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Welcome to Better Know a Store Owner, a weekly Racked feature focusing on the people who run our favorite boutiques around the city.Photos by William Chan
Pixie Market is everything you want in a Lower East Side boutique: clothes you haven't seen anywhere else merchandised with outfit-making shoes and accessories in an intimate but inviting room that feels like it could be your friend's studio apartment. And—bam—nearly everything rings in under $100.
Conceptualized by Gaelle Drevet and Magda Pietrobelli while on a trip to India, this happy little shop has been serving up on-trend pieces since 2006. By maintaining the attitude that fashion doesn't have to be snobby, Pixie Market has become a downtown mainstay for fashion pick-me-ups, and is now is taking e-commerce by storm.
We caught up with the infectiously energetic duo to hear about how they opened the shop in just seven days, what it's like to be a small boutique with a growing online presence, and how they stay competitive. After the jump, learn about all of the work that goes into finding the right pieces at just the right prices.
Tell me in your own words how Pixie Market came to be.
Magda Pietrobelli: When we met, I was living in London and she was flying back and forth from New York to London. While we were in London, we decided to take this trip to India for no reason. While we were there we decided, "You know what, let's open a store," and we quit our jobs. [Gaelle] was a TV producer and I was working for Rogan in European sales. I was also making my own shoes and selling them at Portobello Market and Shoreditch Market. We wanted to bring [the market] feel to New York. This was the end of 2006. Pretty quickly we decided then and there to give it a go and quit our jobs.
And where are you from?
Gaelle Drevet: I'm French.
MP: I'm from Cuba.
Why did you choose to open Pixie Market in the Lower East Side?
GD: The rent was cheap!
What made you want to open a store?
GD: We love fashion, number one. We also thought that fashion doesn't have to be snobby—it can be accessible. You can have the special piece, but stay within your budget.
How did you start sourcing such unique brands to carry?
MP: From London we actually knew a lot of small, independant labels. We still pride ourselves in finding the next small, under the radar label. Even if a collection is big from an established designer we try to edit it down to find those one or two special pieces. We travel to the international fashion weeks; I just got back from Copenhagen.
GD: And we spend hours and hours online looking!
What was it like opening a store?
GD: Really exhausting!
MP: I think it was seven days from signing the lease to opening the actual door. We opened at six o'clock because [Gaelle] was nervous to open. She kept finding reasons not to open yet, so I said, "Why don't you get us a coffee?" And when she came back there were customers inside!
When you picture your typical customer, who do you see?
MP: We don't have a single customer. What I think all of the girls who shop at our store have in common is that they love fashion in their own way, but they're kind of on a budget.
GD: They like to mix it up and they have confidence to style that more expensive piece with, say, a $5 earring.
What's your favorite item in the store?
Both: The daisy dress that just sold out in one hour online!
Are you both in the store every day?
GD: No, we're based out of our office in Chinatown, where we run the website. [Magda] is in the store more than I am.
What do you look for in your employees?
MP: You never want to lose that it is a fashion business. You want people who are creative and love what they do. We don't have a lot of turnover; a lot of our employees have been with us from the beginning. We are family.
GD: We definitely look for people who are passionate.
Is there a "holy grail" item that you'd love to stock but haven't been able to get?
Both: The Max Sandal!
MP: Back in 2008 we had this sandal—it's a lace up glatiator sandal, super edgy, beautiful sandal, very well priced, I think $80 retail, but leather—we sold like 100 pairs in thirty minutes.
GD: It was ridiculous.
MP: We've been looking for that sandal ever since. It was by a Japanese brand that isn't around anymore.
You have pieces that range from $40 to $400. What is your pricing strategy?
MP: Most of the website and the store is under $100. It doesn't mean we're going to shy away from $400 or $500. It's very easy to go to showrooms and find beautiful, expensive things. But we know that most people don't have that kind of wallet! The hard work that we try to do is find that leather suspender pant that's $1,200 for $99. This is the core of what we do.
GD: It's definitely a great experience when you go online and find that key, on-trend item for $80. That's what we really want to give.
Do you ever have trouble with vendors because you order such small quantities compared to bigger stores?
GD: At the beginning we definitely did. But now that we're more established and because we style it—they like the way we kind of edit and put it on the website—we don't have any problems.
MP: We're not their biggest clients.
GD: What can be annoying is when a bigger [store] gets the item earlier because they order a larger quantity.
MP: We also tend to find the pieces that not many [other stores] order.
GD: Yeah, so sometimes they cancel the order, like, "Oh that piece was just for press," but we really wanted it!
What advice to you have for someone who might want to open a store?
MP: Right now it's kind of a tough market. You have to specialize in something. Find your niche, but don't be novelty. How are you going to excite your customer and keep them excited? Keeping them excited is the hard part.
GD: Especially for fashion, snobbery has to be taken out, that is a must.
MP: We recommend for everyone to go online [with their business]. There is no ceiling online for what you can do.
Okay, it's time for the lightening round. Whoever answers first gets it on the record. Uptown or downtown?
'60s, '70s, or '80s?
Mustard or mayonaise?
GD: Mayo! Wait, I'm French, I should say mustard. Oh, but fries and mayo...
Mad Men or Game of Thrones?
MP: Game of Thrones.
Jay-Z or Kanye West?
Beach or mountains?