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August 21 2014

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Kirna Zabête Grows Up, and Out

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Kirna Zabete's new store

After fourteen years in their cozy, pink Greene Street store, Kirna Zabête‘s Beth Buccini and Sarah Easley have packed up shop and moved to 477 Broome Street. “We’ve always had the same mission, to sell the most important designers of today and tomorrow, and we just didn’t have space for all of them,” said Easley. “And we were 26 years old when we first moved into that space,” added Buccini. “We’ve grown up, and our tastes have evolved.”

But they haven’t grown up too much—and thank goodness for that. Since it first opened in 1999, Kirna Zabête—its name is derived from the owners’ nicknames—has been known not only for offering a diverse selection of established brands (like Balenciaga, Lanvin, Givenchy, and the like) and hot up-and-comers (Anthony Vaccarello and Wes Gordon among them) but also for its quirky, playful sensibility. This carries over to the new 10,000-square-foot space, which, designed by Steven Gambrel, is what Easley describes as “glamorous Dr. Seuss, but chic.” Having opened on June 20, the Broome Street boutique, which boasts Dorothy Draper-esque black-and-white floors and bright fuchsia pillars, just received its finishing touches (like the six 5-foot-tall chandeliers) this week. As shoppers walk in, they’re confronted with the proprietresses’ favorite bit—a wall of clever phrases, like “Always be yourself, unless you can be a unicorn, then always be a unicorn,” in neon lights. “When you are buying really expensive clothes, you should feel good about it. You should be having a great time,” said Buccini. “So we did our warm, wacky wall of neon lights—the phrases are just funny things that register with us.” Also on their wordy wall is a phonetic spelling of the store’s name. Apparently, after almost a decade and a half of dressing tastemakers worldwide, the pronunciation still gets butchered on a daily basis. “We’ve heard it all,” said Buccini with a laugh.

Needless to say, a lot has changed over the fourteen years the partners—both Virginia natives who’ve been best friends since college—opened their boutique. Soho, for one, has become what Buccini describes as a mall: “It’s great, because of all the foot traffic, but we were happy to go a block south. That seems fresher and cooler and more interesting,” she said. “We needed room to breathe,” added Easley. “We were getting a little claustrophobic up there with Chanel and Tiffany’s and Balenciaga.” The online world, too, has altered the nature of their business. “Online is growing—it’s not the future anymore, it’s the present,” offered Buccini. “But online is an extension of the actual store,” stressed Easley. “People like the fact that they’ve been here. They like remembering who helped them, and that they can picture where the clothes are coming from,” she explained, noting that they ship all e-tail purchases from Soho. “There’s a trust, or higher luxury factor there.”

The larger store has allowed the pair to add a host of new brands to their oeuvre, such as Dior, Swash London, Sara Battaglia, Nina Ricci, and Mary Katrantzou. “Once we add a designer, we want to stay with them forever. We carried one of Nicolas Ghesquière’s first collections,” recalled Buccini. “Now we really have room to show the designers,” said Easley. “I feel like we can make better decisions, and our clothes look better, richer. Everything just seems elevated.”

Speaking of elevation, one has to assume that business is going pretty well for the duo to have embarked on the expansion. “People are shopping again,” said Easley. “In the last couple of seasons, there’s been kind of a shift. You don’t feel like you can sneak by in recession chic with your same old thing and a new shade of lipstick. That’s not cutting it anymore,” she asserted. “And we like it when everything turns upside down. You need to open your mind, and your wallet, to stay current.” It’s just like the Coco Chanel quote states on their wall: “The best things in life are free; the second best are expensive.”

Photo: Courtesy of Kirna Zabete

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