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A Small Store's Pitch: Shop With The Designer

Most buyers of luxury fashion don't meet the designers face-to-face, but some of Antonio Berardi's customers had very close contact with him over two days last week, as Mr. Berardi personally measured their waists and bustlines for his form-fitting designs.

For his part, the designer found the experience useful. 'I was meeting real women with real needs, who shop,' says Mr. Berardi.

The connection happened at Suite 1521, a boutique on Madison Avenue that operates like a membership club. Launched last fall by entrepreneurs Lizzie Tisch and Kim Kassel, it's built on the way designers sold clothes decades ago: personally, with the designer, by appointment only.

At a time when so much shopping is moving online, this is the opposite of buy-it-now, same-day delivery. Shoppers must wait for a designer to come to town, make an appointment, show up on time, then wait weeks for an order to arrive.

But Suite 1521 customers also gain access to a mode of shopping normally reserved for celebrities and billionaires. Designers or their close representatives are on hand to explain the collections. Most labels are prepared to substitute fabrics or colors, slightly alter designs or even do custom designs. There are goodies to nibble and couches to rest on.

Client Caryn Becker, who owns an engineering firm and tends to shop online on Net-a-Porter and Barneys, says the concept has allowed her to return to what she refers to as 'physical shopping.'

'I work full-time and I have three kids, so I shop online at midnight,' Ms. Becker says. Suite 1521 'is fast and easy, and I get to meet the designer.'

Suite 1521's founders met years ago through their parents, who are friends. Ms. Kassel, 47, suggested the idea for the membership boutique to Ms. Tisch, 41. Because Ms. Kassel had spent years working in the fashion industry and in sales, she had many contacts with labels. But the two women struggled to find a name. An early idea was the hard-to-pronounce Truvet (Troo-vay). They ultimately lit upon the first suite that Ms. Tisch's husband, Jonathan Tisch, chief executive of Loews Hotels and a member of a wealthy New York family, lived in as a child at the Loews Regency Hotel.

Suite 1521, which won't disclose its revenues, opened last September in a third-floor gallery space at 76th Street and Madison Ave. and has 500 members. In addition to the events focused on designers' collections, there is a small room called the 'Closet' that sells regularly stocked accessories and a few dresses and outfits for clients with a time crunch.

Many designers long to have more of a connection with consumers. 'It's a nicer way of building up your customer relationships,' says the British Mr. Berardi. He even took the unusual step of designing a blouse to go with a skirt for a Suite 1521 client who said she wanted it to celebrate her 50th birthday.

Lion Blau, who designs the Parisian label Atto with Julien Dossena, says the access to clients helps the design process. The two previously worked at Balenciaga, whose many ultra-futuristic looks were destined more for magazine shoots than regular women's closets. The designers are attempting to make Atto more wearable. 'In the studio, we always work with model sizes,' Mr. Blau said in February at Suite 1521, during a break between clients. 'Here, I can see if something is too big or too small.'

Suite 1521 isn't for the faint of wallet. There is a $500 annual membership fee, and with designer-level fashions, outfits easily cost several thousand dollars.

There are plenty of drawbacks. For instance, the fashions on display are mostly tiny sample sizes. To translate their fit into larger sizes, Emma Hastil, a tailor, is on hand with a tape measure and a set of measurements for each size in the collection. Her marching orders, said Ms. Kassel, are 'to be honest' about what's likely to fit well, and what won't.

The collections are limited to small and emerging labels such as Peter Pilotto, Tabitha Simmons, Rodarte, Sophie Theallet and Preen. So clients won't bump into Karl Lagerfeld or designers of giant luxury labels whose schedules are too full for such appearances.

The proprietors are generally on hand to offer frank criticism or even try on clothes. 'Women want to see things on real people like Lizzie,' says Ms. Kassel.

It isn't a stuffy boutique. On a snowy February day, Ms. Tisch showed up wearing jeans and a knit cap with a pom-pom. Sitting on the arm of a couch, she watched Mr. Blau touring several clients through the Atto collection, which hung on racks in part of the 4,000-square-foot showroom. For one woman, the designer agreed to lower the slit on a leather skirt.

Cheryl Minikes, a shopper who lives nearby, said she appreciates not having to wade through multitudes of brands when she shops. 'It's not confusing,' she said. She bought several outfits in February, pointing out as she headed out the door that the process had been efficient: 'I've been here 45 minutes,' she said.

