Published October 12, 2011
When you walk into a store—whether it’s Saks or Target—your personal taste leads you to what you like and what you don’t.
But before fashionable items meet your eye and your style choices kick in, stylists and designers and store buyers have already seen these clothes and decided what the latest trends and new colors would be this season. So, while you can make your selections, somehow they might not be as independently chosen as we’d like to think. Someone else’s taste is ultimately dictating yours.
Unless of course, you’re on the latest cusp of fashion---and know the new and edgy designers that no one else knows about.
Erica Cerulo and Claire Mazur are betting you want to be one of those people -- one of those in the know.
Last November they started Of A Kind, a website that promotes emerging fashion designers by writing stories about them and, at the same, selling one of a kind pieces of their work.
“It’s really tough for talented designers to get their names, products, and stories out there, and it’s equally challenging for interested consumers to learn about and buy pieces by up-and-coming designer who are creating immensely cool stuff,” explained Cerulo.
Cerulo, who worked at big-name magazines like Details and Lucky before starting her own company, says she saw a disconnect between writing about promising new designers and making money from ad pages.
“I was at Conde Nast when a lot of magazines folded,” she said. “I saw us struggling with ad pages and also realized when we would write an editorial about certain pieces or designers they’d get a lot of press. But the magazine didn’t get anything for it.”
So, along with college friend Claire Mazur, they began writing about the next cool thing--and then selling the next cool thing on their site, with a portion of the profits going to Of A Kind.
So far, designers and customers alike seem to be excited.
“We had a customer who saw a piece of jewelry by Erica Weiner on Of a Kind,” said Cerulo. “She said she thought it was a little bit out of her price range. But she read the story [about Weiner] and realized they went to the same junk barn in Maine--and was compelled to buy it,” she said.
Sandy Corsillo, one of the designers behind The Hill-Side, agrees that their in-depth background on each designer is a winning model.
“I think what Of A Kind is doing highlights a reaction to chain stores, where it’s just sort of nameless and you don’t know what you’re buying,” he said. “I think consumers are yearning to see where things come from.”
Six Shooter Q&A with the Of A Kind Co-Founders
1. What is your favorite quote and why?
Cerulo: “Be yourself.”--my Dad. Trying to be anything else is a sham, and you’ll be less effective for it.
2. What is the best and worst thing about building a startup?
Cerulo: Best thing: Being able to execute your vision. Worst thing: This is more “hardest” than “worst,” but: Letting certain things go and accepting that everything won’t be executed 100% perfectly—and that’s ok.
Mazur: The best part is executing your own vision and learning and owning every part of the process. The worst part is never being able to do everything you want to do--realizing the limitations of your bandwidth.
3. What’s harder: Living up to your own expectations or living up to those others have for you?
Cerulo: Living up to my own, if only because I try not to spend too much time thinking about what others expect of me.
Mazur: Living up to your own!
4. Why will Of A Kind succeed?
Cerulo: Of a Kind will succeed because it’s a genuinely unique model that empowers both designers and consumers.
Mazur: We're responding to a real need from the designers that we work with and the customers we serve.
5. Why will you succeed?
Mazur: Because we won't give up until we do.
Cerulo: Claire and I will succeed because we have a really strong vision for what this business should be and also have the sort of partnership that will allow us to execute that vision to its fullest potential.
6. Who is your biggest source of inspiration?
Mazur: My mother. She's a scientist. She's seen really impressive professional success in a male-dominated industry, but never stops to think about why it's male-dominated or what that means for her--she just moves forward and goes after what she wants. I think she's aware that in a lot of cases her gender is only as much of an issue as she makes it.
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