Sunday, March 31, 2013

Junior Friends Toast to Fashion - Year Two

This was Zoe's second year of participating in the Junior Friends Toast to Fashion Event at the Belle Haven Country Club in the Fairfax County section of Alexandria.  And it was even more fun this year because I was part of the committee!

A lot of work goes into the event, which benefits The Campagna Center in Alexandria, Virginia.  This year, I was on the raffle committee, which takes all of the generous donations from many businesses in the area, groups them into gift baskets and determines the theme.  We had so many wonderful donations thanks to Donations Committee Chair Kaitlin Moomaw that we had a lot of work to do!  By the time we were done on the Monday evening prior to the event, we had 19 wonderful baskets for the raffle! 

And Zoe had the wonderful opportunity to dress a model this year!  Doesn't our model Willow look gorgeous?
Graham & Spencer Dress, Katie Bartels Necklace

Red 23 Top, Red Engine Jeans, Alexandra Satine Bag, Chan Luu Wrap Bracelet

In addition to the fashion show, there are a number of vendors set up around the room.  Since I plan to go to the Junior Friends Bowties and Belles event in early May, I felt I needed to find the perfect hat/fascinator.  I tried on two:

A Zoe Pink Fascinator

And a Black Fascinator - which one do you think I chose?

The event is also a fun time to catch up with existing customers and friends.  I was so happy that my friend and Zoe customer Renee attended this year with her friend Erica.

It was hard to know what to wear (confession - I selected my outfit about a half hour prior to leaving for the event.)  Especially since it was a spring show and the weather was still decidedly wintery outside!  I wore the Yoana Baraschi Space Girl Dress and Coat that we had sold at Zoe in the Fall.

I was also happy to have Zoe's Assistant Manager, Tara, with me for the event.  Doesn't she look fabulous in her Alice and Trixie Dress? 

The event ended up raising over $18,000 for The Campagna Center!  With the sequestration cuts set to affect this great organization, the timing could not have been better!

Next Up:  The Power Suit

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Great Place to Buy Denim

As you know, sometimes Zoe is approached about media pieces that don't come to fruition.  That is why I am always afraid to write about anything until it is a SURE thing!  When I got a request from Washingtonian Magazine in early February, I was hopeful but tried to put it to the back of my mind.

One evening, I noticed another boutique that I follow in Georgetown was Tweeting about the article on denim in the March Washingtonian.  Since that was the article that I knew they were discussing with Zoe, I knew I needed to take a look.

Like any good magazine that wants to sell on the newstand first, they hadn't published any links to that month's articles.  So I knew I needed to see the real thing.  Jim and I were on our way to dinner and I asked if he would stop at a grocery store so that I could go in to look at the magazine.  To my delight, Zoe was included in the article (and yes, as with the incident in the airport a few months ago, I did buy the magazine). 

The story was about how to shop for denim and where to buy it.  I was really honored that Zoe was included in the article.

Our Red Engine jeans are not only my favorite denim but have a following at Zoe as well.  One thing people like about them is the great fit and the fact that they make jeans for different body types.  A link to the article can be found here - Nine DC Area Stores for Buying Jeans.  Even more surprising was the number of people who wrote to me or emailed me to say how excited they were that Zoe was included in the article. 

Speaking of Red Engines - I sadly missed my nephew's birthday party today in GA.  But I got some adorable pictures of him and his sister!

Many thanks to all of Zoe's customers for considering us a great place to buy denim!

Next Up:  Junior Friends Toast to Fashion - Year Two

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Wait, There's More?

Shopping for Zoe for Fall 2013 was truly a detailed event.  A week after I returned from the most lengthy trip I've ever taken to market, I was on a train again to visit showrooms for the day! This time Zoe's Assistant Manager, Tara, was with me too!

This was more of the typical NY trip - on the 5:30 train with arrival at around 8:45.  Rush around all day and hop back on a train late that afternoon.  Jim always reminds me when traveling with someone else "Susan, not everyone can handle your intense pace.  Remember to factor in some downtime!"  (Hmmm...think he has been the victim of that breakneck pace in the past?)

With that said, Tara and I had a busy day but a reasonable day.  Our first stop was a visit to the CLUNY showroom.  This was my first trip to this showroom and it was great to see Victoria's smiling face when we exited the elevator.  The first order of business was to finalize my Spring order that is to ship this month!  A few things had been cancelled and I needed replacements!  With that out of the way, we then started shopping for Fall.  Cynthia Steffe, the designer behind CLUNY, always does femininity with a bit of an edge.  I love her fashionable yet wearable style.

