Connecting fashion brands and boutiques.

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Figwood – Fashion, Irresistibly Priced

July 26th, 2010 · Brands, Contemporary

Christie Murdoch wanted to keep her new clothing line “all in the family” – the tree family that is. With a retail store  named Banyan Tree, “Figwood just seemed like a natural name extension” Murdoch said.  A figwood is a member of the Banyan family which comes from the “banians,” or Hindu merchants who set up markets in the shade of these massive trees.  Just like the “banians” Murdoch just might have it “made in the shade” with this line.

She spotted a void for arty, chic, limited-distribution fashion that was well made and irresistibly priced. Murdock launched the summer line of Figwood on June 5 in her store. If the reception by her guests was any gauge of Figwood’s future, its going to be bright.

True to its name, Figwood has a light organic feel to it. Soft jersey knits tops, feather cotton dresses in watercolor prints, organza  like dresses with feminine detailing and arty sweaters as soft as spun cotton. The accessories mimic the spirit of the clothing. Delicate silver jewelry using the signature figwood leaf, colorful scarves, playful flower rings.  All irresistibly priced.

The summer line has a lot of dresses and many are One Size fits most. That seems like an impossible formula but it really actually works. While the fit is generally smaller I saw it on all shapes and sizes and it just magically seemed to work. The tops sized S through L are in great colors with a variety of silhouettes.

Sara Sandsbury, Figwoods designer worked for Ann Klein and saw many a great design end up on the cutting room. So as soon as she had the opportunity she resurrected some of her favorites, reinterpreted them with Murdoch’s direction and in less than 3 months Figwood was born.

Murdoch is applying the same philosophy she uses in buying for her store to her wholesale line. Seek out the special, the unique, the different. She’s limiting Figwood to small unique, specialty boutiques with the same sensibility as the Banyan Tree.

This line is small, special, and freshly interesting. It has a sophistication and a quality that defies the price point. A boutique could easily bring it in as a margin builder with a 2.7 markup or higher. It’s a good addition for a better boutique that needs a lower end line with a distinctive point of view and good design.

Figwood is launching Fall 2010 to a small group of boutiques at the StyleMax show August 7-9 in  Chicago.  Immediate fall sweaters will be available for October delivery. Resort 2011 will also be shown. Don’t miss the chance to get in on the ground floor of this new line. The designs have been fit tested straight out of the dressing room and sell through performance has checked strongly at the Banyan Tree.  That’s as risk free as you’ll find these days.

Pricepoint: Clothing $60-$120 at retail: Accessories $28-$90 at retail

Where to Get It:

Banyan Tree
2242 Professor Ave
Cleveland, OH, 44113

On Facebook at: Figwood Company

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Imogene + Willie – Crafting Denim One Pair at a Time

July 14th, 2010 · Brands, Contemporary, Stores

If  Imogene + Willie was a celebrity I’d be in jail for stalking right now.  This retro-fitted gas station, now cool hip apparel boutique  “swept me off my feet”.  I’ve been obsessed with it, talking nonstop to friends and family and even a few strangers I corralled into listening, since learning about it.

Calling Imogene + Willie a boutique just isn’t right.  It’s a fresh new hybrid concept that combines artisan product design, one off manufacturing and selective distribution of some of the best premium denim apparel in the world. It’s customized before your eyes in a Nashville, Tennessee boutique-factory.  All the jeans have a story.  Their own special story.  Sometimes the story is about Matt’s fondness for experimenting with D.I.Y. techniques involving bleach, rocks, sticks and a big metal bathtub set up on the patio-cum-party space behind the store. Sometimes its the story of Teresa Mason, whipping up the best tacos in the city and then cleaning her jeans with a light dip in the comfort of her tub…while wearing her jeans. Whatever the story, a pair of semi-custom, hand-sewn selvage denim jeans starts at $200, can go as high as $450+ and requires one or more fittings.

Then of course there are the other countless beautiful things they source…. vintage cowboy boots, hamam towels from Turkey, hand dyed scarves from India………so much to love.

Husband and wife team, Matt and Carrie Eddmenson are the geniuses, the master artisans behind this concept.   They are also proprietors, artists, craftsmans, designers, sewers, washers, storytellers –  taking retail back to the authenticity of its early origins.   You’ll feel the difference the minute you enter their boutique, their factory, their blog, or their website. This small new brand that most people would never have heard about has caused a stir in the retail industry far beyond its Tenneesee borders

Mickey Drexler, the CEO of J. Crew who knew the Eddmenson’s from his Gap days, has a “fashion gut” more sensitive than a Geiger counter seeking radiation.  I’m guessing that’s why he snatched them up as soon as they came calling.  Now they are collaborating with J. Crew for an exclusive artisan line that includes two styles of jeans, two styles of handbags and a vintage t-shirt and sweatshirt.   The goods will appear in late August, on and in select J. Crew (Prices range from $350 to $425.)

