Husband and wife Matthew and Katy Culmo own By George, one of Austin’s most successful apparel boutiques, which is celebrating its 29th anniversary. With its 4,000-square-foot contemporary flagship and a 2,000-square-foot addition focused on designers in the heart of downtown Austin at 524 North Lamar, the store’s two locations reflect the trendy beat of Austin. Its original space opened on the University of Texas campus nearly two decades ago but closed last year. Its latest door bowed in 2007 on Austin’s hip SoCo (that’s South Congress Avenue). But these days, By George is feeling like David fighting the Goliaths of new national stores moving into Texas’ capital city.
WWD: What was the style and the retail scene like when you opened in 1979? Katy Culmo: There weren’t many stores here. The Cadeau has been around for 50 years, and the big department store was Scarboroughs. We were on the college campus in the bottom floor of a high-rise dormitory. Austin was really earthy, crunchy, supercasual, a big music scene. I miss it.
WWD: How has Austin changed over time? Matthew Culmo: People have been drawn to Austin in the last 15 years, and with that comes the big developments and the major specialty chains. The number of luxury stores has increased, but the buying power here isn’t such that it can sustain all those stores. People come to Austin to be able to shop at cool specialty stores like ours, and now they go to the stores they go to in all the other cities — that’s the frustrating part.
WWD: What about Austin’s style has stayed the same — how would you describe the DNA of Austin’s style? K.C.: Birkenstocks, hippie, casual. M.C.: Austin is hip, it’s not urban. You can go to the nicest restaurants here casually. That’s why people have moved here — because it’s not the scene from Houston, Dallas or L.A. WWD: What brands do you carry? How has that changed over time? K.C.: I’ve had French Connection from Day One. Now it’s in the younger SoCo store. I bought my first house on the money I made on Esprit in the early Eighties. I’ve carried some version of Urban Outfitters from its very beginning; now I have Free People and Leaf Daughter. Our new SoCo store is very tourism-based, because that is one of the places on everybody’s radar. It has more denim and little independents like Ali Ro and Madison Marcus. It also has our diffusion lines — we carry Tracy Reese in our downtown flagship versus Plenty in SoCo. WWD: You’ve added designer space. Is there a real demand for designer-priced goods in Austin? M.C.: We thought that Austin was ready, and that was an evolution of part of our business. We still have 4,000 square feet dedicated to contemporary versus 2,000 to designer, but that part brings in a customer who otherwise had to go to Houston or Dallas. K.C.: But if people are going to spend that type of money in Austin, they want something with shelf life, so we’ve done better with Lanvin and Bottega Veneta than Chloé or Stella. In Austin, if they are going to spend $2,000 or $4,000 on something, they want to feel like it’s like furniture.
WWD: How has The Domain affected business? K.C.: We’re not doing as much business as we were a year and a half ago — we’re maybe off 10 percent. We’re overretailed in this economy. It’s becoming harder for the independents to compete with the majors. When a new development opens up, even your best customers are going to check it out — but they will come back to you. We’ve got our boxing gloves on for our market share. We created a By George charge card and quarterly style reward bucks and so far, it’s really working. When Neiman Marcus first opened it ran a campaign “Keep Austin Fabulous” as a take on “Keep Austin Weird,” and we ran a counter campaign: “Fabulously Local.”
Breaking News: @louisvuitton's men's artistic director @mrkimjones is leaving the French fashion house after nearly 7 years. Jones joined Louis Vuitton in 2011, following a three year tenure as creative director of British luxury goods brand Alfred Dunhill. Jones is to exit Louis Vuitton after showing his fall 2018 collection for the brand in Paris on Thursday. Read the full exclusive story on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
For men’s fall 2018, @giuseppezanotti drew on elements from streetwear, sport, biker, combat and rock ‘n’ roll. Pictured here are a pair of shoes from the collection, featuring zippers, rhinestones, and silver hardware. Head to WWD.com to see a roundup of the accessories from Milan’s men’s fall 2018 shows. #wwdfashion (📷: Andrea Delb)
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of @ralphlauren’s snowboarding collection, the brand is mining its archives. The iconic brand is reintroducing vintage styles and dropping new designs for a color capsule that will be available in Ralph Lauren stores and @openingceremony on January 25. The capsule will consist of 10 pieces, including the Snow Beach Pullover, pictured here, which is a collector’s item that rapper Raekwon wore in Wu-Tang Clan’s “Can It Be All So Simple” video. #wwdfashion (📷: Tom Gould)
For @rochasofficial’s pre-fall 2018 collection, creative director Alessandro Dell’Acqua channeled the sophisticated and intriguing Catherine Denevue in the film “Belle de Jour.” Polished collarless coats, midi skirts, suits and ’60s graphic motifs were all featured in the collection, adding a sense of discreet luxury. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion
“We tried to produce clothing of that couture quality, but the most daunting part was that we only had a matter of days [to do it],” said costume designer Lou Eyrich, who recreated Gianni Versace’s iconic looks for @americancrimestoryfx. Eyrich searched online retailers and vintage shops for original pieces from the design house and for @penelopecruzoficial, who plays Donatella Versace. Head to WWD.com to read how she created the Versace world. #wwdfashion
Only three months after her stellar debut catwalk season, @kaiagerber has inked her first big design collaboration –– with @karllagerfeld. The collection blends Lagerfeld’s Parisian chic aesthetic and the model’s signature West Coast casual style via RTW, accessories, footwear and more. The #KarlLagerfeldxKaia collection will launch in September with a series of events. Get all the details on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
Harrods plans to remove the famous statue of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed from the bottom of the Egyptian escalators and hand it back to Mohamed Al-Fayed. “We are very proud to have played our role in celebrating the lives of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed at Harrods and to have welcomed people from around the world to visit the memorial for the past 20 years,” said Michael Ward, Harrods managing director. “With the announcement of the new official memorial statue to Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace, we feel that the time is right to return this memorial to Mr. Al Fayed and for the public to be invited to pay their respects at the palace.” More on the news, with reporting by @loreleimarfil, at WWD.com. #wwdnews