Nothing to wear and dreading a trip to the mall? Don't bother. In fact, erase the mental route to previously favored shopping destinations and instead, stretch your fingers and get that plastic at the ready.
Smashing Darling is an emerging online community for the independent fashion world that operates as a marketplace, resource and collaboration area for emerging designers and fashion enthusiasts who think outside the mall. Launched in February, 2007, owners Trish Ginter and Julie Rorrer operate from a simple business model - they take 18% of each sale to keep the internet engines a humming, and in return, over 150 indie fashion designers and vintage shopkeepers have set up shop, enjoying the benefits of Smashing's services, including:
- Multiple Stores
Links to videos, fashion shows, video interviews
Invites and Subscribes to keep customers aware of new listings
And the thing is, even though the fashion itself is a rave - Smashing Darling has attracted designers who really do provide everything from that wear-anywhere vintage dress, to live-in comfy skivvies, to dramatic accessories, and gotta have it bags, it's their commitment to helping indie designers succeed and profit that is so inspiring.
Since fashion visionaires Trish and Julie are all the way in Connect-i-cut, and moving in/raiding closets/trading BFF necklaces is not an option at present, PR Couture caught the busy fashion bees for a little cross email adoration.
PR: Visibility and differentiation is a real challenge for any company, but especially for an independent fashion designer. How does setting up shop at Smashing Darling help with promotion?
SD: Any designer is limited to who they know and where they are located (for the most part). Then, someone says they need a website. So, they build a website, and who comes? The people they know and maybe a few others, but they are basically hanging out there alone doing everything themselves. By joining a community like Smashing Darling they are instantaneously seen by a much larger audience of buyers that already have a similar lifestyle. Designers get to "hang" with other designers in their same situation ... you bring your customers, they bring theirs, and everyone benefits. We strongly believe in the theory of the whole being greater than the sum of it's parts. If we all stick together as a whole and help each other we are much stronger.
PR: What strategies and tactics have you used to promote Smashing Darling and ramp up awareness? Which efforts have proven the most successful?
SD: In the beginning we tried both viral marketing and paid advertisements. We found that viral marketing works best for our situation. We recently started a couple of interesting campaigns, but our favorite is the sticker campaign. We love that anyone who gets one has met us personally, and people who get them love that we think they are Smashing!
PR: Smashing Darling is open to "any independent designer in the fashion industry." Among the indie community, there is often a bit of cross-fire over defining exactly what indie is. Do you think there enough of a consensus on the definition of indie among Smashing Darling users? Or do you have something in particular in mind?
SD: Smashing Darling is built for emerging artists in the fashion industry. Many of our designers are trained professionals who still consider themselves independent. If a designer from any major fashion house wanted to have fun on the side and do a funky line of one of a kinds and sell it on Smashing Darling. Great! It's a designer wanting to have freedom again in their designs. That's the independent spirit! To some people indie is craft, to some it's an art form. We aren't here to define what indie is for each person, it's different for everyone.
PR: What are some of the major challenges of operating a site like Smashing Darling? What skills in either of your backgrounds made you especially suited to develop Smashing Darling? What skills did you have to learn?
SD: First of all, what isn't challenging operating a site like this? We're laughing because there's not much Trish and I can't take. There are always challenges in owning any business, but we bounce back so quickly that we aren't effected much by them. We still can't believe how much fun we are allowed to have everyday, and still call it work! We are both designers and entrepreneurs, and have owned our own businesses. We know how incredibly hard it is to be out there all by yourself when trying to promote and market your product. Oh, and if it matters that one of us has been in the industry, we have that too! Trish has been in the fashion industry for over 30 years. She graduated from FIT, specialization in couture. She also studied knitwear for a semester at Trent Polytechnic in Nottingham England. She was the assistant designer for Christian Dior sleepwear and lingerie, and the head designer for Dior Junior, the children's sleepwear line. Currently, she has her own line of clothing on Smashing Darling called Mergirl. It's fabulous, go check it out!
PR: Why did you make the choice to allow designers to create and operate their own stores, rather than sell a variety of designers under the Smashing Darling brand?
SD: We wanted the designers to be able to have as much freedom as possible. We didn't want to have to pick and choose for them what we thought was going to sell. It's their line, why not give the control back to them. Plus, the way we set it up allows the customer and designer to connect again like they used to be able to do. We just wanted to give an honest face to indie shopping, and leave the rest up to the designer
PR: What advice do you have for independent designers, apart from selling on Smashing Darling of course, to get their designs noticed by media and potential retailers?
SD: Connect your dots. If you are on a site like Smashing Darling tell people about it. If you don't have commerce on your own site let your customers know where to buy your products by putting a link to those stores right on your site. Get them while they're hot. If given opportunities to let people buy what you make, use them! There are tons of other designers out there and if you don't use everything that is given to you, the other person will. Connect with your local community. Host an event, put on a fashion show, do something outrageous, throw a party for your new line ... anything that your local media will be excited to write about. Give them a reason to write about you, and then tell people about that exposure.
PR: In this day of social networking/profile exhaustion, what are the advantages or disadvantages for a designer having both a personal Web site store, and additional stores on sites like Smashing Darling? I've noticed some of your designers have stores with you, as well as Etsy - how do you feel about that?
SD: We think it's fantastic for people to be on our site and others. Why not? On our site it's free until they make a sale, so why wouldn't they start a store? If they can get exposure and different customers in two places, they should. It only helps them in the long run. Having a personal website can help show the personality of a person, where our site is more about shopping in a clean environment. Having both is a bonus!
PR: What is coming up next for Smashing Darling? How can PR Couture readers keep up to date on the latest designers and Smashing Darling news?
SD: Loads of new features are in the works for both the designers and the customers. Your readers can keep up to date with Smashing Darling by subscribing to their favorite designers to see all their new products the second they are loaded, sign up to the newsletter to hear what's going on, read the blog daily, check in on the homepage to see the new stores and featured designers, and if they have an occasion they should go help support our designers by buying something from one of them.
PR: And finally, what are your must-read fashion blogs?
SD: Of course our favorite is PR Couture, but a couple of the other top reads would be:
- FashionTribes (one of our earliest supporters)
- GenArt Pulse
- Fashion Indie
- Spork Fashion
- Miss Malaprop
- Refinery 29
Miranda Top, $128, 615 Project, available here
Edie Xui Gold Dress, $175, Papusza Couture, available here