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Welcome to Better Know a Store Owner, a Racked feature focusing on the people who run our favorite boutiques around the city.Photos by William Chan
For the uninitiated, VFiles is a confusing concept. It's a social media/ecommerce hybrid, where users can engage in a plethora of activities—from shopping labels like Hood by Air and Margiela to watching dozens of videos (some serious, some parody), to creating "files" much like a way cooler Pinterest. Additionally, the company opened a Mercer Street store a few years back that's attached to the editorial headquarters, adding yet another element to the equation.
We spoke with Store Director Zachary Ching (pictured above with Rox Brown), along with VFiles' Director of Communications Lauren Levinger to find out what the store's really all about, a special capsule collection coming for the holidays, and what's up with bucket hats.
Let's talk about the decision to open a store. How did that come about, and what made you pick this spot?
Zach: I had first heard about VFiles before there was a store, when it was just a social media site. A couple of my friends told me to come by their new office, so I went and I was like, "Wow, what you guys are doing is so cool and if you ever want to get into e-commerce, please give me a call. I think it would be the perfect next step." So a few months and many conversations later, I met with Julie Anne, the CEO, and gave her ideas about e-commerce and she said, "Well, we're right here on Mercer Street, so we could have a storefront as well."
That's great that you just went to them with an idea.
Zach: Yeah, it started with literally just painter's tape that was right where this wall was and a couple of curtains. We had sawhorse tables with some magazines and just started with that. Then we started bringing in a little bit of clothes, some accessories, and then it snowballed from there. And it's become a place where we are finding brand new designers and sitting them next to established designers. That's the feeling behind our store and our philosophy. It's a very democratic way of shopping.
Are there brands you know you're always going to be carrying, or are you constantly rotating?
Zach: Yeah, there are a few things that are exclusive to us that are our favorite brands in the store, like X-GIRL is one of them. It only existed in Japan for the past ten years and we re-launched it in the US. Same with Hood By Air, which was on a three-year hiatus. We helped them bring their business back. We did all the production for them and got them rolling again. We used the Hood By Air re-launch as the store opening party.
Lauren: Which is the one where the A$AP Rocky performance took place.
Zach: So it was a big deal for both of us. We've both grown a lot together. That's a brand that's very dear to our hearts. They're like family to us.
Lauren: I think our brand is something we're developing. Zach is developing it and it's definitely a staple that we're excited to grow.
Zach: We've done little collaborations with X-Large and we have T-shirts we put out every now and then just for fun. But for holiday, we're launching our first actual capsule collection as a preview to spring. We just hired a designer for that and we're really excited about launching that and going into wholesale.
Do you see the store as a separate entity from the site, or are they more complements of each other?
Zach: They both have the same philosophy. And everything about the user-generated aspect of the site is something we really implement in the buying. Whatever the kids want, we're listening to. We are those kids. We have no problem picking up a line off of Tumblr as well as buying Margiela. It's the same thing on the site. There's kids on Tumblr and then there's also Calvin Klein who uses the site. So it's kind of the same thing.
Lauren: A lot of the things we sell in store also appear in a lot of our original programming. So you see a lot of this stuff in a real world way, which is really fun.
What are your plans for fashion week? You're doing something similar to that this season, right?
Lauren: We executed a global digital search. So anyone could submit their collections and we chose based on our philosophy and what kind of designers we think we could really help. We're actually going with four designers who will be showing at New York Fashion Week.
Zach: All of the designers we chose we're super excited about. I think they'll do really well in our store and for our customer. They're all extremely different. There's some menswear, there's some street wear, there's some really classic sellable ready-to-wear. I think one of the interesting parts of this show is that directly after, you'll be able to buy some exclusive spring pieces right away. They'll be online and in store.
When a customer walks in who isn't really sure what VFiles is, how do you explain it to them?
Zach: Basically, the short answer is we're social media and e-commerce. You can take a look at the site and you'll see how they relate to each other. The things that we're selling in the store are things that people are talking about, and we're talking about and featuring in our videos. They really do work hand in hand with each other.
Lauren: It's really unique because we're just such a 360 view of fashion. You can participate with VFiles in every way. You can purchase something in the store or you can watch our original programming or you can come to an event that we do. There's so many touch points that we have, so we really like to engage with our customer in every way.
Do you see any potential second stores, or maybe other retail ventures?
Zach: We're expanding our New York store immediately, and we've opened pop-up stores in Tokyo last fall. We're doing a second one for Christmas. For London Fashion Week, we're opening a pop-up store over there with our sister store, Machine-A.
We'd love to open another store hopefully soon. I definitely think LA would be great or Paris. If we did ever open up another store in New York, I would see it as being the same as how this store is, where we'd have an editorial office there as well. It would basically be an extension. The way we look at our store is that it's an extension of our e-commerce. The editorial office and the store are exactly the same; we use it as our showroom, our meeting place. Customers can come in. It's really not like a typical store.
Do you have any favorite items in the store right now, or anything you're super excited about?
Zach: We're starting to get all of our fall lines in right now. And most recently we just got in the Bryanboy for Adrienne Landau collection.
Lauren: We're carrying the full line.
Zach: It's my favorite thing. All the fur camera straps and the baggy beanies. I love those. We also just started doing vintage which I'm really excited about. Vintage bags, shoes, jewelry, accessories, also some clothing. It's one of the most fun things to buy, and it's almost sad when something sells because it's gone. I'm happy it sold, but then it's not here anymore.
Are you going to be having the models from Model Files involved in your Fashion Week show?
Zach: Absolutely. Preston is casting it.
Okay, time for the lightening round. 1980s or 1990s?
A$AP Rocky or Kendrick Lamar?
Zach: A$AP Rocky.
Bucket hats—yay or nay?
Zach: Bucket hats are the new fedora. I can't take credit for that quote; I think my intern told me that. Everyone is wearing bucket hats right now. I think by the end of winter, people won't be into them anymore. But wear your bucket hats to death right now.
8am or 8pm?
Courtney Love, then or now?