Instead of searching high and low for a fashion-forward, refined brand with an affordable price point, Jessica Lee decided to start her own women’s fashion and lifestyle brand. Pleasing stylish young professionals–including herself–is the company’s mission and purpose.
In 2014, when digital-first brands (mainly those without brick-and-mortar spaces) were emerging and covering niche demands, Stanford graduates Lee and co-founder Lizzie Agnew launched Modern Citizen in a male-dominated, tech-oriented San Francisco.
Before Modern Citizen was given legs to run, Lee, co-founder and CEO of Modern Citizen, was a part of the strategy and business development team at Gap Inc’s e-commerce division and learned the customer-first philosophy and hands-on business skills. Agnew, co-founder and COO of Modern Citizen, was in charge of buying and planning for Home Decor and Plus-size category at ModCloth as well as running design and product development for its private label.
Supported by these outstanding experiences of hardworking young female professionals, Modern Citizen made a mark by opening its first store in fall of 2017–which shares the same minimal, elegant aesthetic as its merchandise–on Union Street in Cow Hollow. The brand is now getting ready to open a New York store.
How do you define “modern” and demonstrate it through the brand?
To us, “modern” is more than style — it’s a mindset, and a degree of thoughtfulness about what we’re offering and why. As working women in our 20s and 30s, planning for meetings, weddings, travel, and everything in between, our goal is to make life simpler for our customer. The majority of our pieces are also travel-friendly (no wrinkles!) and machine-washable, in an effort to help save her time. Ultimately, our mission is to offer her versatile, elevated pieces that provide the confidence she needs to face her day — without breaking the bank — so she can focus on the things in her life that are most important to her.
What do you think "modern" women are looking for when they visit the Modern Citizen website and/or flagship?
We believe modern women are looking for real, beautiful clothes that they can live and work in — style, quality and comfort at an accessible price point. Aside from the product, our customer is also looking for community. Through our community events and "In Residency" series of pop-in shops highlighting other female-founded businesses, we bring together diverse, like-minded women for meaningful connection and conversation. We're constantly inspired by our customer, and deeply appreciative of the community we've built over the years.
The clothing screams luxury, but realistically less than $110! How is this possible?
Our price point is very intentional. From the beginning, we've always focused on creating and curating great quality products specifically at an accessible price. As a direct-to-consumer company, we're able to keep costs down by reacting to what she’s actually buying which prevents excess inventory. In return, we can price our pieces with value in mind.
What is the key to balance the accessible price point and great quality of the clothing?
When merchandising our assortment, the team is very conscious of the quality of each garment, from fabric to washability and hand-feel, to ensure the piece is up to our standards.
How would "launch day" Jess react to "opening a new store in NY" Jess? Would it be surprising, idolize, or would she call you crazy?
Excited! My cofounder Lizzie Agnew and I have always dreamed of taking Modern Citizen to great heights, and cultivating an authentic brand, team, and community along the way. We feel grateful for the experience and are energized by what’s to come.
How is it working with an all-female team?
Working with a primarily female team is something near and dear to us and our mission. Fashion is one of the few industries that is dominated by women in the workforce, but rarely in positions of senior leadership. In building a company run by brilliant, hardworking women both collaborating and mentoring one another, we hope to shift that narrative.
What is a Modern Citizen to you?
Modern Citizen is a reflection of our customer—an ambitious modern woman and forward-thinking citizen of the world.
// 2078 Union St, Marina, moderncitizen.com; photography by Anthony Rogers.