By Maggie Gordon The Stamford Advocate, Conn.
It's been a year since Darien resident Jennifer Stocker traded in her life as a desk-job daydreamer to become a full-time fashionista.
And in that time, her preppy clothing line, Sail to Sable, has blossomed from a Fairfield County favorite to a national sensation.
"I would say last summer was our first huge summer," said Stocker, 31, as she stood in one of several workspaces in her home, surrounded by samples from her fall 2015 and spring 2016 lines. "But when you look at last spring to this spring, the business has basically doubled. It's crazy."
Stocker originally launched the line in 2012, thinking she'd create a home-design business, since that's something that's always been near and dear to her.
"I always wanted to do the home accessories thing, which transcended into tunics, because tunics lend themselves to home," she said.
"That's how we started: With pillows, placemats, napkins and five dresses. But the dresses took off in the first season, which is kind of what made us continue with clothing and put home on the back burner."
That first season was back in 2012, when Stocker was still working full time at Conde Nast, elbows-deep in fashion marketing. As her success grew, Stocker dedicated more time to her fledgling business, eventually leaving her full-time gig about a year ago to focus on the line. And since then, she's been skyrocketing.
The brand's revenue has more than doubled year-over-year, according to Stocker's head of sales, Anne Battey, and sales have increased by 150 percent in that time, as Sail to Sable found its way into about 350 retail outlets, like Patricia Gourlay on East Putnam Avenue and Fred on Sound Beach Avenue in Old Greenwich, to name a few.
"A good growth comparison is, we do a lot of business in Nantucket, and last summer I was walking around and people were like, 'I love your dress, I love your dress. What is it? Where can I buy it?' " she said. "This summer we're walking around on Nantucket, and people are like, 'Oh my gosh, you're wearing Sail to Sable. Is that the new collection?' "
Stocker doesn't have a background in design, and said she leaves the sketching to the designers she's hired. Her success, she thinks, is due to her previous work in marketing and her ability to understand what people want, and delves into the desires of tastemakers.
There's a very specific clientele, of course, for a clothing line with prices ranging between $188 and $378, and Stocker speaks of her customers as though they're intimate acquaintances, constantly referring to the women who buy her tunics, tops and dresses as "Our Girl." And she spends time connecting with that girl, the way a friend who just happens to have a snazzy style would, via social media like Instagram and Pinterest.
"Our girl really ranges in the age from 16 to 75, we've found. Which is crazy and it doesn't sound right. I know that since I worked in marketing before, but it's true for us. We get girls emailing us saying they're dying for their mom to buy them a dress for their high school graduation, and then we'll be at a trunk show in Palm Beach and a 75-year-old woman will walk in and say she wants something to wear to a fabulous dinner party that night and she'll walk out in one of our maxis and look absolutely stunning," said Stocker, who categorizes her brand as multigenerational. Think Lilly Pulitzer. But don't think about her too hard.
While Stocker said she puts herself in the same wheelhouse as a Lilly, or Greenwich-bred Vineyard Vines, and you'll often find her clothes sandwiched between those two brands in a woman's closet, right above pairs of Tory Burch boots and Jack Rogers sandals, she doesn't want to blend in with what's out there right now. Rather, she's setting out to blaze her own trail.
"I've always been a believer in you have to take a leap and follow your dreams, and it was hard to leave my job and do this, but I feel like it was the right thing to do," she said. "It's scary sometimes, and you design a new line, and you don't know, people could hate it. I love it, but not everyone is going to love what you love."
So far, it seems as though she's had success on that front, especially in her native Fairfield County, which she said has served as a key inspiration for her designs since the beginning.
And now that she's laid the groundwork, Stocker is working on increasing her footprint, upping the number of silhouettes in her lines in an effort to clothe the world in classic, coastal colors.