Currently Imogene + Willie only wholesale to J. Crew and Stag, a boutique in Austin.  The Eddmenson’s want to keep their business intimate, hands-on.  I believe they will.

But, if you are a boutique owner and you want to differentiate your brand I suggest you:  1)  study and understand how they’ve successfully interpreted authentic and 2) fly don’t drive to Nashville, get down on both knees and beg the Eddmenson’s to collaborate with your boutique 3) if they don’t agree at once, stalk them till they do.  If you are a fashion brand do all of the same.  Guarantee it will be worth it.

Where to find them:

imogene + willie
2601 12th avenue south
nashville, tn 37204
Contact Info:

Photos: Imogene + WillieImogeneI

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Blake Standard – The Gold Standard of Knitwear

July 5th, 2010 · Brands, Contemporary, Stores

It was love at first sighting when I spotted designer Pierre Colorado’s Blake Standard Spring 2007 collection in New York – one year after his official launch. He was a senior designer at Abercrombie and Fitch (with an FIT degree in fashion design) when he saw the need for chic, sophisticated easy sportswear for all women.  Women who wanted to look great at work, or while running around with their kids to school activities, or while relaxing on the weekend in comfort without looking slouchy.

He filled that need with standout color palettes, special detailing, soft supima cottons and flattering styles. All with a “no fuss” quality that make them easy to sell and sell fast.  It also doesn’t hurt that they are reasonably priced with great detailing and quality.  The t-shirts sell at $48 and jackets and sweaters are in the $90-$142 at retail.

Colorado opened his first store in October of 2009 targeting women from 18-65 with an  active, family oriented life who love to travel, and want to look great and be comfortable doing it.   Now that he has a store as a testing ground he’s an even better designer.  He knows what sells, what doesn’t sell and most importantly why things don’t sell.  He hears and sees firsthand how customers respond to his collection.  That’s worth his weight in gold!

In fact, I think that’s why every piece in his collection is versatile, chic and flattering.  And the pieces mix and match and complement all sorts of things a woman already has in her wardrobe.  That’s a golden combination.  Enough to make me want to add it to my store buy this fall!


Pricepoint: t-shirts $48-55 at retail, jackets and sweaters $90-$142 at retail.

4140 North Sheridan Road
Chicago, IL 60613-2007
(773) 472-7220

Los Angeles
San Francisco
New York

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Pittsburg Jean Company – It's What the American Dream is Dressed In

June 23rd, 2010 · Product Merchandising, Stores

I found a gem of a jeans store in Pittsburg a few months ago with my friend Catarina Brown, Search on the Run blogger. The Pittsburg Jean Company is on East Carson Street on the southside nestled between Perlora and Mallorca.  It’s located in an 1892 historical building with a tin ceiling, hardwood floor, and uses an old feed bin as a counter, tailgate of a pickup truck for shelving, old drugstore furniture, classic metal vintage signs and a 1950 Harley Davidson motorcycle for merchandising. It’s heritage dates back to 1922 but the jeans store has been open since 2001.

Lawrence Scott, better know as “Mr Jeans” by his colleagues returned to town  in 2001 with his degree from The Parsons School of Design, 17 years of design experience, an inside knowledge of the fashion industry, a rolodex of industry contacts, and a cult devotion to blue jeans.  Cult might be an understatement.  He can give you an impromptu history of denim, from the “buckle-back” Levi’s of old, to the WWII-era jeans in which the stitching was painted on to preserve thread supplies, to the pair of vintage jeans that were discovered in an old mine that sold on E-bay for $47,000.  This devotion shows up in everything he does.

Like making sure your jeans fit PERFECTLY!  His staff is professionally trained in “jean fitting”.  They are so good at sizing you up they can find the perfect style and fit for you before you ever step foot in the dressing room.  They probably know that hip/waist/thigh ratio-times-length formula that makes for a perfect fit, but that nobody not even your eighth grade algebra teacher can explain.   You are guaranteed to walk out with a 100% perfectly satisfied fit.  And I can assure you, you do!   Alterations are free to make sure all jeans have a custom fit.   And when their tailors reattach the original hem to your jeans, a skill that’s been handed down for nearly three generations, the detail is executed with the precision of a surgeon.