大部分购买奢侈时装的人都不会有跟设计师面对面的机会,但安东尼奥·贝拉尔迪(Antonio Berardi)的顾客近期却和这位设计师有了两天的亲密接触,贝拉尔迪亲自为他们量腰围和胸围,为他们制作合身的衣服。


会面地点在麦迪逊大街上以会员俱乐部方式运营的时装店Suite 1521。该店去年秋天由莉齐·蒂施(Lizzie Tisch)和金·卡塞尔(Kim Kassel)创办,以几十年前设计师卖衣服的方式为基础:亲自与设计师会面,而且只能通过预约。


但Suite 1521的顾客同时也能体验到一般只有明星和亿万富翁才能享受的购物模式。设计师或者他们的代表就在现场对设计的款式进行说明。大多数品牌都做好了换面料或颜色的准备,还会对设计进行微调甚至定制设计。还有好吃的零食和供休息的沙发。

纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com/

其中一位客户名叫卡里恩·贝克尔(Caryn Becker),她是一家工程公司的老板,喜欢在Net-a-Porter和巴尼斯(Barneys)网上购物。她说这种概念让她得以回到她称之为“实体购物”的方式。

贝克尔说:“我有全职工作,有三个孩子,所以我都是在半夜上网买东西。在Suite 1521购物又快又简单,而且还能见到设计师。”

Suite 1521的两位创始人是多年以前通过双方父母认识的。他们的父母是朋友。卡塞尔和蒂施今年分别是47岁和41岁。 当时卡塞尔向蒂施提出了会员制时装店的想法。由于卡塞尔多年在时装行业从事销售工作,所以跟许多品牌都有联系。但两个人在取名字时遇到了难题。最初的一个想法是很难发音的Truvet,最后她们偶然找到了蒂施的丈夫乔纳森·蒂施(Jonathan Tisch)小时候第一次在Loews Regency Hotel入住的套房名。乔纳森现任Loews Hotels酒店集团首席执行长,他来自纽约一个非常富有的家族。

Suite 1521于去年9月在76街和麦迪逊大街交叉口的一处陈列空间的三层开业,共有500名会员,但公司不愿透露收入情况。除了围绕设计师作品的活动,这里还有一个名为“衣橱”(Closet)的小房间,针对时间紧迫的客户,售卖一些常规的配饰以及裙子和套装。

许多设计师都渴望能与消费者有更多接触。英国设计师贝拉尔迪说:“这是一种更好的培养客户关系的方式。”他甚至为一位Suite 1521的客户做出了非同寻常之举。这位客户说想要一件上衣搭配裙子来庆祝自己的50岁生日,贝拉尔迪满足了她的愿望。

莱昂·布劳(Lion Blau)说与客户接触对创作有帮助。他与朱利安·多塞纳(Julien Dossena)创立了巴黎品牌Atto,二人曾在巴黎世家(Balenciaga)合作过。巴黎世家的很多衣服都极具未来主义风格,往往更适合杂志大片,但不太适合放在普通女性的衣橱里。两位设计师想让Atto更具可穿性。今年2月,在店里接待客户的布劳在休息时间说:“在这里我们一直是按照模特尺码进行设计。衣服太大或太小我都能看到。”

Suite 1521的价格不菲。每年的会员费500美元,而且由于是设计师水准的时装,一套衣服很容易就得花上几千美元。

这样的模式也有很多缺点。比如陈列的时装大多数都是尺寸很小的样衣。要把尺码变大,裁缝爱玛·哈斯蒂尔(Emma Hastil)需要用卷尺为每位顾客现场量尺寸。卡塞尔说,她的职责就是“诚实地”告知顾客什么款式会很合身,什么款式不会合身。

这里的时装仅限于Peter Pilotto、Tabitha Simmons、Rodarte、Sophie Theallet 和Preen等刚刚兴起的小品牌。所以顾客不会碰到卡尔·拉格菲尔德(Karl Lagerfeld)或者档期太满无暇来这里的奢侈品牌的设计师。



谢里尔·米尼克斯(Cheryl Minikes)是住在附近的一位顾客。她说这种方式她很喜欢,不必在众多品牌里费力选择了。她说:“这样不会让人迷失。”她在2月份购买了几套衣服,她在离开之前指出,整个购物过程很有效率:她说:“我在这里待了45分钟。”



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