Company name: Project 6
Headquarters: Miami Beach
Concept: Project 6 is a clothing line that aims to redefine the basics with clean, effortless shapes, unexpected drapery and innovative construction.
Story: This sister-sister fashion team Chaya Rockford and Shaindy Backer are changing the image of modest clothing. Their fashion-forward clothing line, Project 6, is both stylish and demure, striking a chord with buyers in the U.S. and beyond.
Shaindy, 35, and Chaya, 29, grew up as two of seven siblings in a traditional Orthodox Jewish home. Their parents fostered an entrepreneurial spirit in their children and encouraged them to forge their own paths. For Shaindy, that meant studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology, while balancing a demanding family life. Chaya attended Lander College of Arts and Sciences, a division of Touro College, to study math and business in the hopes of running her own business.
Shaindy, a mother of five, had already started an accessory line, and her products were selling in Henri Bendel, Forever 21, Anthropologie and Nordstrom. When she was ready for her next “project,” which would be the fashion startup Project 6, she asked her business minded sister, who was finishing her studies at Touro, to join her. Shaindy, who while growing up felt her personal style was constrained by the norms of her religion and had been known to sneak a pair of party shoes to school now and then, had been designing and making clothing for herself, and she wanted to share her designs with the world. They initially set up shop in Shaindy’s living room in New York.
“Shaindy wanted to show that you could be extremely fashionable while also being demure. We aren’t specifically making modest clothing as defined by religious standards, but most of our pieces happen to be in-line with the rules of modesty,” Chaya said. “We call this type of dressing ‘modest by accident.’ ”
Project 6’s clothing designs were first launched in February 2015. Within weeks, the startup shipped its first overseas wholesale order to Kuwait and exhibited at its first trade show.
While modest fashion in the New York design scene was heating up (the New York Times fashion critic even declared it a defining trend of this decade), the sisters relocated the business to Miami Beach, where fashion is often, um, more about revealing the body and wearing as little clothing as possible. While it’s true “Miami is in ways the exact opposite of what we are trying to sell,” Shaindy said her styles are about the art of femininity: “I want to show women that it’s not about displaying their bodies to the world, but rather presenting the viewers with a beautiful story. Project 6 is meant to inspire confidence and celebrate individuality.”
Today, Project 6 features women’s, teen’s and kids accessories collections — with new styles each season designed for all body types. Its women’s dresses, which range in price from $128 to $268 on its website www.project6ny.com, are also available in stores worldwide, including in France, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Canada, Japan and Dubai. It recently added a client in Mexico. “It’s about finding the women who love our designs and will stick with us forever. That keeps us going.” Shaindy said.
Count Michele Klechevsky of Edison, N.J., in that group.
“I love their designs, I love that they are women entrepreneurs, love the fabrics and the customer service. They make you feel like you are their most important customer,” said Klechevsky, who has been buying from Project 6 for about three years. “And it's a lifestyle brand, I like that. You don't need anything else. There's something for any occasion. They make getting dressed easy.”
It’s been quite an entrepreneurial journey so far, Chaya said. “You learn in college that it will be tough to run a business that you will have to take hard risks, you will make mistakes, and you will have to deal with crises. But no one tells you that you will also grow as a person tremendously. It’s been so amazing to have the opportunity to do this alongside my sister.”
Founded: In New York, June 2014. Moved to Florida in September 2016.
Management team: Shaindy Backer, designer, owner, CEO; Chaya Rockford, CFO/COO.
Financing: Shaindy reinvested profits from her previous business to start Project 6.
Recent milestones: In the first quarter of 2018, sales doubled over Q1 2017 and the company is on track to meet or exceed that growth in Q2. Wholesaling is half of business, and Project 6 recently launched a new e-commerce website specifically for wholesalers to shop its collections. Project 6 also launched its inaugural spring/summer teen line this year.
Biggest startup challenge: That time Shaindy put all her trust in one factory and the order came back damaged and dirty: “I was dreaming of starting my business for so many years but never anticipated so much stress. But it helped to accept and understand that this is part of having your own business.” She salvaged all the pieces she could and sold her first collection.
Next steps: To continue to refine its strategy and expand globally. Its new e-commerce site only accessible to its wholesalers makes the ordering process easier. “So far, we’ve had great response and have now picked up a few new stores in South Korea. Next is to create some marketing materials about this website so we can catch the attention of stores worldwide,” Chaya said.
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