“I opened the new Colette,” Nevena Borissova said of The Shop: Curve x Tom Dixon, her collaboration with the British furniture designer.
The 7,000-square-foot store at Platform at 8820 Washington Boulevard in Culver City, Calif., is Borissova’s largest unit and Dixon’s first location on the West Coast.
“I’m blurring the lines between fashion, the home and café,” she said. “This is the way to engage consumers in the brick-and-mortar experience. I feel like it’s just a big showroom.”
Borrisova is a retail survivor. From her first store at 154 North Robertson Boulevard in Los Angeles, she’s expanded her empire to include locations in Malibu, Calif.; Miami; San Francisco, Manhattan, and in Sag Harbor, N.Y.
“I feel so grown up,” she said, referring to the store. “I’m contributing to the industry, or at least, taking risks.”
Borrisova has always taken risks. She opened the Bond Street store at the height of the recession. “I thought sales would go up 20 percent in New York, but they went down 8 percent,” she said of the business at the time. “People aren’t that loyal anymore. At the end of the day, the economy is not good and we’re making less money.”
These days, Borrisova is battling the Zika virus at her store in Miami. “Zika is ruining everything,” she said. “People aren’t traveling. They’re a little freaked out. Last week, we got the second letter from the city, saying another pocket of Zika-infested mosquitos has been found — right in front of my store.”
However, even more concerning than Zika, Borrisova said, is the dearth of tourists. “The biggest problem is that the Brazilians don’t have the money that they did,” she said. “The Russians aren’t around and the Europeans don’t have any money. On top of all that, there’s no trends and the consumer is so confused.”
While the economy has bounced back to some extent, consumers haven’t shed the impulse, honed during the recession, to buy merchandise on sale. “The question is, how much should luxury cost?” Borrisova said. “Even the most ardent fashion customers know to wait six weeks until an item is marked down.”
All this has affected Curve’s business. “The average sale has dropped by $300,” Borrisova said. “They’re doing the same number of transactions, but I’ll make $1 million less. Even preorders have slowed down. Why would you pay 50 percent now, when maybe you’ll get it on sale later. A lot of people who are buying at full price are starting to feel like losers.”
Borrisova’s answer to flash sales sites, e-tailers and bloggers, has been partnerships. A collection for the Culver City store designed by Rodarte is a prime example. The see-now-buy-now collaboration featured exclusive items such as bomber jackets, priced at $1,600, which sold out within 48 hours.
“[Rodarte] produced $125,000 worth of merchandise at retail,” Borrisova said. “We’re going to chapter two with more velvet and launch it in between seasons, like in November. That way, we’ll be giving the customer a unique product at full price.”
While other retailers might have folded up their taffeta tents by now, Borrisova is still planning to grow. “I will do a bigger store in New York,” she said, but didn’t give a timeline. She also plans to further develop A.O.T.C., which stands for Ahead of the Curve. The line features a chunky cashmere turtleneck, $795; long robe shirt, $895; silk-cashmere deep-V sweater, $385, and long single-button pinstripe blazer, $550.