Throw your preconceived notions of Palm Beach out the window.
Beth Buccini did. The cofounder and owner of Kirna Zabête this week will unveil the retailer’s fourth unit, a 3,000-square-foot store, at The Royal Poinciana Plaza in Palm Beach.
Contrary to popular opinion, Palm Beach is not mainly populated by dowagers, dandies and society matrons. “Such a group of young families have moved to Palm Beach for the lifestyle,” Buccini said. “I’m amazed by all the gorgeous young people. I was out the other day, and thought, ‘Am I in Miami? Who are all these amazing people?’ The town gets younger and younger.”
One thing that hasn’t changed about Palm Beach is the wealth. The annual average passive income of residents in 2015 was $176,173, according to the U.S. Census.
“I open stores in places where I have a good understanding of the clientele and areas where the community is underserved,” said Buccini, who became aware of Palm Beach’s changes from visiting her parents and in-laws, who have homes there.
Buccini also plans to draw customers from areas outside Palm Beach, such as Jupiter and Palm Beach Gardens, which have grown. “My client base will be very similar to my other stores,” she said. “With any store, the people spending on the luxury market are in their 30s, 40s and 50s. Of course, we also have 70-year-olds. It’s multigenerational.”
The independent multi-brand specialty retailer has been engaged in a slow, but steady expansion, with the Palm Beach unit representing the third new store in 16 months, after units in East Hampton and Bryn Mawr, Pa., bowed in summer 2016, and last fall, respectively. Kirna Zabête in 2013 relocated from its original Greene Street store in Manhattan’s SoHo to a new 10,000-square-foot flagship double the size on Broome Street.
The Royal Poinciana Plaza appealed to Buccini for its architecture, among otherthings. Designed by John Volk in the Fifties to resemble the Palais Royal in Paris, “It’s finally back to its original glory,” she said, adding that 50 businesses will open between now and next February. Hermes and a branch of Manhattan art world watering hole Sant Ambroeus, have already bowed.
Kirna Zabête is planning a slew of events with designers and brands such as Johanna Oritz, Rosie Assoulin, Faraone Mennella and Amedeo, Angela Puttini jewelry and La Double J, Buccini said, adding, “We definitely have collaborations we’re working on.”
Luxury brands such as Balenciaga, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Givenchy, Gucci, Loewe and Valentino, among others, comprise the spine of the store’s offering. They’ll be featured along with more youthful collections such as Chloé, Adam Lippes, Calvin Klein, Proenza Schouler and Stella McCartney.
While Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus operate stores in the area, Buccini said she’s “bringing in lots of new designers people have never seen before. We’ve got all of our high-end designers that we typically do, and we’ll do beach stuff. We think very much about who the customer is, what their needs are.”
Some of the up-and-coming brands and designers in the Palm Beach store include Bordo de Nor, Monse, Racil, Sies Marjan, Hunting Season, Duro Olowu, Le Sirenuse, Of Rare Origin and Yvonne Leon.
Buccini buys collections with an eye toward the extraordinary, knowing that her clients aren’t tried-and-true types. “From 18 years of doing this, I know our buy is very different from the department store buy,” she said, adding she believes there are enough consumers in Palm Beach who will appreciate her approach.
“I think there’s enough of an edge in Palm Beach,” she said. “It’s not as staid as everybody thinks it is. There’s a lovely group of women who love fashion and want the latest Gucci dress. We’ll buy Dolce & Gabbana, Dior, Saint Laurent, Givenchy, and Loewe in a sophisticated, fun, colorful and playful way.
Asked whether she plans to open additional boutiques, Buccini said, “Potentially. I’m certainly not opposed to the idea. I’m certainly being heavily pursued for a few different locations. I want to get Palm Beach up and running and feel great about it first.”
The Palm Beach unit is the third Kirna Zabête location designed in collaboration with interior designer Steven Gambrel of SR Gambrel. “He did my house,” Buccini said. “With every store we’ve done, I’ve figured out what works and what doesn’t. Now we have a pattern. We really branded it out and have a repertoire that’s comfortable to me and we can tweak it out for each location.
“I did a blinking neon sign with the phonetic pronunciation of the store’s name,” Buccini said. In case anyone’s wondering, Kirna Zabête is a combination of the nicknames of cofounder Sarah Easley, who was dubbed Kirna “by a silly boyfriend in college,” and Zabête, the nickname for Elizabeth in French. Easley in January 2016 sold her stake in the business that the two women founded in 1999.
With six-foot chandeliers, custom pink vases from Capri and fresh flowers and custom de Gournay wallpaper in the shoe salon, the store projects a soignee vibe. Ready-to-wear is displayed at the front on mannequins and antique brass fixtures. An arched hallway leads to the fitting rooms, which are painted in Kirna Zabête’s signature shade of cherry red, the shoe salon, and beyond that, the beachwear area.
“I love dreaming these things up,” Buccini said. She’s also excited about the prospect of dressing clients who’re enthusiastic about fashion and grateful for the brands Kirna Zabête is introducing to the area.
“Palm Beach is now dressier than New York,” Buccini said. “There are more events and galas. Everybody’s so beautifully dressed and puts an effort into their appearance. New York is far more casual than ever. Maybe people only want to wear active clothing that fits their busy lifestyle. The New York customer doesn’t care as much about [fashion]. They’re busy, and, frankly, they’re jaded.”