In a new series, we're talking to some of the small business owners who are making moves in the progressive market. Today we caught up with Susanne Rehnstrom, the owner of W29 Showroom, which offers a great array of young designers, many of whom are from Sweden. She’s got everyone from Dagmar to Rodebjer and The Local Firm, as well as some smaller labels. Susanne talks about being an entrepreneur in a tough economy, trends and her latest initiative to raise awareness for men's health issues.
Read our q&a with Susanne after the jump.
W29 Showroom,208 W 29th Street, Suite 201 New York, NY10001
, 212.563.0163, w29showroom.blogspot.com.
When did you start your company? And why? I started the showroom in 2005 after have been working different sides of the fashion industry; design, retail, buying, wholesale, production, styling. I wanted to create a space where I could offer visionary brands to the market.
What brands do you represent?
Alexander Koutny (www.alexanderkouty.com)
Margarita Saplala (margaritasaplala.com)
The Local Firm (www.thelocalfirm.com)
Candace Ang (www.candaceang.com)
Tomoko Igarashi (www.tomokoigarashi.com)
Perfume: Etat Libre d'Orange (www.etatlibredorange.com)
How has the recent events in the economy affected you and what have you done to stay afloat? We are still a small company so we have not been as hard hit as some of the larger operations. We have not necessarily cut back on anything, we are just putting in more in terms of time and effort. But don't get me wrong - we definitely feel that there is a huge change from just a year ago. It is sad to see the curiosity and enthusiasm go down the drain. Those qualities are among the elements of what really makes this industry so fun - an open mind.
What services does your business offer that are out of the ordinary? I don't know if it is so much out f the ordinary, but I believe in long term relationships with my staff, the retailers we work with and the designers we represent. It requires personal engagement, and that is something that we do provide.
Being an entrepreneur and a small business owner has its rewards and challenges. How do you view the business? The rewards are many - it is very satisfying to work with companies that are on the rise as there is always a desire for "up-forward" thinking. It is also very valuable for me to see that my staff are motivated and enjoy their job. For me, the biggest challenge is to see business transactions for what they are and not let emotions get in the way. It translates to many different areas in the company. I try to see what is in the best interest of the designer and of the retailer and aim to reach for an outcome that is fair play for everyone involved.
Trendwise, where do you see the market heading? What are some strong sellers, and what are some up and coming best sellers? I think for our market the demand for substance in different shapes "fun, unique and directional" is important. It is also important that the price connects with the product. Iosselliani and Margarita Saplala are products that buyers understand right away, but I am also very happy to see that two of our new additions - womens wear collection Alexander Koutny - and perfume line Etat Libre d'Orange are getting strong reactions when buyers get to experience the shapes and scents in the showroom.
If you decided to have a lifestyle change and do something else, what would you do ? I have been thinking of this and I could not come up with another profession that I would like to do. I like it where I am at, but if I would quit this business I think it would be a nice challenge for myself to do nothing at all... Like a sustainable farm in the middle of nowhere, focusing on the family's daily needs and NOT turning it into a business.
What are you inspired by right now? The changing market – it is challenging but also exciting to see what this will turn out.
Describe your personal style. I don't change so much through the seasons, I like the mix between feminine/masculine and I like a pop of surprise.
What do you like to do in your spare time? I spend time with my husband, eat goo
d food, read Swedish crime novels and ponder over W29 Showroom.
Do you have any news or upcoming special events you’d like the market to know about? At W29, men are one of the things we love the most, somewhere just behind shoes (okay, sometimes just in front, but not far in front), so we’re celebrating Movember ( an initiative to raise awareness for men’s health) by asking four of our favorite photographers – Jacob Axelman, Alisa Connan, Will Sanders and Ellinor Stigle – to show what Movember means to them. Their portraits feature the photographers interpretations of the moustache, they played around with Demistache's moustache necklaces and it turned out great - the first portraits are going up on the w29showroom blog on November 2nd and will run Monday-Friday through Movember – stay tuned!