If you think fashion is frivolous in the time of the corona virus, you are probably not dependent on it to make a living. My friend, the founder of San Francisco's Hero Shop, Emily Holt, does it. She is a former Fashion The editor, who settled on the West Coast in 2016 after reporting on the New York fashion industry for years, and Hero Shop have been a bright spot in our city's fashion scene ever since. It's a jewel that houses an expertly curated selection of contemporary and luxury labels that you'll find more in Soho than in the streets of San Francisco. Fashion fans and buyers like me have found that their business is a bit of an oasis, and they like to treat themselves to the designer trunk shows and events that she regularly offers to deal with the style world, which is sometimes so far from the world Bay Area can feel world.
When I saw the news of the pandemic and its effects across the country, I realized that the fashion world would be one of the many industries that would suffer a monstrous blow. Economic uncertainty means that fewer people spend what they don't need and that this can obviously mean buying new clothes – especially from designers. For Emily, whose business is an experience in itself, the shutdown of her shop fronts – including a second location she opened in Marin last year – has changed her business in just two weeks as part of the California homeless mandate. Fortunately, creativity and innovation are branded into her brand, and given the uncertainty, she may be about to transform.
Her business – a place where stylish buyers can try designs by Brock Collection and Rosetta Getty, where Emily introduces her to new labels and selects goods for customers that she delivers door to door – was founded with a small but powerful mission. On her website, she explains: "The name Hero Shop refers to many things, especially the transformative nature of the things we love. The perfect birthday present can save someone's day. Or the right cuff bracelet can turn an ordinary person into Wonder Woman We all have the power to be heroic in different ways, just like Bowie said. "In times of crisis, heroism and kindness – big or small – are more important, and who should say that fashion doesn't have a place in it yet?
I phoned Emily last week to discuss what she's doing, turning around, how she can help small businesses, and how important fashion is right now. Because for people like us it doesn't just remain relevant – it is important.
You have to assume that your followers or people on your email list are people who like fashion and want to keep seeing them.
POPSUGAR: I read your play for Fashionand you said something that I thought was a perfect way of describing what you're dealing with. You said from messaging customers, "The world is going under, please stay safe. But wait, this cute new Ganni dress has arrived." This is exactly what it is about, this tension, this question: why is fashion still important or relevant? I wonder how do you bridge that gap?
Emily Holt: I don't know if you read Vanessa Friedman's piece in the style department yesterday. . . She talks about online shopping and whether it matters. And then Lynn Yaeger wrote a piece about getting dressed for Vogue.com and basically said, "If it makes you feel safe and normal, then you do it." So take out the excuse. I think the only way I could close this gap was to first say, "That's what's going on. Yes, the world is going under, we're just as scared as everyone else." You have to assume that your followers or people on your email list are people who like fashion and want to keep seeing them. And it says, "Just so you know we're going to get a lot more out there, not because we're deaf, but because things have to go on." And I feel very animated by our customers who really know that and the reaction some of them had and said, "Oh, I got this box and it was my day just to try this stuff on." Whether you buy something or not, at least we have it in front of us and it brought joy to your day and there was a certain connection to each other.
And we were contacted by customers who said, "How can I support you?" People who buy gift cards and people who are passionate about everything we tell (on IGS). People say, "I like to watch your stories because it gives me a break from …" Whatever it is – homeschooling, dealing with my husband, not taking a shower. I'm not trying to be insensitive, and I'm not necessarily saying that now is the time for some of the things that we have, but there are some things that you can enjoy now, and if it makes you happy, it is nice of what you do. And I think we have customers who understand that this is vital for us and that we are having big problems and maybe going away if we don't get support right now. And what it sounds like, people don't necessarily want us to go away, and they somehow understand the severity of what's going on.
PS: I think that's the important part. People who are able to help want to know how we can help, because when we wake up and all of this is over, we want our lives to return to normal. And that includes all of those things that we could currently consider luxury.
For a business and boutique experience like yours, where the ideas, your curation, getting people to see these things personally and getting designers into your stores are at the center of your activities, like you do on social networks and how has your digital strategy evolved over the past week?
EH: I wish I could do more. It's just about bringing the stuff online. I do all the social and all of our emails. I'm trying to make our stories more exciting, I really want it, but the reality is that I'm the only one who packs these orders into the store – and thank god there are orders to pack – but it takes several hours. . . and so I can't be quite so engaged.
PS: I think you also raised a good point that reality only keeps one business alive.
EH: I agree. I usually feel a lot more because I have some employees who can help with packing.
PS: Right. Total. How were your conversations with other people in the industry?
EH: Yes, I heard from Adam Lippes this morning, and it was just, "Think of you, send love." Or I sent Nikki Kule an email this morning because we only sold sweatshirts and striped tops (Kule) and birch sticks. So I emailed her and said, "Thank you for creating things that people not only want to wear, but that they will actually be spending money on at this uncertain time." I tried to maintain the kind of personal connections that I have. Many of our suppliers are – it's a bit split – some of them are very understanding and know that we are already selling new goods at a discount and know that we are in a cash flow crisis, so we try to make payments with us and broadcasts and the like to work. And then you occasionally get a provider that just seems so strict and strict and doesn't understand what's going on at all.
It is difficult to cope with. But other retailers were super helpful, and I've always relied on them anyway. But filling out this small business loan that got me in trouble all week because every single person I've ever come into contact with gave me this link and they said, "Just fill it out, just fill it out. " , just fill it out. "In the meantime, I've put together outfits. I don't know how to fill out loan applications. So I just looked at it and felt overwhelmed all week. And then (co-entrepreneurs), with whom I speak quite a bit, said she: "Oh, we just filled it out, did you do it?" And I said, "No, please do it." It's just a kind of exchange strategy and what we're going through. Someone who speaks your language like one Retail colleague, can help me fill out a loan application. Someone with an MBA might think he explains it to me, but I don't understand it.
Thank you for supporting us now, and if you can, please support us in four to six months. Then I think shit will hit the fan for any small business that makes it to the other side.
PS: What are the people you may be following or the bright spots from friends or the industry that you think will help you stay positive and creative?
EH: I mean, I have to be honest, I don't try to look on Instagram because I don't feel good at the best of times. What inspires me are the things that I experience directly. I am inspired or rather comforted by the customers I speak to personally, send or shop for, and their supportive words inspire me in terms of creativity. A walk on the beach and actually sitting here – I recently read my coffee table books with a cup of coffee. I have never done this and I never expected to ever read these coffee table books. I only buy them because they are pretty, and I actually opened them like six of them. And I said, "These books are fabulous. I'm so glad I have them." In the direct experiences I find creativity and find inspiration and hope.
PS: If you could tell your customers something or if you have a message about what we make of it. . . I don't know if you're still there, maybe it's too early, but do you have any, like –
EH: Yes, the first thing I would honestly say is "thank you". Because they stretch out and support us and I am so thankful for that. And I think the message is: Thank you for supporting us now, and please, if you can, support us in four to six months. Then I think shit will hit the fan for any small business that makes it to the other side. That's what i think And we are on sale. We have a 15 percent discount coupon code. I am very pleased with the customers who do not use it. I find that very generous and thoughtful. So you know that people think of you and they know how serious it is.
PS: Right. Mainly because you think of other people too, with the percentage you give back to charity (part of Hero Shop's revenue goes to SF-Marin Food Bank). I think that's a good point of view so your customers pay it forward.
EH: Yes, if you can. I agree.
Image source: Courtesy of Hero Shop