Swagger, for the most part, is an achievement clothing amplifies and finding clothing that catches eyes is painful: driving to the shopping district, finding parking space, searching and comparing boutiques. Argh! Be thankful that Street Swag makes one, two, three shopping a WWW, dot experience.
Joanne Portal, head buyer at Street Swag, understands Internet retailing and what customers want. â€œMany Internet retailers will sell every brand under the sun â€“ with Street Swag, weâ€™re able to showcase brands much better,â€ says Portal, adding Internet retailers can overexpose brands too fast causing a boom in short-term popularity with no long-term customer base. â€œWith Street Swag weâ€™re careful what we choose to bring on, and itâ€™s important for us to communicate to the brands that we are trying to grow with them,â€ says Portal.
Although Street Swagâ€™s parent company is Dr Jays, the two retailers are like night and day, sort of. â€œOur main site, DrJays.com, has core brands that are traditionally known as â€˜urbanâ€™ brands. Street Swag is targeting a totally different new customer,â€ says Portal.
â€œâ€¦because a young person sees a brand that comes out of left field on a popular blog, itâ€™s instantly cool. This is dangerousâ€¦â€
Format: Please explain the creation of Street Swag.
Joanne Portal: Not only did our parent company, DrJays.com, recognize brands such as Freshjive and Zoo York were doing very well, â€˜urbanâ€™ was also expanding and crossover brands such as DC were becoming a larger part of what our customer was interested in. Because of this we decided to look further into this market.
Format: Street Swag’s parent company, Dr. Jay’s, has several storefronts in New York and New Jersey. Will Street Swag expand its presence into Dr. Jay’s storefronts?
Portal: The brick and mortar stores and our online store are two separate entities, operations-wise. We have overlapping brands, but because DrJays.com sells nationally and internationally, itâ€™s easier to stick with our online formula alone. You never know what might happen down the line; the stores have been a staple in the urban and street fashion retail world since the `70s so thereâ€™s a lot to go with from there.
Format: What challenges does Street Swag, as an Internet retailer, face that storefront retailers do not encounter?
Portal: Itâ€™s hard to come up with negative challenges, because online retailers have been so instrumental in bringing unknown brands to the forefront and being an outlet for people who canâ€™t find certain brands.
With Street Swag, there are brands that may not be ready for the global exposure that being sold online gives, because Internet retail is associated with brands getting too much exposure too quickly and thereâ€™s a fear that the customer might become disinterested. With Street Swag weâ€™re careful what we choose to bring on, and itâ€™s important for us to communicate to the brands that we are trying to grow with them.
Format: The American economy is near recession and its dollar worth is less than several of the Westernized countries that America trades with. How will the economic slump have an effect your industry, the streetwear retail industry?
Portal: Even though our company is U.S.-based, our customers are global and so are numerous vendors. We sell internationally to continents such as Europe, Africa and Asia, and we keep an eye on emerging brands from those markets. When viewing the history of streetwear, niche businesses tend to grow during recession times; an example of that would be New York based company, Supreme.
Format: How is Street Swag different than Dr. Jays?
Portal: Our main site, DrJays.com, has core brands that are traditionally known as â€˜urbanâ€™ brands. Street Swag is targeting a totally different new customer. You will find progressive streetwear brands that do not focus on logo, but design and reference pop culture. Being based in New York influences the selection we sell, which is a mix of hip-hop influenced culture and the downtown hipster scene. Ultimately, our goal is to bring brands that expand the horizon of our current customer, as well as attract new ones.
Format: What characteristics does Street Swag look for in the brands it stocks?
Portal: We look for brands that tell a story. Whether itâ€™s a line thatâ€™s just T-shirts or also has cut and sew; itâ€™s more valuable when the product connects to a type of customer and doesnâ€™t seem like itâ€™s reaching for just anyone. Being able to sell the lifestyle theyâ€™re trying to connect to is important.
Format: The brew-ha-ha of streetwear companies flock to MAGIC Trade Show and alike, with hopes of attracting buyers like Street Swag loop and its peers. Given the surge in streetwear-centric trade show attendance, is it hard to establish relationships with brands while at a trade show?
Portal: With big shows like MAGIC and the girth of retailers wanting to book more streetwear brands, itâ€™s hard to let brands know what your store is about and what youâ€™re trying to accomplish with that brand. Street Swag buyers, however, are not only buyers â€“ weâ€™re customers in this market ourselves. That makes it easier for us to build with brands when they know the buyers are genuine.
Format: In comparison to male streetwear brands, the amounts of female streetwear brands are scarce. Including females in any market, especially streetwear, seems like a no-brainer. Why did it take the streetwear industry so long to acknowledge its female consumer?
Portal: Most of the designers in streetwear are men and the colorways are deeply intertwined with sneaker colorways, so imagining a girl would think of her â€˜going outâ€™ outfit, or any of her outfits, as a graphic tee and hi-tops, rather than a designer dress and shoes, was probably strange to many people. Truth is, the female streetwear market is in its infancy and itâ€™s a refreshing and creative alternative for many young women.
Format: As a retailer, what purchasing habits does Street Swag distinguish between its male and its female customers?
Portal: Men are definitely more brand driven then women in streetwear. Most men, especially in streetwear, will stay with a brand and grow with them. Just like in other markets, the ladies have no problem comparison shopping and mixing and matching with price point, designer and streetwear items.
Format: In the past 18 months, there is an increased presence of Internet retailers that sell streetwear. How is Street Swag different to its retail peers?
Portal: Street Swag arose from DrJays.com, which gave us a solid business and retail operations foundation. From that, we were able to focus on content and building a strong brand collection that reflects the aesthetic of the shop. Many Internet retailers will sell every brand under the sun â€“ with Street Swag, weâ€™re able to showcase brands much better. Being more selective ensures the higher quality and demand of our goods than other retailers.
Format: Several clothing brands are designing into their spring 2009 line, now. Generally, designers forecast trends with instinct and conversations with peers. As a retailer, how does Street Swag forecast consumer trends in streetwear?
Portal: Our barometer has always been what people are actually wearing on the street versus what is being pushed by stores and at trade shows. Luckily, our office is in downtown New York so itâ€™s not too hard to see whatâ€™s hot! We also trust in the personal style of the buyers and balance that with what is going on in the market now. That and our trusty office eight ball!
Format: The Internet blog makes awareness of street fashion vast, compared to the time when word of mouth or physically seeing the product, spread awareness. What are the pros and cons in street fashion being cataloged by third party blogs?
Portal: I think the con is that it can legitimize a brand too quickly, because a young person sees a brand that comes out of left field on a popular blog, itâ€™s instantly cool. This is dangerous, because it gives the idea that anyone can just start a T-shirt line and it will do well. Thereâ€™s a lot more to it than that. Blogs are a positive on multiple levels though â€“ theyâ€™re good for the retailer, the brand and the customer. They build a community where people have to go to find out the latest products and give opinions about them, no matter where they are located, and they help retailers and brands publicize their goods to the right customer.
More Info: http://www.streetswag.com
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