Best friends and business partners Beth Buccini and Sarah Easley recently released their signature clothing line as part of The Shops at Target with their business namesake, Kirna Zabête (named after their college nicknames for each other). Beth kindly agreed to be interviewed about the process of designing her first clothing line for Target, her ultra successful business Kirna Zabête and life as a working wife and mother of four. Given Beth’s talents, passion, love and dedication to her career, only continued success can come her way!
Q&A with Beth Buccini, Co-Owner of Kirna Zabete:
What were some of your jobs before you started Kirna Zabête?
I moved to NYC when I was 21, right after I graduated from college, and started as an intern at the now defunct Mirabella Magazine. I was an unpaid intern for two weeks, then they fired someone and thirty minutes later, I had her job. It was truly such amazing training. Yes, there were plenty of ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ moments, but boy oh boy, did I learn so much.
After that, I went to New York Magazine as the Fashion Editor. My boss was the Creative Director at Vogue for 18 years, and had started Mirabella Magazine with Grace Mirabella as the Creative Director there as well. She left to go to New York Magazine as the Fashion Director and completely changed their fashion coverage. She went from having a staff of 40 – to me and a few interns. So luckily, at a young age, she gave me a lot of responsibility; basically she had no choice! I was so flattered that she brought me along with her. She is a legend in the business and was a terrific mentor. That was where I learned who bought what in New York and how they bought it…and I realized there was a void in the market.
Did you at any point consider another career outside of the fashion world?
I was an Art History and French Literature major at University of Virginia, but fashion was always the goal. However, I always say when I retire I want to work in museums. My mother was a docent at our local museum when I was growing up and I think I would really love that job.
After 11 years did you ever imagine Kirna Zabête becoming such a huge success?
14 years! When we signed our lease in SoHo, we were 26 years old and signed a 10-year personal guarantee. We were so naive, but it never occurred to us that we could fail. We were determined!
What are some of the most beneficial lessons you have learned as a business owner?
I had zero business experience when we started. My business partner, Sarah Easley is my best friend from UVA. She had all the retail experience. I always say when we opened that I knew who to buy and she knew how much. I didn’t even know Microsoft Excel! So, I’ve learned a ton about business and really love that side almost as much as I love the creative part.
Where do you find creative inspirations to keep your business fresh and current? Do your inspirations come from places you travel, artists you admire or other shops and lines?
Going to runway shows and buying appointments are amazing ways to be inspired. Even though the schedule is ruthless, (today, for instance I bought 9 collections) when you see wonderful things it is so exciting. I can be inspired by anything, though. You have to be looking at all times.
Who are some of your personal favorite fashion designers at the moment?
In NYC, Joseph Altuzarra is really a rising star. His last two shows have been phenomenal. Same with Prabal Gurung. And in London, I really love Peter Pilotto, Erdem and Christopher Kane.
I’m sure you have some fashion lines that you’ve always loved. What designers are classic to you?
I love Stella McCartney. She has four children too! We always say that Stella is what you want to wear on Tuesday morning. It is so real and you feel great in it. The less expensive Stella is Veronica Beard – two friends of mine who have built a very classic wardrobe around the jacket with zip-in and zip-out dickeys. T by Alexander Wang makes the best t-shirts. Lanvin ballet flats are a staple. I love Mother Jeans. Plus a Celine bag!
Knowing your busy schedule, can you give us a glimpse into your typical work week?
I typically travel to NYC for the day a few days a week. I will take a 7am train up and a 7pm train back. So I can wake the kids up right before I run out the door – and hopefully get a little snuggle in at night. Otherwise, I drop off and pick up at school and work while the kids are in school and after they go to bed. It doesn’t feel like work often though; I truly still love what I do so much. It only seems to be getting more interesting.
Early on, I knew I wanted a career but I knew I wanted it on my terms. So, luckily we worked 7 days a week physically in the store to build it up before we had husbands and children. Now we can be a little more flexible. Plus, with email and Skype, it is much easier than I expected to work remotely. But the thing is, I never turn it off. I work all the time. Good thing I’m passionate about what I do!
What are your top three fashion tips?
1) Tailor, tailor, tailor. Little tweaks so the clothes fit well are crucial.
