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A conversation with Jeff Garelick, Director of Sales for Wilkes Bashford.

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Phipps: What's one thing a designer's collection can do that makes you say, We have to have this!

Garelick: Innovation. It's hard to put into words, but when something is right, it's right. When it comes to fashion, it's right in that it's a new idea, it's something new, or an interpretation of old that's now been perfected. In Women's you might actually see it more. You see a jacket. And you think, now that is chic. And you couldn't have described it a week before you saw it. But all of a sudden you're seeing it.

Phipps: Can you give an example? Maybe even from before your time with Wilkes Bashford?

Backstage at Simon Fashion Now, Stanford Center, in Hair and Makeup. Model: Alyssa Pasek (Project Runway Season 9). Photograph by the author.

Garelick: I think Cucinelli is probably the best example.

Phipps: Is there any year in particular you would point out?

Garelick: For me, it's the evolution I've seen. Particularly in Women's. It's true in Men's too, but particularly in Women's. What I think Cucinelli did is, he created a new look, a new option for women. A whole new style that didn't exist before he started doing it. In my opinion. I think it's really genius, because he's created a whole new aesthetic for women that wasn't there before. And so the innovation coupled with the commitment to luxury quality, luxury fibers, quality workmanship, in addition to a story. It's a family, it was a private company, now it's public. But it has a long tradition of roots in a particular town it's made. The whole package of what he did was innovative, new.

Phipps: On the other side, what's the Number One Thing a design house can do to make you say, Ugh, we want out! And if you could give an example, not with a name, but maybe a specific behavior or choice that frustrated or disappointed you?

Garelick: I think there are two things. One is, we do a fair amount of made-to-measure custom business. Both in Women's and in Men's. And one thing that is extremely challenging is when the designer doesn't execute in the time they said, or doesn't execute with the expected quality. Our clientele is very busy. If they're coming in to be fit for the Opera, and the gown is going to come in three or four weeks before the event for a final fitting. And it doesn't arrive, or it arrives with a technical challenge. That's problematic. That would give us pause. If pleasing our clients is not in the ability of a collection, then it's a situation of whether we would continue. The other thing, and this is a broader statement, is every season designers present collections of course, and they have new inspiration.

Top: Backstage at Simon Fashion Now, Stanford Center, in Hair and Makeup.
Bottom: model Michael Brown, during the Wilkes Bashford runway show.
Photographs by the author.

But when they depart too far from what their core is, when the experimentation in a new season is beyond their thematic roots, it can be a challenge. Because you build. A lot of collections have great followings. And all of a sudden the collection takes too sharp a turn, and that great following can't find what they were originally interested in. You have to remember, yes it is the vision of the designer, but it is the execution of the vision. So just the vision alone isn't enough for a consumer.

Phipps: Let's take a little bit of a turn. Jeff, from your perspective, how do you see technology changing the business of fashion retailing?

Garelick: I think consumers are much more informed. Our clients are much more informed about what's going on, what the current trends are, what's available. And then, it's enabled consumer retailing clients to communicate at a much faster rate, and really be clearer on what their needs are, and what the execution needs to be. Everything happens much quicker now. It also allows for, in terms of timing, better service. We're open by appointment on Sundays. And it's not uncommon for us to receive an email at 10 o'clock at night from a client that needs to be attended to ASAP. And then between our stores, we have video phones. So if we have a client who is looking for something here, I don't have it here, but I know I have something similar in Palo Alto, actually I can call Palo Alto and have them hold up the item to the video phone.

Phipps: What's your presence on the Internet? What do you do with social media?

Garelick: So we don't do e-commerce, but we are on Facebook, we're on twitter. We have the Wilkes Bashford website, which is linked to the Mitchell family of stores. And then we do throw things out to Daily Candy, and different fashion blogs. We have our own blog.

Phipps: Who writes the blog?

Garelick: Andrew Mitchell and his team does, because Andrew heads up Marketing for the company. We assist with visuals. New receipts, or things happening at the store.

Phipps: Jeff, to finish up, let's talk a little about the collection you showed at Simon Fashion Now. I'll throw you some of the outfits, you give me the style points.

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Links and More Information:

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Contact the author :

→  Wilkes Bashford

→  Simon Fashion Now