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Matriark on a mission to empower women

By Kristopher Fraser

Jun 22, 2022


Image: Matriark

The number of women-owned companies continues to grow. Women-owned businesses make up almost 20 percent of all people employed in the United States, according to the 2018 census. Fashion has long been a business driven by female entrepreneurs, from dressmakers and modistes of centuries past to contemporary fashion designers and entrepreneurs today.

Brazilian-born luxury retail entrepreneur Patricia Assui Reed is on a mission to help women-owned brands in fashion. Her retail concept Matriark (yes, a play on the word matriarch) is solely focused on women-owned brands, designers, and artisans. Reed describes the mission of her company as fostering women’s equality through commerce and community.

Matriark's on a mission to further empower women-owned brands

The store is in the Hamptons, where it enjoys great summer traffic. While it might be new to the Hamptons retail scene, it’s garnering the attention of customers, and next week it will play home to an art exhibition with Shelter Island-based artist Blair Borthwick.

Reed is no stranger to the world of retail and luxury fashion. For the past 20 years, she’s worn various hats in the fashion industry, from buyer to executive. While she felt her career was thriving, the 2016 election was a turning point for her. She started marching for women’s rights and finding more ways to empower women.

While she loved being politically active, she felt like she wasn’t doing enough and there was still so much work to be done. She thought to herself about what she could realistically do to empower women within her realm of expertise, and thus the concept for Matriark was born.

“I designed and laid out the idea for this platform back in 2017,” Reed said to FashionUnited. “However, my personal life was also changing. I was getting ready to move from New York City to Sag Harbor on Long Island. With my kids being so young and me being unclear as to how I would get Matriark off the ground, it was on the backburner for a while. Once COVID-19 happened, I knew I had to get this off the ground.”

To that end, Reed wanted to create a store that felt like a beautiful house. She lucked out when she was walking through her neighborhood in Sag Harbor and saw a house that was converted into a store that was available for lease. She quickly signed the lease and had two weeks to get Matriark up and running.

For the past several years, she’d been casually talking to artisans and designers about the concept, so when it came down to crunch time, she quickly found brands on board. Despite her initial success, like every brick-and-mortar retailer, Matriark was a victim of COVID-19 lockdown.

“Matriark got lucky because we are out east in The Hamptons, where many people fled New York City to quarantine,” Reed said to FashionUnited. “It made me happy I decided to make the move to Sag Harbor in the first place. In a way, everything worked out well in the end. From March to June, retail stores shut down, and by the time we reopened, the Hamptons was filling up for the summer and so many people were out here already.”

She added, “Our brands were very happy to be part of Matriark because the Hamptons can be a tough market to crack for independent brands. So many of our brands that had stores shut down in NYC and low foot traffic with people fleeing NYC managed to thrive at Matriark.”

Image: Matriark

Reed only has 1000 square feet to curate the women-owned brands and artisans she features, so she is selective about who she carries in her store. When looking for a new brand, she wants to get to know the owner behind it, what they are doing, and why they are doing it. Fast fashion is an absolute no-no for Reed, and she also tries to avoid brands that design for trends because she wants to carry lasting products.

“I try to have eclectic styles because we have three generations of customers shopping, from grandma, mom, and daughter,” Reed said to FashionUnited. “I try to create a balance for everyone. I don’t want to have things just because I think they’ll sell a ton. That’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to support women, and selling clothes is a vehicle to support them.”

Image: Matriark

Although e-commerce is a standard for brands now, Reed is focusing more of Matriark’s attention on brick-and-mortar and is looking to expand into other markets that are not so seasonal and more year-round. She’s slowly investing more into Matriark’s e-commerce platform, and she recently hired a social media team to improve her marketing.

Reed says the business is still seeing exponential growth, and her next step is to find a pop-up space in New York City. “My city customers keep asking me when I’ll be closer to them in fall and winter, so that’s the next goal. I don’t want to make any plans for now, but we will see how a prospective New York pop-up goes.”

Reed also wants to expand Matriark to include both women-owned brands and anyone affected by the patriarchy, ranging from non-binary people and members of the LGBTQ+ community. She calls this step an important next move in Matriark’s growth. She’s smashing the patriarchy one brand at a time.