SHOWROOM OWNER: I’VE ALWAYS COMPARED WHAT I DO TO A TALENT AGENCY TO SOME EXTENT
At Seladex, we’re focused on helping apparel and accessory showrooms succeed by helping them stay organized, better manage their showrooms and increase sales through the use of our Apparel Industry CRM(Customer Relationship Manager).
However, we go beyond the use of technology as a means to help entrepreneurs in the fashion industry grow. We’re big believers in education, so from time to time we bring in fashion experts from around the world to help educate you, our blog readers, about the various ways you can grow your fashion empire.
Today, Seladex had the opportunity to speak with Brian Stark from Brand Equity Showroom, about his experience running his NYC and LA based showrooms
Hello and thank you for taking the time to chat with our blog readers about your showroom Brand Equity Showroom. Can you kick off the interview by telling us a little bit more about how Brand Equity got started? What inspired you to get into the showroom space?
My inspiration to open my first showroom came from 8 years of working for Nordstrom. Six years into my career at Nordstrom I was exposed to this wholesale side of the business and was quickly drawn to the love of it and the freedom to create my own idea of what trends I thought and knew were right for the US customer.
You've been around since 1996. When you were first starting out, what were some of the major obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?
The biggest obstacle I faced when opening my first showroom was recognition and credibility as a seasoned agent /wholesaler.
How have your obstacles changed over time? For instance, what are the biggest obstacles you face today and how do you tackle them on a day to day basis?
23 years into my business of representation of brands in my showrooms my obstacles have changed greatly from when I first began my business. Today my biggest obstacle honestly is time management. I work 12 hour days and during market and fashion weeks they can easily be 14 hour days.
Brand Equity Showroom has managed to establish long-standing relationships with essential buyers for major retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales, Urban Outfitters, Revolve, Shop and hundreds of more premium specialty stores nationwide. Can you tell us a little bit more about your approach when making connections with these major buyers and retailers?
Relationships and credibility are everything in this business. I, being an ex Nordstrom employee for nearly 8 years, understand how important relationships are. We aren't selling used cars here, we are spending millions of these dept stores dollars, so you better know what you're doing.
As a showroom what are your biggest challenges when it comes to getting distribution for the brands you represent?
The hands down biggest challenge that comes with distro of a new brand is the "back office work". There are a great number of talented designers out there with very remarkable collections, but if they lack the business mind/side of the business it doesn't matter how great their designs are. It is so vital to understand how retail works in the USA if you are a designer and want to be represented by an agent or agency like Brand Equity Showroom. I've always compared what I do to a talent agency to some extent. We help build, mold and polish a designers collection BUT it is imperative the designer/talent understand the business and what it takes to succeed and thrive for both parties.
Have you ever been in a situation where you believe so strongly in a brand, but your level of enthusiasm isn't matched when you pitch the brands you represent to buyers or stores? What do you do in these cases?
Yes this has occurred a few times. My brand selection has always been very forward thinking, it doesn't work for the masses in USA/Canada but it does work for the premium dept stores and boutiques. I get excited about a new brand I find overseas and of course there will be a few clients that don't feel the excitement I do, but it still doesn't keep me from my selectiveness when it comes to representing a new fashion designer.
How much of being a showroom is about sourcing brands that match an existing retail store's existing taste vs. pitching them what you believe in?
I build my showrooms and reputation on what trends I feel strongly about for the seasons based off my clients in mind. We don't follow trends...we set them. Having this philosophy, stores know we are educating them on what to buy rather than them coming to us for their needs.
You're located in both NYC and LA. Did you start out in both locations or expand over time? What have the biggest benefits of being in both regions? Are there any drawbacks to being in both locations?
I started Brand Equity Showroom in Los Angeles, California. I expanded to New York nearly 10 years later. Most would say "what took you so long to open in NYC?" My answer is clearly I was very content with my LA operations and had a good balance of travel that took care of my East coast needs. Today I can say it's a game changer having showrooms in both cities and has allowed me to grow my USA business leaps and bounds.
Lastly, if you could go back in time and start Brand Equity Showroom over again, what are three things you would do differently?
Im quite blessed with the success of Brand Equity Showroom and the countless brands we have made household names over the years. I can't say I would have done things any different as I wouldn’t want the results of today to be any different than they are now.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with Seladex blog readers today about your experience in the showroom space. It’s been inspiring learning about your history and ups and downs. To our readers, if you’d like to learn more about Brand Equity Showroom you can head over to their website here.
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