Summary Report on Meetings with Boutiques

Snapshot of day job office desk.

Due to my day job work schedule, I haven’t had the time (or energy) to work full-throttle at TZ. Recently I followed up on a few queries with boutiques. Thought I’d share snippets.

I called up the first boutique knowing full well I let way too much time pass between my mailing and the follow-up call (over three weeks), and braced myself for the owner to be like, “Who the heck are you again?” However, when I said “briefcases and powerbags…working women, young professionals…bold, bright colors” the owner’s voice lit up and she said, “Ah, I remember you!” I couldn’t have been happier. She remembered my lookbook and commented on how gorgeous the models were. (Indeed!)

But…BUT…the boutique could only buy from established labels at this time. You know the labels. Kooba, Melie Bianco, Tylie Malibu, all my favorites. They weren’t in a position right now to take on the risk of unknown designers. Sigh. It was a bummer,  but I understood. As a boutique owner I would probably only want Kooba, Melie Bianco, and Tylie Malibu too. I mean, Taryn who?

We got the chance to talk a bit, though. She was fantastically nice, offering all sorts of advice and helpful tips. She said that new designers contact her with queries anywhere between 1 and 5 times a month. “Seriously? That many?” “Seriously. That many.” Oh wow. That made me feel both special and un-special. Special, because after a few utterances of adjectives and catch phrases, she remembered my collection. Un-special, because I am just one out of like sixty “designers with a passion and a dream!” that she talks to each year. SIGH…

Arbitrary kitty pic.

A second boutique owner I spoke with was also super friendly. She recollected my logo and remarked how memorable it was. Yay! Keep the compliments coming! She had visited my website and was impressed with what I had done so far. “You really have no experience in fashion design? Really, I can’t tell at all. You’re quite professional through and through.”

She was onto me, though. “Do you have inventory yet?” She asked.

No. I don’t. I mean, what am I going to do, lie about it? I don’t have inventory! I have a handful of samples she can take a look at… “Yeah.. thanks but no thanks,” she pretty much said (her exact words were much sweeter and not so direct). “When will you have inventory? Spring 2011? Great. You should definitely call me again come Spring 2011.”

She was refreshingly candid with me, and it was evident that her honesty came from a sincere intention to teach me the ropes. She explained how any Jane Doe designer could sketch out a few bags and get samples made of them. That’s totally not enough to convince a boutique owner to commit. One thing she looks for as a retailer is inventory. She always asks about the designer’s inventory because that’s one way for her to tell whether a designer is serious. She said she appreciated my honesty, but telling a retailer (who you’re trying to convince to buy your stuff) that you don’t yet have inventory will totally freak that retailer out. “Buying from a new designer is risky, period. Buying from a new designer with a few samples and no inventory at all is just insanity.” I nodded. I appreciated how right she was.

Some of the boutiques were civil but curt. They weren’t taking new designers at this time. Best of luck, good bye. I appreciated that too. No point in wasting anybody’s time with bush-beating when the answer was no.

Another issue that came up was the style of my bags. I did careful research on each boutique before querying to make sure there was some connection I could make in styles between the boutique and Taryn Zhang. But even with that, a lot of them said they didn’t sell briefcases or power bags, and that really structured boxy silhouettes don’t sell well. (Tell that to Kate Spade, who sold her company to Liz Claiborne for more money than I’ll ever be worth! Sorry, I digress…I do take the constructive criticism seriously.) They liked the Precisionist and the Peripatetic (and why is it called the “peripatetic,” a word that no one can pronounce? they asked) and although the briefcases look very nice, that’s just not what they carried at their stores.

Precisionist Taryn Zhang

Photo I took of the Precisionist satchel, in my living room.

Am I bummed that everybody in the world isn’t head over heels in love with Taryn Zhang and tripping over themselves to buy one zillion of each style in every color? A bit. No matter how thick you think your skin is, or how many times you tell yourself “it’s just business,” it’s not. This is your baby. It’s personal. It’s like someone telling you your kid is ugly. Okay, no one told me my kid is ugly; they’re just saying, “We don’t have the resources at this time to buy fifty of your kids in one batch order.” I get that. In this recession, I don’t have the resources to buy fifty of anybody’s kids either. But it’s still a bit of a bummer.

Happy Halloween, everybody.

About tarynzhang

Visit us at www.tarynzhang.com.
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  • http://www.makinen.fr/susa/wordpress/ Susu Paris Chic

    Structured bags do have their place in this world. They totally do so in Paris… for example.

  • Emma

    Oh dear, I am sorry for your tough time. It will get better. I cant wait to get my TZ bag ! You know the most successful people like writers, artists, etc. have a tough time at first. You will make it Big. Don’t worry. Your designs are Great !

  • http://www.asiancajuns.com Asincajuns (Cath)

    Don’t give up! I’m sure this is one of the hardest parts. I’m so glad that you were able to talk to a handful of the boutique owners. I wouldn’t have any idea about the inventory thing – who knew?!

    Just keep in mind that your bags are too great not to be sold :)

  • La mod – Christina Brooke

    Things will come together, Keep on trying girl! Your stuff rocks!

  • http://www.merchantsmirror.com Ben Hwang

    Like I’ve said before, in retail, inventory is everything. And don’t get caught up in the whole “it’s my baby” thing. Most successful businesses aren’t caught in that. Fashion is different, but when you’re up and coming, don’t be afraid of letting go of a brand. If you’re good at what you do, you need capital to build up from. I think a lot of people get too tied to the business itself. How could you not? But it’s something you must do.

  • http://blog.tarynzhang.com AppleSidra

    My position is opposite. If you’re up and coming, all you *have* is your brand.

    I am happily caught up in the “It’s my baby” thoughts because if truly my thought was “This is just business,” then why am I doing all this in the first place?

    This is first and foremost a passion, a piece of myself materialized, silly as it may sound, in the form of handbag designs.

  • http://blog.tarynzhang.com AppleSidra

    Thank you! I do believe in my stuff; I just can’t believe I’m trying to sell it in this economy!! =)

  • http://blog.tarynzhang.com AppleSidra

    When I’m big enough to hop on a plane and fly anywhere anytime, I’m headed over in your direction for lunch!

  • http://blog.tarynzhang.com AppleSidra

    Thanks for the words of encouragement. AsianCajuns have been nothing short of super duper supportive! And doing so with style!

  • http://blog.tarynzhang.com AppleSidra

    Then I need to be in Paris!!!! =D

  • Ciaralegale

    Id love to have a meeting in your cozy office just to talk about the day! haha! And how sweet is that kitty cat?! ALMOST as sweet as that handbag so aptly placed.

    -C

  • Ciaralegale

    CiaraLE.com <3

  • The Versastyle

    Good job getting yourself out there!!! It takes a lot and you did good dear!!

    and yes.. it is your baby. I totally know how that is.

    ~annette

    http://www.theversastyle.blogspot.com

  • Asiancajuns

    Hi Sunny!!
    I am so inspired by someone who does keep putting their babies out there, knowing that rejection is a big part of the game. I work as a graphic designer during the day, and I think the creative fields do make you feel like you are putting part of yourself out there to get critiqued. I always try to assure my clients that they won’t hurt my feelings (but of course they do ;).

    As for boxy… I predict that will make a come back soon. We’ve been in mushy bag land for so long (love a mushy bag, but can’t wait for something different like TZ on the market) that things will change. Even satchels coming back into fashion is telling. You are just way ahead of the curve!

    Hope you had a great weekend!

    xoxo,
    Lar