PJC carries over 40 different lines of premium jeans such as Adriano Goldschmeid, Diesel, J Brand, Serfontaine, Paige Premium Denim (my favorite), True Religion are just a few and they also carry an amazing assortment of jean compatable apparel…Velvet, Splendid, La Rok, Ella Moss….endless possiblities for dressing up or dressing down a pair of jeans.

If you are a jean manufacturer and you are not selling to Pittsburg Jean Company, start strategizing on how to get on their vendor list now.  Known nationally as one of the top “jean connoisseurs” in the country, Lawrence Scott can get “your brand found” just by buying the line.   Just make sure you know your stuff because like any connoisseur, he curates with a demanding eye.

Photos: Pittsburg Jean Company Website

2222 East Carson Street
Pittsburg, PA 15203

Phone: (412) 381-5326

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Must Love Boutiques A Featured Blog on WordPress

June 17th, 2010 · Brands, Marketing, Stores

Check out Must Love Boutiques on WordPress.  We are a featured blog this week.  Thank you WordPress!

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Charlotte Tarantola – Scene Stealer Prints

June 14th, 2010 · Brands, Stores

Tim Burton, the visionary director of “Alice and Wonderland” knew Charlotte Tarantola’s line of tees and sweaters were “scene stealers” when he gave her access to his show’s art.  She didn’t disappoint.   Flowery friends, tea time treats and pocket watches tumble abundantly throughout her beautiful prints for this collection.  She captures the allure and mystery of Alice’s surrealistic journey through Wonderland in print as vividly as Burton did on film.

I was a fan of Tarantola’s long before the Wonderland remake.   Her whimsical, feminine looks and stunningly beautiful prints always got my customer’s compliments. Compliments on clothes they bought at my boutique translated into store buzz.  Store buzz and compliments added up to speedy sell-through and lots of word of mouth advertising….a retailers dream.

This spring Taratola extended her customer base to tweens, girls 9-14 who spend 1.6 billion dollars a year and will follow any fashion trend set for them.  Her cheerful happy prints in refreshing colors offered in cardigans, camis and tees for the tween segment shows her business savy.  Now the same great designs are available for mother-daughter shopping. Reach two chicks for the price of one!

This fall Tarantola is extending her business savy into the fast growing “puppy love” market.  Her rhinestone sparkles and girly details won’t just be for big and little girls anymore.  Cat and dogs can now share her signature looks with their fashion conscious companions.

Tarantola says “she is inspired by designing things that make me smile”.   She had to be smiling throughout the creation of her Fall 2010 collection because it is sensational.  It’s a big line with lots of prints so you’ll have to edit with precision.  And remember a little Tarantola can go a long way so buy some show stopper pieces for your windows and strong fashion prints for the floor then watch your happy customers shop, smile and spend,

Fit: Slim but if you have a petite/small customer the XS’s are fine.  Otherwise start with the small.

Sizes: XS-XL

Pricepoint: $80 – $140 at retail

Minimums: Low – 3-4 per style

Delivery: Consistently on time

Quality: Consistent, with few defects or fit issues

Where to find it:

Online Shopping

231 W. 39th Street. # 601
New York, NY 10018
Tel: 212.382.0680
Fax: 212.382.0681

127 E. 9th St., Suite 403
Los Angeles, CA 90015
Tel: 213.488.0288
Fax: 213.488.0928

1807 Ross Ave., Gallery #117
Dallas, TX 75201
Tel: 213.488.0288
Fax: 213.488.0928

Stylemax Shows
Merchandise Mart-Chicago
Chicago, IL 60654
Tel: 212.382.0680
Fax: 212.382.0681

Stephanie Lister
Southeast Sales Representative
250 Spring Street NW #9N300B
Atlanta, GA 30303
Tel: 770.656.5213
Fax: 770.836.7562

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Like New Customers? Then You'll Like Groupon

June 12th, 2010 · Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Stores

If you want new customers you’re going to love Groupon.  Very simply, it offers deals (coupons) to groups of people locally. But here’s the catch…the offer only triggers if enough people take the deal. Here’s how it works:

  1. Every day Groupon features something cool at an unbelievable price. It can be a spa package, unbelievable clothing deal, restaurant deal…they cherry pick the very best local merchants so it’s perfect for boutiques.
  2. The deal is sent out via email to subscribers in your local community.
  3. The email is designed and the copy written by Groupon at no charge to you.
  4. The deal triggers if the required number of people buy it and you set the trigger level. The trigger level encourages people to invite all their friends to participate and then these friends encourage their friends.
  5. You have no cash outlay. Zero.  Just checks coming in if the deal triggers.
  6. If the deal triggers Groupon collects the money, takes a percentage, and pays you for the Groupons sold.
  7. You honor the Groupons (an official document printed out by the buyer) as shoppers come in. By the way, these shoppers tend to spend 50% more than their deal and end up becoming regular,repeat customers.  Be still my heart!

