Monday, February 23, 2015


 The Independent Mindset, a (capsule) discussion w/Jill Wenger, Jennifer Mankins and Steven Alan, moderated by Lauren Sherman @Pier 94 

Even the most distinguished designers travel down a pivotal path leading to a 'moment' or THE opportunity for which he or she can credit today's success. In an effort to connect talented emerging designers with attentive boutique buyers, (capsule) hosts periodic trade shows in multiple cities, highlighting a curated selection of independent talent around the globe. From February 22nd to 24th, NYC's Pier 94 has become the premier marketplace for buyers to stumble on the new 'it' designer, acquaint themselves with new contemporary concepts and experience the Fall 2015 collections from "the best high-end, progressive brands and directional, independent designers" [source]. To kick-off the 3-day event, (capsule) invites Jill Wenger (Owner, Totokaelo), Jennifer Mankins (Owner, Bird) and Steven Alan (Founder, Steven Alan) to converse with Fashionista's editor-at-large Lauren Sherman about the art of fashion retail and succeeding with an 'independent mindset.' Keep reading for discussion highlights and more on (capsule)...

 (L) Jill Wenger (owner, Totokaelo); (M) Jennifer Mankins (owner, Bird); (R) Steven Alan

In casual conversation, Jill Wenger, Jennifer Mankins and Steven Alan discuss their personal approach to e-commence, social media, business growth and 'tailoring the buy' towards targeted demographics. All three agree that staying true to brand values and finding the right products and support staff contribute to their success. Excerpts below:

On considering new brands and whether potential longevity is ever a concern or reason for holding back...

SA: There's so many trade shows....You love the product first, then you wonder will they ship on time, is the quality gonna be good. Sometimes you look at stuff and the samples may be good but then the production comes in and it just looks different... Ideally you want to see that there's some sort of consistency there.

JM: Sometimes I do say, let's see how it develops. If you're brand new, give it a season, maybe give it two seasons and I want to see if it gets to a place where it's right and it's gonna work.... If I love something and they're really passionate... and I feel like they're committed to their product as much as they want me to be, then I'll take a chance, and I hope it works out.

JWMy experience is that a brand doesn't really get traction until 3 seasons. So I am totally thinking long term... That's how long it takes for me to learn the buy or for us to get our sales teams on it, for us to figure out how to merchandise it... I'm looking for a trajectory. For us, we're playing on the long game, so we're looking for growth"

On hiring and maintaining brand identity while expanding...

SA: For me, I always realized it was the product that was my love, in terms of both designing and also buying. Hiring additional people has not...hurt the vision at all, in terms of the business. I feel it's really helped because it's allowed me to focus more on what I really like.

JM: You can't ever move back....You have to make sure that... you don't replace yourself, that you can think clearly about what it is that you do well and what is your asset to the business and the brand and what don't you know. There are days I wake up too and I think "I know everything that I know. So Who am I gonna bring in to give me advice and opinions and information that can help me and be an add to what I do, to move it forward?

JW: That's it--How DO you maintain what keeps you really good in the beginning. How do you scale that without compromising. That's the challenge. Advice that I've picked up--it's about hiring the right people....If I don't bring in the right people that just innately get it because it resonates with who they are, it is like 10 times more work
to try and teach somebody to care about something they don't initially care about.

(capsule) selected 3 influential style setters to choose and style their favorite items from the show floor; Natalie Suarez's display here

Launched in 2007, (capsule) has expanded to include 700+ designers, representing roughly 25 countries. Yet, despite the growth, the sense of community continues to remain steadfast. Under the new ownership of Reed Exhibitions, (capsule) unveils a laid-back, cohesive look and a new location for 2015. A very organic experience awaits guests and exhibitors.

 Paloma Elsesser features her favorite looks from the show

In an organized construct, like brands are grouped in sections on the show floor; big brands are intermingled with newer labels. A large sitting area is available, surrounded by hanging plants for a calming experience. A demi-exhibit, featuring the top choices of fashion influencers Natalie Suarez, Paloma Elsesser and Michele Janezic is situated behind the entryway. Stay tuned for my top picks from (capsule) 2015. 

Michele Janezic features her favorite looks from the show

Front entrance view, Pier 94 (capsule) and Axis trade show venue

 Exhibitors present Fall 2015 collections (Orla Kiely booth on left)

Cafeteria style meeting + eating area

A look inside--the space features both emerging and established accessories, handbag, shoe and clothing brands

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