For owner Kris Kim, who stocks the site with her wardrobe favorites including 3.1 Phillip Lim, Alexander Wang and Staerk, La Garçonne is about a hand-crafted, personal experience. She designed the original website herself, and she oversees the irreverent editorial, including “Garçonne We Love,” where shoppers can currently explore Parisian actress Clémence Poésy’s look, highlighted by pieces from Heimstone, Ksubi and Mayle.
We sat down with Kim to talk about her grand plan for La Garçonne.
JC Report: What were you doing before La Garçonne?
Kris Kim: I’ve worked in the industry since the day I got out of school. I started my career at Dana Buchman working in the textile department, then moved on to working at Marie Claire in Korea as a “International Communications Coordinator,” which really meant doing a lot of translating from English into Korean and vice versa. However, this was the first important stepping stone into a career in public relations and marketing, where I started off working for Prada in Korea for five years. Upon moving back to New York, I did stints in PR for Katayone Adeli, Hogan and Hermès, and headed the operations for Y & Kei in New York.
JCR: How did you get the project off the ground?
KK: I took a break from the fashion industry for over a year, and got my personal life in order. After having my child, I decided that I was ready for a new project, and I finally had the courage to take that plunge. I’ve always had the ideas—now it was time to make it happen. While pregnant and not as mobile, I shopped online constantly getting ready for the baby’s arrival. During that time, I realized how very little there was on the web for fashion. And I also didn’t understand why an online store could not be as beautiful and pleasant to shop in as a brick-and-mortar store. One of my favorite things to do is to visit my favorite stores and discover new ones—walking through some of them is such a therapeutic, happy experience. Why not bring this same aesthetic to cyberspace?
I didn’t understand why all the existing online stores were so busy-looking and chaotic, to say the least. For me, this was not the shopping experience I wanted—and so was born La Garçonne, which was designed and merchandised to look exactly like what I was looking for on the web—for all the girls like myself—loving fashion and taking it very seriously. With this idea in mind, and with my new born baby in tow, I personally designed the site—every big and small web design house I talked to was only willing to turn out a generic site, and the fees were too much. And with a $25,000 buying budget, I called around to designers and convinced them to sell to me.
JCR: How has the internet changed trends and the way the fashion-obsessed interpret them?
KK: Call it the Information Age, the YouTube Era, we live in a time when fashion trends and ideas spread so much faster and die just as quickly. Because of this, I think there is tendency for those who truly love/respect/obsess over fashion to stay with looks that are classically-inspired with a dose of the current trends. Designers such as Alexander Wang and 3.1 Phillip Lim do this so well.
JCR: What distinguishes La Garçonne from other e-commerce sites?
KK: I believe the look of the site strikes a cord with people. We live in an age where there is too much of everything, everywhere. We narrow things down and present them in a way that is clean, simple and beautiful. And a good merchandise mix helps. We don’t sell anything that we wouldn’t want to wear ourselves.
JCR: Do you ever want a brick-and-mortar version of La Garçonne?
KK: Absolutely, all the time. We consider this the next step for La Garçonne. However, we want to do it right, in the right place, at the right time. It is so difficult to do both very well—keeping our philosophy and store images intact in both places is a challenge and winging it is not an option.
JCR: How do people shop today?
KK: With the economy where it is, I think consumers are looking to shop for what they truly love (even if they spend a little more), rather than shopping for the sake of shopping. Based on what we have found in our own business, consumers are not as brand obsessed as they were, say, a decade ago.
JCR: Fashion brands and boutiques have been beefing up on in-house editorial as of late. Do you think your editorial helps to sell the product and enhance La Garçonne as a brand?
KK: Yes, our in-house editorials are crucial because this has direct correlation to the branding. The look of La Garçonne is quite specific and is always inspired by a single main concept—a “garçonne” way of dressing and living. The girl, the makeup, the clothes and the setting in our editorials consistently play a big part in telling this story. Also, from a selling standpoint, when you place the products in a certain lifestyle setting, it makes more sense for customers—especially when they cannot have an up-close experience.
JCR: What pieces are you excited about as warm weather comes to Connecticut?
KK: I think simple-chic is the word. We’ve been excited about the oversized tees and bottoms, accessorized with big gauzy summer scarves and gladiator sandals.
This interview was conducted by Jessica Arthur.