A picture of the CLUNY showroom.  I love how clean and simple it is so as to better highlight the clothing.

As we walked toward our appointment, we had noticed a very cute little macaroon store down a side street.  We vowed if we had time, we would go in.  The case full of macaroons was gorgeous!

Our Alexandra loves macaroons so we had to visit and take pictures, just for her!

From there, we went to one of our favorites, Findings NY showroom, the home of Velvet, Graham & Spencer, and Mother.  We first shopped Graham & Spencer (wishing we could buy the leathers and furs but knowing that we had to shop for our Alexandria customer!)  Of course, I loved getting the chance to try on this sweater (we bought it for Zoe!)

Next was our Zoe customer's fan favorite - Velvet!  This always the most fun and the most difficult - so many beautiful colors and styles!

The team at Findings NY is moving at the end of the month to the TriBeCa area of Manhattan.  We will look forward to visiting their new showroom during the next major season shopping trip in September!

By this time, it was time for lunch!  I remembered a charming little Italian restaurant that Kathlin Argiro had suggested to us last year during our Spring showroom trip. Tara and I headed for Mercado in the Hell's Kitchen area of Manhattan and were immediately seated.  There is just something warm and comforting about authentic Italian food.  Tara and I enjoyed an unrushed meal from a corner table. drinking wine on the job.  But it was fun to look at their storage shelves from our table!

Once we finished lunch and checked email, we were off to Chan Luu!  Although I had already shopped their booth at market the previous week, I wanted to meet with them to discuss a trunk show and to give Tara the opportunity to see their amazing showroom on Broadway.  While there, we discovered that they also represent an amazing line of hair jewelry by Jane Tran, who is also Chan's sister!  We had a great time picking out some new finds for Zoe's customers.

This is a sample of some of the beautiful hair pins that will be arriving at Zoe in the coming weeks!  Look for great headbands and ornamental hair pins as well!

From there, we walked to the showroom of NEL and Co.  We already purchase the beautiful pieces of Waverly Grey from them but we wanted to take some time to look at two additional lines - Envi and Nell.  I was really enamoured with the Envi line.  And, had to take the opportunity to try on some of the sample sizes (I completely admit this is part of the job I love).

Loving this little fit and flair dress and jacket!  And you should have seen the faux wrap dress I tried on!  The fabric and styling was perfect!

By then, it was time to head back to Penn Station for our trip back to DC.  Tired but happy, we had accomplished our mission - Fall buying for Zoe was complete.

Next Up:  A Great Place to Buy Denim

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Fall Market - Part 3

After a better night's rest, I was prepared for Day Two of Fall Market!  One new variable for me - I had a suitcase to take with me!  I bid adieu to the beautiful Algonquin and was off to start my Monday! 

Before things got too hectic, I went straight to Chan Luu.  By getting there early, I knew I would have time to spend with one of my favorite reps, Natasha.  Here she is in the scarf booth at Chan Luu.

And I ordered some of these beautiful scarves for late Spring/early Summer!

After also placing a jewelry order and a Fall RTW (Ready to Wear) order, I was off to meet the ladies from JOOR.  I had written about JOOR in a previous blog post and how much I liked what they were doing to combine technology with fashion!  After talking with me and reading the post last Fall, they asked if I could meet with them during Market this year to review their new mobile apps and provide feedback.  Of course I said yes!

We found a cushy seat and they talked to me about my buying process and how I felt that technology could aid the process.  They also showed me samples of what they were doing on the iPhone and iPad.  I explained to them what I do now and what I WISH I could do and also how I would use the App if it were available to me.  We had a great conversation and finished with me volunteering to be a Beta Tester when they were ready! 

From there, I visited with a brand that we are considering carrying at Zoe called Leona.  The rep had stopped by to visit while on a road trip and Tara had seen part of the line.  They have some creative solids and some fun prints like this one! (Don't we all love shoes?)  All of their prints are first hand painted - it is really amazing to see the detail up close.

At that point, I knew I needed to head up to Pier 94, where many of the denim and accessories designers and showrooms were located.  Imagine me with my suitcase on the little shuttle van that takes you there!