Shoppers love it!  They’ve bought over $5.9 million Goupons since it began.   I love the shoppers who love it because they are one of the most desirable demographic profiles going:

  • young, active, employed, college educated and female
  • active online and typically uses social media, so businesses see a viral and social impact over and above the actual Groupon purchase
  • has money to spend and is in it for the daily game as much as getting a deal
  • loves talking about winning the game with friends and colleagues
  • is a buyer not a trier

In addition to the actual Groupon’s sold, and the new regular, repeat customers you get, you also benefit from the daily email blast that goes to the thousands of subscribers in your city, whether they choose to buy that day or not. Currently, there are 6.1 million Groupon shoppers in 66 cities (with more being added daily).  This kind of exposure at no cost to you is reason enough to add Groupon to your marketing mix.

According to Groupon, 97 percent of businesses featured want to be featured again.  And here’s two upscale clothing boutiques who can show you why.

Sanity a contemporary store in Chagrin Falls, Ohio offered a deal for people to shop at their boutique. 50 people had to buy at the offered rate of  $15 for the deal to trigger.  80 people took the deal, which if you do the math translates to $1200 worth of business for one promotion.  Plus, it drove 80 customers  into their store.  Great marketing!

Sanity Clothing Chagrin Falls Ohio

The Denim Lounge, a contemporary denim boutique in Chicago set their trigger at 75 coupons.  They sold 1498 at $50.  Yes, you read that correctly, 1498.  That’s $74,900 in payola and 1498 potential shoppers traipsing around the store in butt-hugging jeans.  Now that’s a DEAL!

Have you used Groupon?  I’d love to hear about your experience.
Spread the love.  Must Love Boutiques.

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Boost Your Boutique Revenue With Apps

June 2nd, 2010 · Brands, Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Stores

Apps are growing exponentially and there’s some great ones that can help you grow your boutique revenue and improve customer satisfaction.  I’ve selected two that are easy,  fun and have a big payoff.  Here’s just a few ways  you can put them to work for you.

1.  Provide styling service and wardrobe management for top customers using Closet Couture.

Closet Couture is a fashion social networking site where you can upload photos of your clients closets to a virtual closet, mix them with clothes from your boutique on a virtual mannequin and plan a wardrobe.  With this app you can help your clients manage their wardrobes and maximize the use of items they buy in your boutique.

One way to get started is host an event and invite top customers to bring in key items from their closet.   Build looks around these items with a few new pieces from your boutique (the ones they will be purchasing).  Snap a photo of all the pieces and upload into your Closet Couture account along with client information (names, sizes, favorite brands).  Email the looks to the clients or you can print them out at the event.  Each time a key customer returns and purchases, add to her virtual closet.  As new merchandise arrives you’ve got all the information you need to generate add-on sales and maximize your customers current wardrobe.   Freshen-up her looks from season to season intelligently and cost effectively or introduce her to new looks that integrate with her wardrobe.  Each season send-off  suggestions and invite her to visit your boutique for a quick “wardrobe refresher”.

Overtime you will house the closets of all your key clients.  This puts you in a position to ramp up your customer service experience to the stratosphere level.

2. Promote sales and give your store a touch of  “social glitter” from the web with Foursquare.

If you’re not familiar with Foursquare, it combines Facebook, Twitter and Text Messaging into a mostly mobile “game,” where users check in to various locations, get points and unlock fancy badges.  You are able to see other users checked in at the same location as you, and the person who checks into a location most often becomes the mayor.  Some local boutiques incent their mayors with a discount or special offers (think of it as a loyalty program).  You can use it to promote an event, announce new merchandise or send out a secret code word when whispered to a sales associate results in an immediate discount.

If it does not make sense to you just sign up and start using it.  You’ll unlock the potential of some pretty awesome promotions and separate yourself from “the malaise of retail sameness”.  So app-up and enjoy the revenue boost!

Are you using Closet Couture or Foursquare in promoting your boutique?  I’d love to hear your story.

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Left on Houston – Sweater Love!

