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9to5chic x M.M.LaFleur Jardigan with Anh Sundstrom

What’s It Actually Like to Design an M.M.LaFleur Piece? Anh Sundstrom Takes Us Behind the Scenes

Anh of @9to5chic sits down with Sarah LaFleur to talk about the design process, setting boundaries as a content creator, and more.

By Madeleine Kim

This year, as part of our Founders’ Seven collection we decided to try something new: a piece designed in collaboration with a creator whose style represents the best things about M.M.LaFleur. Anh Sundstrom (@9to5chic), with whom we’ve been working for ten years, was our first call—and we were thrilled that she was just as excited as we were to create something new together. 

That call was 14 months ago, and today, we present to you the Anh jardigan. Made from our signature stretchy-yet-structured jardigan knit (jardigan is a portmanteau of “jacket” and “cardigan”), it looks tailored but feels as easy as your favorite sweater. The Anh is modeled on our best-selling Merritt jardigan and features the same sharp lapels and optional waist sash—only without sleeves, which makes for easy layering at any time of year. 

To celebrate the launch of this beautifully collaborative new style, our founder and CEO, Sarah LaFleur, sat down with Anh to discuss her evolution as a content creator, the process of co-designing the jardigan, how she’s been styling it, and so much more.

SARAH LAFLEUR: We’ve been working together since 2014, which makes you M.M.LaFleur’s longest content creator partner. I’m sure you’ve been approached by many a brand in your decade of doing this. When we first reached out to you, was there something that made you want to work together?

ANH SUNDSTROM: Smart design. It was exciting to see how you took pieces that could appear simple and added functional elements that made them smart: a hidden button where shirts commonly gape on women; snaps that keep stubborn bra straps out of sight; adjustable hems on pants. As a brand, M.M. is like a book club I want to be part of. M.M. stands out from any other brand—your voice is very distinct, and I felt that from the very beginning of the brand.

9to5chic x M.M.LaFleur Jardigan with Anh Sundstrom
Anh Sundstrom
How would you describe your style in three words?

Classic, polished, and elegant.

Let’s talk about the Anh jardigan. What was it like designing it with Miyako [our Chief Creative Officer]? What were your priorities when you were inputting on the product?

I loved it. I liken it to walking through Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, because I’ve been fashion-adjacent, but I’ve never truly worked in fashion. It’s been incredible to get a glimpse of the design process, especially with Miyako at the helm. 

I love the Merritt jardigan, and I wanted that to be the jumping-off point for our collaboration piece. But I also wanted it to stand out on its own as a product. Miyako and I really liked the idea of the sleeveless jardigan—M.M. hasn’t made something like this before. And since I live in the Bay Area, something that could be layered for year-round wear just made sense. As part of that brainstorming process, the design team took an old Merritt jardigan sample and cut the sleeves off so we could decide if it was the direction we should go. It looked great, so we went ahead. 

The part I took really seriously, and where I was most excited to contribute, was trying on each sample. I would envision myself in a fitting room, trying on a piece that I was considering purchasing, and identify all the pain points I would have as a customer. I was able to share with the design team, “Here are the changes I would love to see in this piece,” and then the next sample arrives, and all of those changes have been incorporated into the garment. It’s like magic.

9to5chic x M.M.LaFleur Jardigan

Anh at M.M.LaFleur HQ in NYC with our Director of Merchandising, Shelby.

9to5chic x M.M.LaFleur Jardigan with Anh Sundstrom

Anh tries on a sample of the jardigan with the Axam turtleneck and Bia pants.

Do you remember any of the changes you suggested?

In the first few samples, the armhole was gaping a bit, so we finessed that. We also lowered the neckline slightly and shortened the hemline to make it more approachable for more women of different heights. I appreciate the design process so much more now: There is a lot that goes into the creation of a garment and how it ultimately looks when a customer receives it.

How have you been styling the jardigan?

