017

Years Living In New York || 4

Social Handles || @meganphillipscollection

Company Website || Megan Phillips Collection

What did you want to be while growing up?

I grew up in a small city on Lake Michigan, Wisconsin. Growing up in a small community gave me a pretty vivid imagination and therefore I dreamed up lots of different roles. There was a time I wanted to be the lead singer of an all female rock band (still do), a lawyer, a doctor, a filmmaker, an art therapist and a professional tennis player. I was too young to pursue these career ambitions but that never stopped me from dressing the part. At the center of all my career dreams was creativity and, essentially, just me playing dress up. Fashion was there all along.

What’s the best piece of advice you were given when you were starting your own line?

There was no one piece of advice given to me before starting Megan Phillips Collection that changed my perspective of becoming an entrepreneur. However, I had the opportunity to watch several friends start businesses and I was able to watch them as they navigated the start up years. The biggest take away from watching them build and grow was that entrepreneurship is not for the weak. If you don’t like to work long hours or sacrifice your social life, this won’t be the career path for you. There is certainly an element of luck behind every successful brand but, to the 5% of that luck is 95% determination and hustle. Knowing the level of work that went into launching a fashion brand before starting Megan Phillips Collection set my expectations and got me started on the right foot.

How do you define success?

I think if you dream to do something, have the guts to do it, and take away something from your experience, that is success. Success doesn’t have to mean that you win the game or sell out of product or reach a far off end goal. Success is in every day — trying your best, trying new things, and taking victory in the small wins.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned since starting out?

I’ve learned so much since starting Megan Phillips Collection — it’s honestly hard to know where to begin! I think the most important thing I’ve learned is to listen to my intuition. I have the opportunity to meet many different women, hear their stories, and observe as they shop my collection pieces. I’ve gone down the road where women requested a product that later didn’t sell well and other times I make something that was voiced as in demand and it does great. Customer feedback is very important but, at the end of the day, I am the decision maker of my company and it is vital that I listen to my gut when creating new product, launching a new campaign or posting content. People are smart and can distinguish authenticity from a manufactured brand. Exercising my intuition over that past few years has given me many victories in my company and more confidence in myself.

Photo:  Marisa Boras

What is your go-to motivational quote?

“Live every day like Elle Woods after Warner told her that she wasn’t smart enough for law school.” Its very silly and Pinterest-y but it makes me laugh and I am genuinely empowered every time after watching Legally Blonde. Elle Woods is a fictional yet great example of determination and female influence.

What made you interested in starting this brand?

This is more of a loaded question for me. I have a very personal relationship with fashion and style. Most of my life, I struggled with weight and body image. But, in my moments of insecurity, I found confidence in fashion. If I put on the right pair of pants or my favorite sundress, I forgot what the scale said and felt beautiful just as I was. This is why I love fashion. I always had a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit but it wasn’t until my love of style was partnered with exposure to the corporate view of fashion that my spirit turned into physical drive. I’ll never forget this one day I was gathered in a room with co-workers as an executive gave a speech about being in the business of “desire.” I know she didn’t mean for it to be attached with anything negative, but it made my stomach turn. All I could think of was myself as a little girl in my bedroom critiquing my figure and wanting so desperately to look like the women in my fashion magazines. Now I was in this room, staring the culprit of my insecurity in the face.  Sometimes the fashion industry works to create desire — desire to be prettier, desire to be thinner, desire to be richer, to have a more glamorous life, to know the right people and to have all of those things you have to have the right outfit – this expensive outfit with this name on the tag. I started my own label because I want to be a positive voice against the noise of consumerism and to promote fashion to be fun, personal, and screams “You are fabulous just as you are.”

Do you have a personal motto?

It’s not so much a motto but, when I am in a moment of weakness and need to feel empowered, I put on Beyonce. You can’t listen to, “Always stay gracious, best revenge is your paper” and not want to be a bad bitch who gets things done.

Which women inspire you?

Most women inspire me! I watched my Mom make a beautiful dinner for my brother and I every night, show up to every soccer game, drive me to every choir concert and be incredibly present and supportive while grieving her brother’s passing.  I watched my friend Emma build a successful CrossFit gym and nutrition company while transforming her body to compete in the CrossFit games. I watched my Grandma pack up her whole life and move to a new state at 85 to start a new chapter of independence. I even watched my best friend Holly as she traveled across the world, navigating Europe, Asia, and Africa solo. I am surrounded by incredible women every day that teach me the power in my femininity, the depth of our resilience, and that we can do absolutely anything we set our minds to.