2) Invest in a great bag or shoes first. You can wear old clothes with a new bag and feel up to date.
3) I don’t believe in trends, I believe in moods. Clothes are your armor against the world. Decide how you want to feel and pick clothes that make you feel that way.
ON THE TARGET COLLABORATION:
For someone who isn’t familiar with Kirna Zabête, how would you best describe your business and the line you’ve designed for Target?
My store sells very high-end designer merchandise. Target approached us for their ‘The Shops at Target’ program. The goal was to create an entire line of clothing, accessories and jewelry that brought the spirit of Kirna Zabête to the nearly 1800 Target stores in the US and target.com, ranging in price from $9.99 to $199.99. We loved how it turned out, so we are selling it in our store as well as online at kirnazabete.com.
When did Target approach Kirna Zabête about doing a fashion line?
Target reached out to us last summer. We had a pre-existing relationship with them, given both of our involvement with the CFDA incubator, which is a program created to mentor new designers. They reached out for a meeting. Sarah and I were both on vacation together and asked if we could Skype the meeting instead of coming into the city. They agreed. So, after they dropped this idea on us, we both laughed so hard and said, “wow, we certainly could have come into Manhattan if we knew this is what you wanted to discuss!”
How long did it take to complete the full line of clothing & accessories and how did the process work?
Target is a super well run machine. We worked on designs and mood boards through October. We presented them one morning in our store to a team of 40. They came back with their interpretation in November. We tweaked from there. Next thing you know, we have samples on a fit mode that we fix in February. And then an entire collection goes off to production. We were intimately involved in the entire process in order to make sure the spirit of Kirna Zabête was conveyed.
Did Target have a number in mind for how many pieces and styles they wanted you and Sarah to design?
Instead of focusing on a specific number, the goal was to create a well-rounded collection that represented our vision of how to bring downtown cool to America. We wanted to design everything a woman would need to update her fall wardrobe and we ended up making over 100 styles.
Did you and Sarah have similar visions for color scheme and styles?
We had very similar visions. For 14 years, we have bought every single thing in our store together. So, we have an unspoken language that freaks people out. Often, when we open our mouths, we say the exact same thing. We all have the same references, basically.
I imagine the Target line will take Kirna Zabête to a whole new level in terms of sales and interest in your business. After Target, will Kirna Zabête do other fashion or accessory lines?
We are really focused on building our e-commerce business. That is no longer just the future of shopping: it is the present. And we do have the next collaboration in the pipeline, but we cannot announce it quite yet. The most shocking thing about the Target collaboration is that we found our inner designer.
Additional coverage from Target on Kirna Zabête:
[Article] : Mixing it All Up with the Ladies of Kirna Zabête
ON INTERIOR DESIGN:
Has your fashion style over the years influenced your home decor?
Yes! I universally love print and color. This is quite apparent if you’ve ever seen my house! We have a lot of ikat, pink, burgundy, orange and red. I like warm, happy colors with cool tones in hallways and lots of print mixing.
What fabric, wallpaper and furniture lines do you gravitate towards?
Just like in my store, I like interesting and eclectic, unusual and unexpected. I don’t necessarily think the name matters. It has to speak to you. One of my favorite items in our house is the cheapest: a vintage Turkish chair from a warehouse sale. I just love it.
Who are some of your favorite interior designers and what do you like about their unique styles?
Steven Gambrel did our house and it was an absolute joy working with him! He really got me. We were laughing together the other day reminiscing about our first meeting. Because when we first got together (even though we both went to UVA, we didn’t know each other) he had recently finished my friend’s apartment and I loved it so much. He said, “well Beth, I know she used a lot of color, but we don’t have to go that wild.” And I said, “Steven, that wasn’t enough color for me!” That’s when we knew we had hit it off.
Do you have any advice on how to create the perfect master closet? Having enough space to display shoes and purses can be a challenge, as well as phasing seasonal clothes in and out!
Plenty of shelving, drawers and counter space. I have divided mine up into casual on one side and more designer on the other. Then, I know if it’s a mom day, I have one wardrobe and for a work day, I have another. I also have some rods that pull out so I can hang the next day’s outfit the night before.