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Sarah Hagman: We’ve all been hearing about the retail apocalypse. What do you think that bodes for local boutique owners?

Gretta Monahan (owner of Gretta Luxe): It’s a great time to be small because we can be nimble. I can move much quicker and I think personalized service has never ever, ever been more important. And I’m seeing our customers get more excited than ever. They understand why they go to Saks and they understand why they go to Neimans and why they love it, but there’s a very different connection to the small business community.

Jay, after you launched Brass, you decided to open up a space for the public to try on clothes. Are e-commerce businesses going to be opening more and more studios?

Jay Adams (co-founder of Brass Clothing): We would also love to be able to have a retail space in the future because our brand is so community-driven. The opportunities for people to come and meet face to face, interact with the product, interact with people from the brand that work there, that’s really important to us. And I think we’re going to see that really trend more that way in the next five years. Bonobos was one of the first direct-to-consumer, digitally native brands, and they showed that in order to scale and get yourself to $100 million a year in revenue, you have to be accessible. You’re going to have to be in multiple places. Retail is not dead. It’s just evolving. Go down to the Seaport and check out what’s going on down there.

Gretta Monahan, Gretta Luxe (left), Jay Adams, Brass Clothing (right)

Do you think that in the future you’re not going to go to a store just to shop, but that you’ll be there for more than one thing?

Gretta: Absolutely. One of the most recent events that Daniela [Corte] invited me to was a collaboration between she and Tiffany & Co. When my team looked at that, we were all wowed, because when was it ever in the time that I’ve been in business that a brand like Tiffany or Cartier would actually partner with a local, cherished brand that is born here in Boston? That cross-fertilization has to continue because here’s the thing: Even if you are Tiffany, you can only afford to have so many stores that are marketing vehicles on every best high-rent street in the world. So the point is, when Newbury Street empties out and stores like Daniela’s close and Tiffany is by itself, it’s no longer a fun experience to go to Newbury Street to see all for-rent signs.

Do you know how you’re going to be using consumer data in 2028?

Jay: That’s one of the major benefits in terms of starting online, having that direct access to your customer right away. We can pull data from all over. It’s a matter of how and what way do we want to use that data. It can be like, “Oh, we’re seeing a lot of women are super excited about the brand in Seattle. We’re going to do a pop-up in Seattle. We’re going to locate that pop-up in a neighborhood where we actually know a lot of our customers live.” But I still think that Stitch Fix and some of these personalization stylist services, as much as they say that they’re doing something personal, it’s really an algorithm. In the end there’s a real lack of authenticity.

Daniela Corte, designer

Daniela Corte (designer): I’m part of the Fashion Council. I went to New York and had a meeting with Lauren Santo Domingo about [Moda Operandi’s] virtual closet. What she was saying is, “We have all of the data from our customers of what they bought. Maybe a skirt that they bought three years ago would actually be perfectly paired with a new top from 2018.” So it’s kind of giving that advice, influencing your customer. It’s not only about shopping, it’s about making the woman’s wardrobe easier. That’s where I think there’s a big advantage of online, but you still need to touch it. I’m a textile snob, as I always say.

Project Runway had models of every shape and size this season. Do you see that becoming a wider trend?

Daniela: Look at what Sports Illustrated has done. I have gotten so many requests of: This is a plus-size model, she’s a size 12 and we’re shooting her half-naked basically, because the bikinis are small. You have to make them extra small for Sports Illustrated, but they’re plus models. And I think that’s the message they want to project. And for the first time they did like a whole spread of “OK, we have our regular standard model and then we have four, five plus-size models shot.” And that’s the whole idea of aging gracefully. I think, you know, women that take care of themselves in their 60s or 70s can be shot with their daughters.

Do you think that the public’s increasing desire to want to know where their clothes are coming from is going to affect other brands that haven’t been paying attention to that sort of thing?

Jay: It’s one of the most polluting industries in the world, and we need to wake up and change the way in which we shop, the way in which we produce things. And it’s really on the consumer to make sure that that happens and put the pressure on brands and say, “I’m interested in knowing where my stuff is made,” and you know, “why should I buy 100-percent recycled polyester?” Or, “why should I buy this over this?”

Gretta: I think, as of late, banning fur from a European luxury house, these are first-time happenings. Fashion Week is undergoing such an amazing change where a lot of the designers are saying, “We’re not going to create pollution. We’re not going to do shows anymore that have so much waste connected to them. We’re actually going to give you what you need digitally. You can watch the show stream. We’re going to do it within our company headquarters or in a small different creative way.”

Jay: Cotton takes up a huge amount of space to grow. Pesticides. There’s a lot of pollution with that, unsafe work conditions. We’re going to probably see more man-made fibers and synthetic fibers that are going to emerge that will still look, feel, act like all of these amazing natural fabrics, but hopefully it’ll be a lot less impactful on our environment.

Daniela: One of my best-sellers is my wax jeans and that’s a man-made fabric. It’s competing with the leather jeans that, you know—every woman in their wardrobe has a pair of really great leather jeans. Well, mine are a fraction of what the leather would be. You can buy four for the price of one, you can wash them in the washing machine, and it’s a man-made product. So it’s a win-win situation. And the fit is better. There’s a lot of that going on.


Shot on location at Convene Boston
Catering provided by Convene

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