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.

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