May 21st, 2010 · Brands, Contemporary

Does your boyfriend have a sweater that’s so cozy when you slip it on you never want to take it off?  Left on Houston has one too, only better. No boyfriend required.

leftonhouston boyfriend sweater

Soft and cozy, warm and neutral, modern and sleek, feminine even when masculine – that’s Left on Houston.  Since 2008 owners – Danny & Carla Hogg have been knitting up luxurious sweaters from yarns of cashmere, bamboo, wool, cotton and silk.  They turn these yarns into modern silhouettes with a comfortable aesthetic and tons of interesting construction details.  A great value for today’s luxury shopper with a price that’s irresistible.

I love to know how brands choose their names.  I think it’s a great way to romance the line on the sales floor with the customer.  Left on Houston’s namesake is the famed Manhattan street (pronounced how-sten) which runs crosstown from the Hudson to the East river. Many New Yorkers see it as the dividing point in the city for fashion, art, and cultural.  A point where old meets new and modern thinking allows for an unconventional left of center approach. By turning left on Houston you feel free to go anywhere.  When you experience Left on Houston, you feel that same free-spirited sensibility in their designs.

Left on Houston is smart about their brand placement.  They choose their retailers selectively based on their fit with the brand image.  It makes total sense to me but is in short supply these days of  “show me the money now” brands.

Wearing a sweater is like getting a hug all day.  Hug your customers and buy Left on Houston. Your customers will love you.

Photos: Left on Houston

Pricepoints: $100 – $290’s

Fit: Silhouettes are both comfy and structure wearable for women of all ages

Where to find it:

Carla Hogg
Brand Manager – Left on Houston
tel: 1-866-992-9226 (ext 222)
fax: 1-604-879-9246

Left on Houston Head Office
Telephone: (866) 992-9226 – ext 222

West Coast

Nine O Seven Showroom
127 east 9th Street
Suite #907, New Mart Building
Los Angeles, CA 90015
T: 213.627.8039
F: 213.627.8032

East Coast

Work/Shop Showroom
250 w 39th street #303
New York NY 10018
T: 212.382.1969
F: 212.382.1960


Style Lounge
DALLAS, TX 75342
T: 214.688.1802
F: 972.599.9063



Camille Kelly Agency
230 – 1355 Parker St
Vancouver, BC V5L 2J9
T: 778.881.4915
F: 604.648.8522


Wolton Agencies Inc.
113 9A St.
Calgary AB T2E 9C5
T: 403.201.1156
F: 403.201.1176


Jade Sales Agency
2770 Dufferin St. (at wingold)
Suite 208
Toronto, ON, M6B 3R7
T: 416. 782.5682
F: 416.782.6405

Facebook: Left on HoustonLef

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How to Get Free Advertising on Google for Your Fashion Boutique

May 15th, 2010 · Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Stores

If you are a boutique owner and your store is not on Google Places, sign up at once.  Why?  Because 63% of search engine users expect to find a business that is located within 15 miles of their home when they conduct a search. Google Places helps those consumers find you.  And its FREE.

List your business and Google displays your address, phone number, hours of operation and other key business information.  You can create coupons, display photos and post videos on Google Places and its FREE.   Plus you can track and measure the performance of your listing.  You get information on where customers came from and what words they searched to find you online and did I mention its FREE.

There is another way to advertise using Google Places and it’s ALMOST FREE – Tags. For less than $1 a day you can make your boutique (currently only available in 11 cities) stand out on and Google Maps.  Tags are currently available in  San Jose, Houston, Austin, Atlanta, Washington DC, San Diego, Seattle, Boulder, Chicago, San Francisco and Mountain View.

Some other great features of Google Places are:

  • Business photo shoots: In addition to uploading your own photos, if you have a boutique in one of the select cities you can request a free photo shoot of the interior of your business. The photos are used to supplement existing photos of  your business on Place Pages.

  • Customized QR codes: From the dashboard page of Google Places, if you are located in the U.S. you can download an QR code that’s unique to your business. You place the QR code on your business cards and other marketing materials.  Customers can scan the code with their smartphone and go directly to your Google Place Page.
  • Favorite Places: This program was so successful Google is doing a second round. They  mailed window decals to 50,000 businesses (awarded a favorite status rating) around the U.S. The decals have a mobile scannable QR code.  Customer and potential customers just scan the decal and can learn all about your boutique and any special offerings.
  • Service areas: If you travel to serve customers, you can show which geographic areas you serve. And if you don’t have a storefront (operate out of your house or office) you can make your address private.

One out of five searches on Google are related to LOCATION. Make sure your boutique is found. List today. By the way, did I mention its FREE.  Now that’s a bargain.

P.S.  I do not own any Google stock, nor have I been paid for this endorsement.  This is just my own enthusiastic opinion.  And its FREE!

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