For new and emerging designers, navigating the world of retail can be intimidating and overwhelming - but it's also a crucial step in ensuring the viability of a fledgling label. With the AW15 selling season just around the corner, WATM spoke with buyers, owners and creative directors from shops and boutiques from across the globe about what they look for when they're considering throwing their support behind an emerging designer. First up, Brian Trunzo, co-owner of Carson Street Clothiers in New York.
Carson Street Clothiers opened its doors in March 2013, but co-founders Brian Trunzo and Matt Breen made short order of leaving an indelible mark on the downtown retail landscape. It wasn’t long after they began operating out of their spacious Crosby Street storefront that The New York Times’ Jon Caramanica called Carson Street “one of the city’s essential men’s stores” – not too shabby for two former lawyers with no previous buying experience.
But that newbie status may be one of the reasons why Carson Street has been an enthusiastic supporter of new and emerging labels and designers from its inception.
“We love growing with brands,” Trunzo says.“It's very important to showcase emerging designers. They are quite literally the future, and they drive interest and intrigue for that which is fresh and new. It's the ones who do not follow industry standard, the ones who ‘do them’ – those are the ones we find most interesting.”
With a brand roster that includes menswear mainstays like Missoni, Drakes and Mackintosh alongside newer names like Monsieur Lacenaire, Jason Scott and Orley, Carson Street places buys with brands whose internal structure runs the gamut from fully-staffed wholesale teams to designers doing it for themselves. But there are certain base-level elements from a business perspective that must be consistent across the board regardless of a brand’s size or notoriety.
“A lack of basic business acumen, both in production and finance, plagues design,” Trunzo says. “The scariest part of dealing with a new designer is taking the plunge to place an order only for the designer to fall upon tough times, become insolvent and not be able to deliver product on time.”
Someone who gained his confidence from the beginning? Ariel and Shimon Ovadia of Ovadia and Sons, one of the handful of brands sold at Carson Street from day one.
“From the very first day we sat with them, they had all of their samples produced on time to show, fabric swatch cards for alternate colors made up, delivery windows planned out,” remembered Trunzo. “They basically had all their ducks in a row. That speaks volumes to their operation, especially that early in the brand's history.”
And while designers who offer something completely new are appealing, Trunzo notes that the bottom line is often the bottom line.
“Most importantly, we want to make sure that the collections are sellable," he says. "Sure, a designer's vision and desire to break the mold is exciting and invigorating, but we need to move a certain amount of product for it to make sense to bring in a new brand. It's really a delicate balance between design and commerce.”
Still, when he lands on something new that checks all of those boxes, Trunzo isn’t hesitant to jump on it – even if it’s a designer’s first season.
“It's in our interest to find those who are flying under the radar, just getting started and trying to make waves by operating on another level,” he says.“We take pride in breaking new brands in New York.”
Carson Street Clothiers is located at 63 Crosby Street in New York.For more information on the store, visit carsonstreetclothiers.com.