How do you overcome moments of self-doubt?

My soul sister Erin always tells me, “22 year old you is dying right now.” We came to New York for an internship the summer of 2013 when I was 22. Seeing where I was when I started and how far I’ve come in those years makes me proud of myself. Taking the time to reflect on self-growth is the perfect tool to overcome self-doubt and move forward with confidence.

What is the hardest part about being your own boss?

Sometimes it can be lonely to run something on your own — no one to look up to when you are uncertain or co-workers to turn to when you’re overwhelmed. Finding a community of female founders in the same position has been one the greatest blessings in my business. We can be each other’s co-workingers, team up, and learn from each other. Competition isn’t part of my vocabulary. I want to see my sisters succeed and they, I. Joining a space like The Wing or participating in female spaces like We Are Women Owned is a great way to build community.

Photo:  Marisa Boras

How do you handle situations where you feel overwhelmed?

If it’s a situation where I am in the heat of the moment and need to make a game time decision, I take in deep breaths, close my eyes, and break down the problem at hand into rational bullet points. If I have a little more time, exercise is my go to vice. There is a spin studio in Chelsea that does themed rides — Beyonce, Britney, Lady Gaga. Cycling and running to great music is exactly what I need to clear my head.

What is your creative process like?

I think to be a great designer, you need to be ever evolving. I find a lot of inspiration from walking around downtown taking notes on cool outfits, following trends in the fashion industry ,and researching font trends/graphic treatments online. That being said, I usually resort to the same routine when conceptualizing a new collection. I make a big cup of coffee, put on a Sofia Coppola film and maybe play some Strokes or Phoenix. Creating a sanctuary of my favorite things is always a recipe for great ideas. Everything I design, I design on my computer, so I have the luxury of creating the space I design in.

What has been the most rewarding thing since starting your collection?

Meeting the incredible women who resonate with my designs and seeing photos of how they style their new shirts! I will never get over or be less elated when I see a girl on Instagram post a picture of themselves in Megan Phillips Collection. It is my dream to make fashion that empowers women and to see women posing proud and confident in my collection materializes that dream.

What is your production process like?

It was very rough in the beginning — I used to burn my own screens and print each t-shirt in my apartment. We’ve come a long way, sis! Now, my production process is a pretty well-oiled machine. I spend about 60% of my production process researching and designing the new collection (I personally design and illustrate all graphics). I then spend about 20% of my time passing the designs to my printer then checking quality, color and placement in the print studio. The remaining 20% is spent in my own studio sewing in every MPC label, double checking quality, and getting all product perfect for purchase.

How have you worked to keep female empowerment at the core of your brand?

Women are my greatest inspiration, so focusing on female empowerment will be a consistent theme in the legacy of my collection. I keep my brand female focused by printing empowering female driven messaging to my T-shirts, highlighting women from all walks of life on my social platforms, participating in female founded and run events/organizations, asking women who inspire me to model my collection, and iterating the same message time and time again that women are incredible and fashion doesn’t have to be about desire. Fashion should be about inspiring, encouraging, and empowering people to love their person and live confidently.  

Photo:  Marisa Boras

What advice would you give to other women trying to enter your field?

Go for it! But first, do your research, study other brands, and even take some courses in business. The fashion industry requires a lot of creativity but, for all the time spent on designing a product, five times that amount of time will be spent on sourcing, manufacturing, marketing, and selling that product. Fashion is a business so important things like trademarks, taxes, price margins, and quality sourcing need to be at the forefront of your mind. My other piece of advice is don’t be afraid to outsource! I spent way too much time trying to do things within my business that I wasn’t great at (i.e. printing my own tshirts in my apartment). Hire your weaknesses and you will see an immediate change in growth and decrease in personal stress.

What are some of your goals moving forward for your brand?

I have many goals for my company but the big, far out, spending every day manifesting dream is to show at New York Fashion Week. My immediate goals are to grow my e-commerce platform, bring on new hires, land larger retail accounts, dress influential people, and receive more press coverage. Personally, it would be a life dream to meet Sofia Coppola. I imagine us discussing film vs. digital cinema and the legacy of Bill Murray over rosé.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Sarah Fielding