Veteran dress designer Meghan Noland has reinvented her brand as Meghan Fabulous and got a boost when blogger Sara Buckley, who is known on Instagram as @nottheworstmom, posted about a Meghan creation. With updated ecommerce infrastructure in place, the brand aims to grow its direct-to-consumer business.

For 25 years, Meghan Noland poured her ebullient personality into designing boldly patterned dresses and chunky jewelry. Now that she’s promoting her new Meghan Fabulous brand, she’s getting the hang of communicating her eye-catching fashion sense via social media and a new, higher-powered ecommerce site.

Blogger Sara Buckley of @nottheworstmom models a Meghan Fabulous dress.

Blogger Sara Buckley of @nottheworstmom models a Meghan Fabulous dress.

Noland got a big assist in her introduction to social media from blogger Sara Buckley, no shrinking violet herself, whose @nottheworstmom Instagram feed entertains 140,000 followers with observations like, “I never wanted to murder a teenager until I had one.”

Buckley bought a Meghan Fabulous dress and wore it to her brother’s wedding, then posted photos of herself in it on her blog. “Traffic to our website spiked 90%,” Noland says. “All the moms wanted it.”

Once Noland and her business partner Steve Dunlap figured out that the traffic came from the tagged photo on Buckley’s Instagram feed, they reached out to her and arranged a photo session in Buckley’s home town of Las Vegas of the blogger wearing other Meghan Fabulous items.

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“We did this awesome, mom/domestic goddess photoshoot,” Noland says. “She’s curvy, plus-sized, has a great personality. It’s her attitude that sells the clothes.” While there was no notable surge in sales of the LilyPad Maxi Dress in Black Watercolor that Buckley modeled, traffic to MeghanFabulous.com shot up 80% following the campaign, Dunlap says.

Noland says she tries to make all her photo sessions attention-grabbing, using models of various races and body types and shooting them in quirky settings, whether that’s at a laundromat, a garage or a nightclub. “We’re not just shooting a model against a white backdrop,” she says.

In the last couple of weeks, the brand has begun running ads on social networks Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, as well as through Google’s ad network, using some of these eye-catching photos. That campaign has increased traffic to the website by 10 times, Dunlap says. “Social is definitely the best choice for DTC [direct to consumer], but compelling and visually interesting images are the key!” he says.

Turning social fans into online buyers

Noland and Dunlap are hoping that those arresting images and the stepped-up online advertising will translate into more sales following the June revamp of MeghanFabulous.com on ecommerce software from Shopify Inc.

The Shopify technology will allow the brand to sell an item featured on MeghanFabulous.com directly on the Meghan Fabulous Facebook page, where she has 6,000 followers, and, once Instagram deploys its shopping feature now in beta, on her Instagram feed where she has more than 89,000 followers.

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Previously, Dunlap says, they could show items on these social networks and refer shoppers back to the website, but now consumers can buy directly through the social apps. Plus, Shopify provides details on where consumers bought and enables the apparel retailer to accept Apple Pay and other fast-checkout options for purchases.

Meghan Noland, founder, and Steve Dunlap, CEO, Meghan Inc.

Meghan Noland, founder, and Steve Dunlap, CEO, Meghan Inc.

The Shopify rollout was the latest step in a 2-year technology upgrade project led by Dunlap, who carries the title of CEO of Meghan Inc., which today generates more than 90% of its revenue from wholesale accounts like Nordstrom Inc. and fashion boutiques. Noland is president and “creative visionary.” Nordstrom is No. 18 in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000.

Dunlap was semi-retired after playing leading roles in several financial technology companies when he and Noland became romantically involved. At first, Noland says, “he would give me advice on weekends.” But then he started sitting in on meetings with clients and gradually got more involved. He quickly realized that a top priority was to automate a business that operated largely via handwritten orders and Excel spreadsheets.

Before moving to the Shopify platform, Dunlap had installed an enterprise resource system from Cin7 to track orders and inventory from suppliers to the customer. The retailer also deployed ShipStation software to route orders to the most efficient delivery service.

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Today when Meghan Inc. receives orders from wholesale accounts or online, the system can automatically notify suppliers, place orders for material and labor time, and track the cost of goods sold and the status of orders, Dunlap says.

“Now that all that’s in place, we’ll be able to scale more quickly,” he says.

Direct sales diversify revenue and strengthen ties to customers

Increasing direct-to-consumer sales will afford Meghan Inc. several benefits, Dunlap says. It will provide another revenue stream apart from its sales to department stores and boutiques, and also will help introduce the brand to new retailer customers who see the Meghan Fabulous creations on social media.

“We’ve seen that social media definitely drives wholesale sales,” Dunlap says. “Retailers have seen our ads and they think, ‘Maybe I should sell this in my shop.’ And they contact us.”

Meghan Fabulous photo shoot

A Meghan Fabulous photo shoot.

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In addition, direct sales via MeghanFabulous.com puts the brand in direct contact with purchasers, providing more customer information than the company would get when its products are bought in retail stores.

And the online channel will protect Meghan Inc. in case bricks-and-mortar stores are forced to close again because of the coronavirus or another pandemic. Dunlap says the company’s revenue plummeted 92% in April versus a year earlier as most of its retailer clients’ stores were closed.

“Online shoppers stopped shopping, too, at least for dresses,” Dunlap says. “Women weren’t buying dresses to sit on the sofa and watch TV.”

Segmenting merchandise by channel

Now that the technology underpinnings of the business are in place, Dunlap and Noland have plans to expand. That includes introducing this fall a new Boheme line of higher-end dresses, tunics and kimonos that will sell for $400 to $3,000 at retail. Dresses in the current Meghan LA line typically range in price from $100 to $130.

While the brand does not currently sell on the Amazon.com Inc., it likely will do so before long, Dunlap says. “I’d much rather sell that person on our own website, but Amazon is Amazon,” he says. “Their reach is going to be out there.”

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They also expect to produce some items exclusively for MeghanFabulous.com and to provide loyal customers early access to new styles.

“I want to make each customer feel special,” Noland says. “All online orders are wrapped in special tissue paper and there is always a gift with each purchase. When they open their order, it feels like Christmas.”

She also wants her customers to feel special when they wear her designs. “I want people to understand that whenever you’re wearing a Meghan piece, when you walk into a room, everyone will compliment you,” she says. “This is not for the wallflower.”

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