Margaret Coblentz loves sweaters — yes, even in the summer.
The San Francisco based entrepreneur launched her business, Frances Austen, in pursuit of the perfect cozy, cashmere layer.
After years of buying expensive sweaters only to have them quickly pill, Coblentz decided to put her background in corporate retail to use solving her own problem.
“There wasn’t anyone out there who was addressing this luxury direct to consumer strategy specifically in cashmere sweaters. It’s such a narrow niche, but I’m just super passionate about it,” says Coblentz.
This summer, New Englanders can shop Coblentz’s brand at the For Now location in Nantucket.
“I think women in New England really appreciate quality on a different level,” says Coblentz. “I think there is more of an inherent appreciation for slower fashion. And, an appreciation for heritage brands.”
Not to mention we almost always need a good sweater.
Coblentz has cut out the designer middleman and sources high-quality Cariaggi yarn from Italy, which is proven to pill less. She works with manufacturer Johnstons of Elgin, a 200-year-old company that specializes in fine cashmere in Scotland.
Coblentz says the yarn makes all the difference in a good sweater. But, the clean, minimalistic styles are another selling point. Though simple, the designs require extensive engineering by Coblentz and her technical designer.
For example, the popular reversible v-neck sweater, which can be worn with the low v in the front or the back, required balancing the seam of the garment in precisely the right place to have the sweater fall properly both ways.
In addition to chic coziness, Frances Austen boasts an almost exclusively female team. With the exception of their photographer, everyone on board is a woman. Coblentz says it happened organically.
“Female empowerment, economic empowerment, it’s part of our DNA,” she says. The brand also lends its platform to other female-run businesses to promote likeminded women and their products.
Coblentz’s journey hasn’t been all fashion fun. She has an infant son and is constantly balancing her full-time gig of mom with her full time gig as CEO of Frances Austen.
She says having a strong network and supportive partner has kept her going. “You have to be patient and persistent. I sometimes think that my superpower is that I don’t quit. It’s not that I’m the smartest person or the most creative, I’ve just kept at it.”