Woman standing holding a coffee cup looking at racks of clothes

How to start a fashion showroom

Apr 16, 2017

Interview with the founder of Archetype Showroom

Audrey Gringas is the founder of Archetype Showroom, which was created 8 years ago. She scours the world to find the latest brands that fit within the showroom’s aesthetic. Learn about her background and showroom below:

Walk me through your career path, and your role now.

I worked in retail at Benetton and Bloomingdales part-time from the age of 14 to 20. When I was in college, I worked part time at Diesel, which was such a cool and innovative line at the time. I majored in psychology with an art studio minor. The knowledge learned from my major and minor has greatly helped in my professional life. This includes, dealing with different personalities, managing & working with employees, and having a different perspective on how one should behave to create more successful business relationships.

Art and music are two of my passions. The best thing about fashion is that you have the ability to work within multiple fields. We have been able to participate in events and collaborations with musicians and artists. I love using my left and right brain and am thankful my field gives me this ability. I am able to think creatively while doing shoots for lookbooks or ad campaigns, designing my website, working with brands on inspiration for upcoming seasons, etc. On the business side, I deal with budgets, projections and wholesale numbers constantly.

Out of college, I worked for TheoryCynthia Rowley, a boutique showroom and a PR agency. I started Archetype showroom 8 years ago. I put everything into starting the showroom, and 6 months later the recession hit, but we survived. I have always had a global perspective on fashion and believe in representing brands from all different countries. This perspective wasn’t as prevalent when I started the showroom, so it brought a unique offering to the market.

How did you decide to start your own showroom?

Growing up, one probably doesn’t know what a showroom is, but I always felt that I wanted to have my own business. I had tried a couple of different sectors within the fashion industry: PR, wholesale, and marketing. I liked that I could start something that encompassed everything. I worked at a showroom for 2 years, and realized I wanted to do it in my own way with brands I am passionate about, using my vision of how to expose things to market and have a certain vibe in the showroom. My experience there gave me a springboard to know how to do it.

How did you choose the name? 

I love the word archetype (noun: the original pattern or model from which all things of the same kind are based; a model or first form; prototype or a collectively inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, image, etc., universally present in individual psyches.). I think the meaning perfectly describes what we are about: introducing cool brands from around the globe and bringing a new vision into the world of fashion.

How would you describe the personality of your showroom?

It’s cool, slightly edgy, but approachable. An interesting mix of different lines, but fit in a similar space. We market towards a more fashion savvy customer in the mid to high contemporary space.

Tell me about the process of designing your website. 

I know how to use Photoshop, so I created the pages that way. The entrance to the building is original Keith Haring before he became famous. I took a photo of this, and it’s the background of the site. I got to use my photography, Photoshop and Squarespace skills while creating the website. It’s important to me to stay updated in terms of technology since it’s ever changing. The logo is a custom font that I stretched.

How do you find new brands?

It depends; sometimes they are referred to us from other brands we work with or from word of mouth (ex. the Vogue article). It’s usually an organic process where people you know and trust introduce you. Showrooms have to be careful before starting to work with lines that can’t produce, deliver, pay commission or their bills. The showroom doesn’t get paid until all of this is complete.

What does market look like for you?

We start booking appointments early. Market week & fashion week are the busiest. We have 8-12 appointments a day, and could be working 12 hours days easily and all weekend. We don’t do US trade shows, but we go to Paris for market. Most of the money made for the year happens during the 4 market cycles, and that’s why they are so intense. The vendor delivers their collection and we merchandise it in order to show buyers our offering. We can only do so much, especially if a vendor didn’t produce a strong collection. Our role is to book as many of the right buyers and stores that we can and be knowledgeable about the product in order to sell it.

Outside of market, what does a day at Archetype Showroom look like?

We reach out to buyers to let them know our market dates. Design consultations, where we touch base with brands to help make their collections as sellable as possible without taking away their individual style, take place. We have photo shoots and follow up with stores to ensure the merchandise is selling well and see if swap orders (send back merchandise that isn’t working, and reorder styles that are performing) are needed.

How closely do you work with designers?

It’s one of the reasons I have a smaller amount of brands because we enjoy being hands on with them. They want our feedback and opinions, so it’s a nice symbiotic relationship. We have healthy and friendly relationships where we can have open and honest conversations while both working towards building the business.

What skills are necessary to start your own showroom? 

You have to be patient, a people person and organized. You must be able to use both the left and right sides of your brain, working with budgets and math, but also having a creative eye. One must be forward; you can’t be insecure or not have a strong opinion, because brands need you to have opinions. You need to project confidence when dealing with buyers, editors, or whoever is coming in to look at the collections.

I’ve learned to grow into space. Start small, and as you get better and become more successful, take over more space and hire more people. It’s an unstable market, so you don’t want to have a lot of overhead. You could have two amazing seasons in a row, and the next two may not be as good, but you still have your overhead that needs to be paid.

How often do you travel, and what do you do while there?

I travel 4-6 times a year. If I’m there for market, we are setting up appointments and showing brands in trade shows or showrooms.

What are your responsibilities as showroom founder? 

Paying the bills and making sure my employees are taught the correct way to do things, for example, how to input orders and merchandise the showroom. I ensure that everyone is on the same page and I keep the business afloat. It’s management of everything: insurance, taxes, payroll, rent, and all things that go into running a business. It’s a lot of responsibility! I also reach out to brands, am the face of the showroom and have meetings with potential new brands & key accounts.

What are the latest brands we should be aware of?

Freda Salvador is a shoe line that’s been resonating both with the celebrities and the market. It’s well priced; the product is made in Spain and is owned by two women. M.PATMOS is a knitwear line whose designer won the Woolmark award last year. MARIA BLACK is having a moment, with their modern designs that are delicate and pretty, but also have an edge that people respond to. Women are investing in beautiful pieces that speak to them. Finally, Won Hundred has a very cool rock & roll vibe to it with a modern Scandinavian twist.

Did you always know you wanted to work in fashion? 

I decided in the last year of college that fashion would be something that would allow me to take part in all the genres I love: music, art, etc.

What are the pros and cons of your job? 

Pro: I get to work with people I love. Being able to be creative in different ways, but also use analytical skills as well. I exercise the left and right side of my brain. Cons: how unstable the business can be. Fashion is affected by economies or anything that can trigger retail spending to drop. No matter how well you do your job, things can be out of your control.

What advice would you give someone interested in starting his or her own company? 

Do a lot of research, register the business in the right way and make sure everything is ready to go before you start. If you can, have a business advisor or accountant that helps you set up a business. Make sure you have the right relationships and contacts. What you create needs to be something you believe in because starting a business is difficult. You put a lot of work and effort into it, so you have to love what you’re doing. The first three years of having this business was blood, sweat and tears, and I had to make sacrifices. I loved every minute, and it was worth it to me.

What’s next for Archetype Showroom?

Our vision and who we are is resonating with our partners. The people we work with know we’ve edited the market down for them and they will probably like what they see. People respect us and our eye and what brands we choose to work with and show. Next, I am thinking about expanding the showroom to the European market to have a base of operations there as well.

Delia Folk

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