Monday, October 3, 2011

Thinking About Dresses, In A Shop

Welcome to my inbox ... multiply this by the square root of a lot more and that's archived, tucked away, some with labels like Fashion or Taxes. An unlikely pairing but this is 2011 and anything goes.

The shows are very much on and I think Vogue UK hands down won my affection by letting its readers choose which shows to be notified about. Slideshows and delivered so quickly, the best part of technology.

Buyers are likely to have upset tummies and genteel albeit well-heeled fear bordering on headline-induced panic. Headlines screaming dangerous conditions for the European banks and GDP declines, unemployment ramping and the symbolic Wall Streets of major cities invaded with squatters that are angry and supporters that want to make sure they can continue the vigil well-fed, with doctors standing by, ex-Marines volunteering to protect them from rough handling, entertainment is provided and speakers encourage and support the movement. However, fashion needs orders from shops to survive and the absolutely unrelenting grimness of this moment is making this a season not as usual.

2008 was rough and then it got better. We hoped. We bought dresses, discovered that we could order almost everything online, return it without a fuss and were hooked. A generational change accompanied by shops own fashion videos, all the Vogue's having street style and fashion style blogs and media that we could read on an iPhone or iPad. Sometime in 2010 shops were doing well, some of the weaker ones weeded out and mad markdowns were a nice memory. Back to end of the season reductions and nice balance sheets, a stock market that actually did a round trip and you were whole again.

I tucked away the handful of snips for Tom Ford's decision to hold back on the video and photographs actually relieved. Something not at saturation levels. Usually when things are economically rocky or depressing, there's a rush of creativity at an outsider level. It's true again. Hogan McLaughlinTrash-Couture, Sylvia Heisel and Eilis Boyle certainly would make your toes curl in delight, make you want to pony up to full retail and impulsively text all your friends to come look at what they're doing.

Having had a shop and missing it so much now, my heart goes out to the indie shops that are struggling with minimums, poor deliveries, editorial credits that go to the larger stores while rent and the cost of being in business is staggering. Buying in Europe, even with mileage offsetting some or all of the flights, is a small fortune, even with the weakness in the Euro.

Dear retailers, become enthusiastic and turn over every single thing in the showroom to find only the perfect clothes. Buy the sizes you can sell and don't try to stock every single size, color and fabric. Think of picking pieces for a T-stand, only the loveliest, like a curated exhibition. Tell the menacing, greedy showroom staff that this is what you want, you don't want another shop in your city to have it and you do need editorial credits. You can't have a one-way relationship where you simply give in to silly minimums and multiple locations. If the shipment is past due, and you really can't accept it, call them. Let them know and perhaps they will offer a little discount, you will ask for a large one and it can work out. Be nice, be very nice. If a rocker chick or a socialite buys their dress, let them know. It makes them unreasonably happy. If you've been buying the collection for some time and it's gotten a new designer, often in Italy, and it's nothing like what you have been selling well, gently tell them that you will need to test a few pieces. You can always find a simple something, keep the doors open because if you're not loving it, the rest of their customers likely won't and the awkward designer will soon be out. Especially in Italy, it's about the factory and knowing what they can do.

You have to love what you do and you have to get a little tougher. It's just the worst feeling to have a each of expensive slinky designer evening dresses and your competition is the designer coaxing actresses, your customers, into the dress for a red carpet and there is no sale.

So many dresses paraded each season and they are not all going to sell. The slideshows are done, the magazines have chosen some for editorials and there's backstage photos even unto the lunch plate.

It's a business, it's having a rocky moment and you have to be more open to finding the next indie who could become the next big thing as the once Sicilian-widow house of Dolce & Gabbana was. All of the editorials about the collections are about collections, not the specific gorgeous finds there are. Big difference and brushed aside too easily. The work is in the showroom. A great show is fun and will likely have little bearing on the buying.  Great windows and a great website, a chatty blog, photos of the pieces as they come in your shop to be posted to Facebook and tumblr and twitter .. a fresh pot of coffee, bottled water, cookies and an impeccable shop make it fun all over again. Lost in the democracy of fashion is the experience of your favorite sales person calling you to come in right now because the most beautiful piece, so right for you, could sell out.

Retail is cool again. The antidote to the isolation of the computer screen and with cookies.


  1. Another great blog post ... although your inbox frankly scares me. "Lost in the democracy of fashion ..." your writing could easily be mistaken for an evocative lost Joni Mitchell lyric. Thanks, rough day - I needed this. :)

  2. Sarie, lovely seeing you here ... that's just the fashion part, YOU know the other half. It's a series of fashion weeks - mad, expensive fun - and then to the business of selling a dress in what is, without a doubt, one of the harshest moments ever globally.

    How to do it well ... whilst enjoying life, a conundrum.

  3. Ha, imagine sitting on a small chair at the collections, which were not essentially the best ever with mad exceptions and hard edits, and thinking about committing to hundreds of thousands of dollars while the world drips lower and lower.

  4. You are a wise woman. This is good advice, retail survival 101.


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