NEW YORK — Kirna Zabête now has a sole owner.
Sarah Easley, who launched the Manhattan fashion retailer with Beth Buccini in 1999, has sold her equity interest in the business to Buccini.
“What a fantastic adventure it has been to create such a lasting retail experience and brand as Kirna Zabête,” Easley said. “I am so proud of what we have accomplished. Now I am ready for new challenges.”
“Sarah has been my best friend since we were 17 years old and my business partner for the last 17 years,” Buccini said. “We’ve had a great run. We’re both ready for a new chapter, and I’m very excited about Kirna Zabête’s future.
“Kirna Zabête has been successful because we’ve remained true to our founding mission, which is to offer the best edit of the most important designers of today and tomorrow in a warm and welcoming environment,” Buccini added. “That will never change. The potential for the brand, both through future retail stores and our Web site, is significant.”
Buccini said she’s not ready to reveal anything with regard to stores yet.
Easley, who worked at Christian Dior in the wholesale division before starting Kirna Zabête, said she will “absolutely continue to work in the fashion industry. I’m just stepping away from Kirna Zabête,” she said. “I have always wanted to take the joy I get from styling clients in the store and scale it to a broader audience. There is so much creativity and even comedy in this process. I would love to share my decades of tips and tricks.
“As for working with brands, I’ll always love merchandising collections,” Easley added. “Also, I miss being a CFDA mentor. I plan to get more involved in the CFDA again and work with emerging designers. I will announce my specific projects in the near future.”
Kirna Zabête was an ambitious undertaking from the start. Buccini and Easley, who attended the University of Virginia together, hatched the idea for the store over a series of lunches at Burger Heaven. They mailed their 60-page business plan to potential investors and received 10 replies. At the time, Buccini declined to identify their backers, saying only, “It’s not our fathers.”
The name Kirna Zabête is a combination of their nicknames. Easley was dubbed Kirna “by a silly boyfriend in college,” and “Zabête is the nickname for Elizabeth in French,” Buccini said.
Kirna Zabête sells Fendi, Givenchy, Saint Laurent and Valentino alongside rising talents like Rosie Assoulin and Delpozo, with witty finds such as Charlotte Simone tail scarves thrown into the mix. In addition to apparel, handbags, jewelry, shoes and accessories, there is a selection of tech products, books and Mua Mua Anna Wintour dolls.
The original 5,000-square-foot Kirna Zabête store opened in 1999 on Greene Street with lavender floors, a cherry red staircase and yellow jewelry cases.
The retailer outgrew that location and in 2013 moved to a 10,000-square-foot space on Broome Street. Just prior to the opening, Buccini said sales in the new store, which is twice as large as the original Greene Street unit and with three to four times the selling space, would “easily double by the end of 2014.” Sales in subsequent years would rise between five- and eightfold, she predicted, adding that the original store did more than $1,000 in sales per square foot.
Buccini declined to discuss the store’s current performance or sales volume.
The Broome Street store’s black-and-white hardwood floors, fuchsia Corinthian columns and oversize black lacquer chandeliers set off the products without overpowering them. “We mix so many vendors and moods into one store — whimsy, glamour, femme fatale — we let the merchandise be the star of the show,” Buccini said.
Neon sayings on the store’s walls read, “Life is short, buy the shoes,” and “Always be yourself, unless you can be a unicorn. Then always be a unicorn.” The aphorisms are typical of Easley and Buccini, who’ve never taken themselves or fashion too seriously, thumbing their noses at conventions such as the all-black uniform for fashion folk by opting to sell bright colors, and highlighting witty faux furs by Shrimps.
The two women collaborated on projects beyond Kirna Zabête. Buccini and Easley in September 2012 were part of The Shops at Target, where store owners were tapped by the mass retailer to design products. “The most shocking thing about the Target collaboration is that we found our inner designer,” Buccini said at the time. Easley and Buccini also collaborated with Nine West.
Asked if they often disagreed on the virtues of collections, Buccini said, “We’ve been attending shows together since February 1999. Actually, we generally agreed on shows and what to buy. We have a fantastic buying team in place. If there was a disagreement, we love a healthy debate, so we’d banter back-and-forth until someone wins, or we vote.”