Weekend Boutique, a curated trunk show featuring handmade clothing and accessories, marked its second year anniversary in Silver Spring, Maryland recently. Founders Catherine Lowry, Elizabeth Perwin, and Dorie Hightower rented warehouse space in this affluent suburb of Washington, DC and handpicked collections to be included in their event.
They invited eight artists to appear in person to meet shoppers and offer their original designs in clothing, jewelry and handbags. Many of the products available for sale were one-of-a-kind, with rich handcrafted detail.
“We scouted out the artists we invited by going to different shows, such as the American Craft Council show in Baltimore,” says Dorie Hightower. “We also invited local designers. Keeping it local was less of an investment for each artist. They could also use their existing mailing lists to invite customers to attend this show.”
The trunk show founders originally looked for a range of prices to appeal to their customers. After each event is over, they meet to discuss what worked and what changes need to be made to improve the experience, and maximize sales.
“One thing we learned is that our signage needs to be totally professional, because our merchandise is high-end,” remarked Catherine Lowry.
Dorie Hightower has a background in marketing, and did the publicity work for the event. “What I’ve really learned is how many websites and blogs are out there are that I can approach,” she said, “I also sent a notice to the DC Fashion Chamber of Commerce and they put the event on their calendar. There is a lot you can do for little cost these days.”
The women plan to attend women’s business networking groups in the future to publicize their events and find interested shoppers to add to their mailing list.
Deb Soromenho is a jewelry artist who lives in Bethesda, Maryland. Her experience includes participating in a couple of popup galleries in DC, but this was her first trunk show. She feel that since this event took place in a warehouse space rather than a retail space, it became a destination for attendees.
She remarked, “Today has been really good. People come here to shop, and to buy. At a craft show, sometimes they just stroll, so you have a large number of people but not a lot of people will buy. These are serious shoppers.”
She indicated that she would definitely participate again, stating, “I’ve stopped doing so many regular craft shows because of the work involved and the risk involved. There isn’t the traffic and sales that there used to be. But the more focused ones like this are nice. It’s a whole different atmosphere. Shoppers are coming in for the purpose of buying.”
Claudia Diamante is a local handbag designer whose products are handcrafted for her in Argentina. She agreed with the consensus of the other designers.
“It’s been pretty successful. People are coming and know what they want,” she said. “If they like something, they’ll buy it. They appreciate local artists and good quality. They like to meet the designers. In my case, it’s a very unique line with one-of-a-kind pieces. It also supports a cause as I work with artisans in Argentina.”
Nicole Alfieri, a local DC clothing designer, is participating as well, selling her Pico Vela collection of handmade sweaters She admired the work of another exhibitor, Selma Karaca, who traveled from New York to participate, and tried on some of her clothing. “I love the shape, colors, and unusual one-of-a-kind work that you can find at events like this trunk show,” she said.
Selma Karaca’s schedule is busy this fall, a combination of craft shows and trunk shows where she is selling her clothing line. Although she has existing wholesale accounts, most of her sales are retail as each piece is unique and isn’t made in production. Selma says wholesale sales were amazing last season, but she is not looking for new accounts. She uses a technique that she invented to create clothing with strips sewn spirally, with no seams, that is flattering to most women. “It makes everybody look so good,” she says.
With a successful trunk show behind them, the founders of Weekend Boutique are considering having more frequent events in affluent areas around the Washington DC area. They have a lot of suggestions and details to review so that there next trunk show is better than ever.
Do you sell your work at trunk shows? What’s been your experience?