Once I arrived, I immediately sought out my Red Engine rep, Jenny.  I was so excited to share the article from the Washingtonian (which I haven't even blogged about yet!!) that included Zoe and Red Engine!  I gave her my copy of the magazine, knowing that I could buy another one when I returned home.  She also agreed to pose for this photo for a series we were doing on Zoe's reps!

I checked out a few other vendors prior to making my way to see my friend and talented handbag designer Alexandra Satine!  I loved her new Spring/Summer collection!

I am such a lover of color!  I picked out a few of her smaller items which should be arriving at Zoe mid-April!  We got to visit for a short while and catch up on each others lives!  We have always felt we had a lot in common because we were both starting our businesses at about the same time.

At that point, it was just about time to start making my way to Penn Station.  As I sat down to check my email one more time, I noticed that the show DJ was a woman!  Very cool and appropriate!

After procuring an original black & white cookie for Jim, I was on the way back home, orders in hand through September.  But I would only be home for a little while...

Next Up:  Wait, There's More?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Fall Market - Part 2

It was really exciting to wake up on Sunday morning already in NYC instead of on a train.  And to know that I had all day to spend at market as well as a good part of the following day!  I love breakfast (probably my favorite meal of the day) so I started out with a hearty one (since I never know when I will have time to eat at market).  I am not one who normally takes pictures of food but imagine a spread of eggs, bacon, toast, cranberry juice and coffee! 

The first challenge would be getting to the Javits Convention Center, one of the two market locations.  Fortunately, I quickly hailed a cab just outside the Algonquin and was on my way.  Sunday mornings are so peaceful in NYC!  But the cabs were busy - check out this scene from the drop off point!

After registering and checking my coat (another first - I had always just kept it with me the whole day), I was off to explore!  I had intentionally scheduled my first appointment for 10 am (the market opens at 9) so that I could walk around a bit.  My first focus - finding a great sweater company to outfit Zoe's customers for Fall!  Just in the two years I've been open, two of the sweater lines that I carried have either stopped producing or have stopped attending the shows.  So I needed to find a replacement.  I had also had the young lady who does Zoe's social media ask Zoe's followers to provide feedback on sweaters so I was armed with that good information!  Fortunately, I found one that I love within about 20 minutes!

After I finished writing the order there, I was off to my appointments - I was booked solid through 4 pm.  What did I see?  Lots of black and white (already a strong trend for Spring), Color blocking, Peplums, lots of leather accents, and beautiful red/black/camel combos.  And as I've mentioned before, I love seeing my reps!  A few pictures from the day.

Black and White at Rebecca Taylor

Red/Black/Camel (with leather) at Alice & Trixie

My fabulous rep, Maye (read about her first introduction to me here)

Stylish find from Tracy Reese - it always great when they have a model in the booth who can show you exactly what the piece looks like on a human figure!

Loved this trench coat at Contrarian

Also loved Contrarian's gorgeous purple flowers!

I was seeing so many beautiful colors and styles!  But I was also really feeling my ongoing sinus problem in the form of a painful sinus headache.  I took a quick break to get an Americano from the Starbucks kiosk in the hallway area of the convention center and I continued on!

Love this vest from Waverly Grey!

Swing Coat from Beth Bowley (they have the BEST coats - remember the Swacket?)

Project Runway Alum Christopher Collins himself showed me his line!

By now, it was 5:30 and I had reached the point of absorbing all I could and the real need to find some medicine for my headache.  I quickly grabbed a car service back to the hotel and walked straight to the ubiquitous NYC drug store Duane Reade.  A quick purchase of Tylenol Sinus and I was on my way.

I walked into the Algonquin and was once again greeted by the friendly clerk from the night before.  I asked her "where would you recommend I go for a quiet, delicious meal as a woman traveling alone?"  She suggested ReSette, a cozy Italian restaurant only a block away.  It did not disappoint and I had the most delicious homemade bread, olive oil, and black linguine seafood dish (with a glass of wine).  It was just what I needed! 

A quick walk back to my hotel and a change into my PJ's to relax and watch all of the beautiful Oscar fashions.  I needed to rest up again for Day Two!

Next Up:  Fall Market - Part 3

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Fall Market - Part 1

This was an out of the ordinary Market trip for me.  Long time readers of the blog know that, with the exception of my first couple of market trips to Atlanta, I have always made the trip to NY in a single day.  While I was always pleased with my efficiency, those trips make for a very long day and did not leave me time to really explore lines outside the ones that I already carry at Zoe.

