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.”
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
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Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
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The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye