The shutdown of Mix: Modern Clothes in Houston, the epitome of high-fashion specialty retailing in that city, was a family matter.
Owner Evelyn Gorman, who introduced Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Comme des Garçons, Junya Wantanabe, Lanvin and Rick Owens to the Houston market, said the closing last month was prompted by her husband John’s desire to live in Manhattan, where he plans to launch a company that develops technology for the liquefied gas industry.
“I thought about selling the business,” Gorman said. “But with the collections I carried you can’t just transfer those on to someone. You can’t say it’s a done deal that you’ll carry Balenciaga and Jil Sander. You have to go in and negotiate with them. Since we had the real estate as our investment, we decided to liquidate the inventory and sell the building.”
She described the latest phase of her life as “a new adventure.”
Gorman ruled out opening a store in Manhattan: “We began exploring that [idea] months ago, but it’s cost-prohibitive unless you’re a really big guy and the really big guys do it for branding reasons. I thought about forming a small consulting company. I’m still trying to script that out. I’m also very interested in photography and getting into the business with a gallery. There’s a part of me that really wants to stay in the fashion business and part of me that feels this may be a good time for change. It’s definitely a good time to be getting out of the retail business.”
She declined to discuss the store’s sales volume, but said, “There were times that we did over $1,000 a square foot. Truly, the last eight months of operation were extremely difficult. There’s been a definite shift in the amount of money people are spending and where they’re spending it. Indulging yourself with clothing that you may only wear for one season seems a little bit ostentatious.”
That’s especially true if the clothing costs $10,000 or more for an elaborate gown.
Gorman tried to soften the blow of higher prices on European labels by introducing more American designers. “The euro was worth 85 cents when I started,” she said. “Now it’s worth $1.50. In the luxury business we’ve seen a huge decline.”
This story first appeared in the January 8, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Mix started in 1999 in Gorman’s living room on Colquitt Street. The business quickly outgrew the space and in 2002 moved to a 2,800-square-foot storefront on Kirby Street, near the affluent River Oaks district. Slightly more than a year ago Mix expanded again, to a custom-built 4,500-square-foot home on chic Colquitt Street that cost $2 million.
The news that Mix was closing was like “a big dark cloud came over all [my] regular customers,” Gorman said. “There were a lot of tears and ‘Please don’t go. There’s no place else to shop.’ There are other places to shop. There’s Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. But it won’t be an experience like Mix.”