Now that Zoe is in such good hands when I'm not there, I found myself able to make a multi-day trip for Coterie (the name of the large NYC markets for Spring or Fall).  The first thing on my list - where would I stay?  As I was looking at hotels, I first started with the Marriott website since I have a long standing membership in their loyalty program.  Imagine my surprise and delight when I realized that the Algonquin Hotel was part of their Autograph Collection in New York!  I held my breath as I looked at the rates and realized that it was affordable enough for my two night stay!

As a lover of literature and the written word, the opportunity to stay in the Algonquin made me giddy.  Read up on some of the interesting facts about this historic hotel here.  Oh, and My Fair Lady is one of my favorite musicals!

Then it was time to plan my train trip.  No leaving at 5:30 in the morning for me!  I booked a 1:05 pm train leaving on Saturday afternoon!

Union Station is a very different place on a Saturday afternoon than an early Monday morning!  Although the train was crowded, I settled into the Cafe car and started catching up on emails and reading.  Not long after the train started moving, a group of young men carrying instruments entered the car, looking for places to put their instruments and to sit.  While eavesdropping, I figured out they were a band!  After we departed Baltimore, they started harmonizing!  Free entertainment!

My major plan for Saturday evening (after checking into the hotel) was to visit with one of Zoe's favorite designers, Kathlin Argiro, in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn.  Kathlin had told me that I could either take a car service or take the subway to her home.  I have always taken the subway with people who know their way around NY (I've just followed directions) but decided it was time to break out on my own!  I spent part of the trip studying the subway maps and confirming my trip/route.

When I arrived at Penn Station in NY, it was raining.  And if you think taxi shift change is bad, you should try getting a cab in NY in the rain.  One look at the taxi line after emerging from the station told me I'd be better off walking.  So off I went.

My route took me up 7th Avenue.  Once you get to Times Square, it is just a sea of people.  I found myself thinking "What is going on with all these clueless tourists??"  If it hadn't been raining, what a fascinating study in people it would have been!  I was soon to the Algonquin and was greeted warmly by the front desk clerk. There is nothing nicer than being at the end of a long journey and finding a friendly face.  After settling in my room, I freshened up my bedraggled appearance and set off for the Subway Station.

As I descended into the station alone, I couldn't help but think of all those Law & Order episodes I had seen and hoping I wouldn't end up in a "ripped from the headlines" episode!  Fortunately, the subway ride went smoothly and I arrived at my stop in Brooklyn in 20 minutes.

There are reasons why so many New Yorkers are not overweight.  There is a lot of walking and stair climbing to be done in the City!  I walked from the Subway Station to Kathlin's loft, which is on the 5th floor of a walk-up!  This being an old warehouse (originally), the stairs were very steep.  I did not need to do any additional exercise that day!

Kathlin's loft studio/apartment was beautiful.  I am ashamed to say that I did not take any pictures of the incredible view of Manhattan from her space.  I fear I would never get anything done if I lived/worked there. I would stare out the window ALL the time.

Kathlin had been working on a couture gown which she shared with me.  Those of you who know me well know I am completely enamored with beautiful things.  Too pricey for me or Zoe's customers but I could well appreciate the beauty and handiwork.

Kathlin and I do so much of our work together via email so she shared the actual fabric samples of the wrap dresses that will be arriving later this month!

She is such a great judge of prints and I know that whatever she selects will be gorgeous.

After a glass of wine and visiting with Kathlin and her husband, we headed out to dinner.  Kathlin took me on a walking tour of their neighborhood, explaining the significance of the buildings, who lived where (I saw the very upscale building where Jay-Z and Beyonce live as well as Anne Hathaway), and the history of the area. We also took time to stop into two local boutiques - one named Zoe Boutique (which has other locations in the Northeast...and has on a couple of occasions actually received shipments intended for me!) and another named Bluberi.  Boutiques there stay open until 8 pm even though the streets were fairly deserted of shoppers on that rainy night.  It is always so much fun to see what other people do and I learn from every store I visit.

I couldn't help picking up this pretty pair of earrings at Bluberi.  I've been wearing them a lot lately!

Their neighborhood DUMBO (and the nearby neighborhood of Vinegar Hill) were so charming.  We made our way to Hillside, a small wine bar in Vinegar Hill.  Kathlin's husband joined us soon after our arrival and we had an enjoyable and delicious meal in this cozy space.  From there, a quick trip to the bar that Kathlin's husband co-owns (68 Jay Street Bar) was in order!

Because it was getting late and I needed to be 100% for Zoe the next day at Market, Kathlin got me a car service back to Manhattan.  What a wonderful, very New York evening!

Next up:  Fall Market - Part 2

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sparkle Returns to Zoe

What is better on a cold winter day in February than having a little Sparkle come in the store?

That's right!  Our favorite NYC jewelry designer, Katie Bartels, was back in the DC area and came to visit us again at Zoe!  (We love her sparkly shoes!)

Katie had recently returned from a trip to Iceland (yes, I continue to live vicariously through her!) where she had purchased some yarn with the goal of incorporating it into jewelry!  She had also started taking knitting classes upon her return to New York.  Well!  I told her she HAD to come to Alexandria and check up the finest yarn and knitting store around - fellow Old Town Boutique District member Fibre Space!

After a fun visit with us at Zoe, we hopped in my car and headed to Fibre Space.  We were both immediately dazzled by the incredible array of yarns available.  Confession time - when I was growing up, the lady who used to stay with me and my brother after school and during the summer taught me how to knit and crochet.  (Those of you who know my lack of craftiness can stop laughing now).  I actually made a pair of emerald green house slippers.  Our yarn came from the local Five and Dime stores.  And it was all pretty much the same weight. 

Not so at Fibre Space - there are the most dazzling arrays of colors, strengths, and weights of yarn I've ever seen!  Katie was also blown away!  Here she is perusing a scarf that is made from a very strong yarn that almost has a metallic quality to it!

The staff at Fibre Space is always super-helpful and we were especially delighted when owner Danielle came back to the store.  She was able to give Katie all sorts of helpful information, including a great website for designs, a yarn store in Soho, and a great book for starting knitters. 

Katie and Danielle with Katie's finds!!

We will keep you up to date on Katie's creations with her Alexandria yarns!  It was great fun introducing her to all we have to offer in Old Town!

Next Up:  Fall Market Time - Part 1

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Other Side

Sometimes when I read through the blog, I wonder if people think that owning a boutique is one fun party and event after another! 

While I sometimes devote posts to my thoughts and feelings at the time, I don't often write about the other side of owning a small business.  The difficult side.  I often wonder if people would be interested in hearing those stories too!  (My friend Juice has encouraged me to save them for my book someday!  Believe me when I tell you it will be a page-turner!)

Knowing the ups and downs of owning a small business, I try to support other local businesses as much as possible.  About five months after Zoe opened, a small Indian fusion restaurant opened in Old Town.  I passed it every day on my way to the store.  I want to confess that Indian food is not my first choice of cuisine - if a friend wants it, I will gladly go along but I probably wouldn't go by myself.  So I admit upfront that I hadn't gone into this particular restaurant.

One of Zoe's customers did patronize this restaurant and we talked about it a couple of times.  She liked their food and would often order and pick it up on her way home from work.  She told me about some of their initial challenges and struggles (we all know the whole signage fun that you have in Old Town) and I told her to tell them that they weren't alone!  So even though I didn't eat there, I was cheering for them and hoping they would be successful.

In the month of December, a coupon book with coupons from various restaurants in Alexandria is distributed to select zip codes.  Zoe is in a similar coupon book (for stores) that is distributed in November.  I noticed that this Indian restaurant had a coupon in the book and I smiled - good for them!  Knowing the cost of the coupon book advertising, it said to me that they were headed in the right direction and were growing their customer base.

Yet, within a month of the coupon book release, it was announced that the restaurant had closed.  I was shocked and saddened.  Some might feel that I have no right to be sad if I didn't make the effort to go.  And I will admit that I felt guilty.  And I wondered what had happened...was there an illness that forced them to close their doors?  Had they reached a point where they couldn't continue to lose money?  Had they lost their passion and enthusiasm?  What happened?  Were the difficult days outnumbering the good days?

The morale of the story is - there are bad days and unhappy events.  When you can, encourage your local small business owner.  Sometimes just stopping in to say Hello can make a difference.  Tell a friend if you like the store's or restaurant's offerings.  Try to eat there or shop there when possible.  Help them have more good days than bad ones!

On a Lighter Note...Next Up:  Sparkle Returns to Zoe