It’s actually stunning on its own—the lines are really clean. I’m excited to take it with me to Vietnam and Singapore, because the knit is light enough that it’s not going to feel too warm. It’s sleeveless, but it gives me the coverage on my hips that I want. 

I get questions all the time from women who work in really hot climates, and this is going to be the perfect piece for them. It has the polish of the Merritt jardigan, but it allows you to be a lot cooler. And then, of course, for fall and winter, layering it over the Axam turtleneck is just so easy.

9to5chic x M.M.LaFleur Jardigan with Anh Sundstrom
9to5chic x M.M.LaFleur Jardigan design
Since you mentioned travel, what’s your number one travel styling tip?

Get a $40 travel steamer. There are some great travel-friendly pieces out there (for example, the jardigan never really needs to be steamed), but for something like a blouse, a quick steam is the easiest way to make a good impression. It’s a two-minute task, but it takes your outfit up 10 notches.

Take us through your career path. How did you get to where you are today as a full-time content creator?

I spent many years working in medical-device marketing, and I started my blog as a creative outlet while doing that job full-time. I had always loved fashion, but I also loved my career. Blogging about personal style in the workplace was my way of merging the two worlds. It also became a way for me to find my personal style. I thought I had a personal style back then, but the instant feedback that comes with taking photos helped me discover what felt truly “me.” As with many things, finding your personal style takes trial and error. In my case, that discovery process has been documented over hundreds of outfits over the years.

When I started my blog in early 2010, I didn’t see it as a career path—there was no such career path. The concept of brand partnerships and paid opportunities didn’t exist. 

Really, for me, it was about making female friendships. I was traveling a lot for work, which presented me with the opportunity to meet blog friends IRL. There are so few opportunities to meet new friends as an adult, so the blog was hugely rewarding even before my first brand partnership came along in late 2011.

M.M.LaFleur with Anh Sundstrom
M.M.LaFleur with Anh Sundstrom
Today, you’re one of the most well thought-of content creators. Did you ever have that moment where you felt like you “made it”?

I definitely don’t see myself as a big-time player in the content-creator world. In a lot of ways, I’m under the radar—I think I have a really niche audience. 

My growth has been slow-moving, but steady. I share my outfits every day, and that hasn’t changed since 2010. I know that I could have moved into family content and shared more of my children’s lives and my lifestyle, but I’ve chosen to stay true to where it began. It’s always been about helping other working women find ways to be excited about getting dressed Monday through Friday.   

The thing that sticks out to me is that you’ve stayed true to yourself, because you’re so right—you could have gone into content about motherhood, or your family, or interior decor, which was very much the Covid trend. What made you decide to not go down that path?

In an era where we are increasingly pressured to share more, I would say that “staying true to me” means creating and maintaining boundaries—and having the conviction that we are each entitled to those boundaries, whatever they may be. My husband is a very private person, and we want to shield our children from this world that I’ve stepped into. To me, that’s the most important thing. I feel so incredibly grateful that I still have loyal readers and longtime brand partners like M.M.LaFleur despite having those boundaries.

I really love your posts where you share photos from when you were first capturing style content to demonstrate how your style has evolved. Looking back, what would you say your personal style was then, and how would you describe it today?

I used to feel like I had to prove myself in my career. Clothing, at that point, was a shield, or armor. And I needed that in a male-dominated industry. My mentality was, “I’m going to look as polished and professional as I can.” 

At this stage in my life, I can step into a room and say, “I belong here.” My clothes help me convey that I have the confidence to be there, rather than helping me get into the room. Now,  what I’m wearing reflects how I feel and where I am in my life.

M.M.LaFleur with Anh Sundstrom

Image courtesy of @9to5chic.

M.M.LaFleur with Anh Sundstrom

Image courtesy of @9to5chic.

Written By

Madeleine Kim

Madeleine Kim is the Senior Brand Manager at M.M.LaFleur, where she started out as a stylist. She loves developing styling-focused content and creating newsletters that bring the M.M. community together.

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