Nic + Zoe, a women’s brand rooted in the founder’s passion for art, travel, texture, patterns, colors and knits, has found another inspiration: retail.
The $50 million-plus Boston-based brand will open its first store on Sept. 24, a 1,500-square-foot unit in The Mall at Chestnut Hill, 10 minutes from the company’s headquarters and design studio. In the mall, Nic + Zoe will be near Eileen Fisher, Tiffany, Sephora and Cusp.
The brand is sold at Bloomingdale’s, Lord & Taylor, Hudson’s Bay, Neiman Marcus Direct, and in over 800 specialty stores in the U.S. But the presentations don’t always meet the expectations of Dorian Lightbown, who founded the brand in 2006 and named it after her two children, Nicholas and Zoe.
“We are trying to give the shopper a real experience, so they can feel where the inspiration comes,” Lightbown told WWD. “Some of our department store partners just come in and pick eight or nine pieces [per delivery] which doesn’t really give the flavor of what we are creating.”
While Nic + Zoe has a strong wholesale distribution, says chief executive officer Susie Mulder, “What we want to do now is create an environment that really shares our point of view and exposes women to what the Nic + Zoe lifestyle is all about.”
“We are certainly looking for more space,” Mulder said. “I’d like to see us rolling out as many as five more stores in the next few years. We want to be selective and ensure it complements our wholesale partners. We do think it’s important to have a presence nationally for our customers.”
Nic + Zoe has a pop up shop in Copley Plaza in Boston operating through December, where pillows and throws are being tested. The Chestnut Hill store, being designed by the Kramer Design Group, will further the test with additional products in home and accessories and with collaborations with jewelry designers. In addition, “We are starting to explore collaborations with artists to further explore the early tests we’ve done with home product, for example items related to textiles, prints or even potentially ceramics and other table top accessories. The brand is really at the beginning of its trajectory. There are a number of different categories we think we can explore. The store will give us a great opportunity,” though Mulder emphasized that the brand already provides a head-to-toe offering. “We are excited to further share that point of view in our own retail locations but it is more about building upon an existing foundation.”
For the new strategy, Kerrie McLellan, formerly the director of marketing and store operations for Swarovski, has been hired as vice president of retail. The hope is that the company-owned store encourages retail clients to rethink their Nic + Zoe presentations. Elements of the upcoming store, said Mulder, “will be very transferable.”
New shopping bags and packaging, also being designed by Kramer, will be created, injecting feminine elements into what’s been a black and white palate.
Signature colors like “phantom” (gray/black) and “pearl pink” as well as patterns, textures and soft neutrals are fundamentals of the brand. “We show a woman how to wear color,” Mulder said. For example, if the customer selects a cobalt blue tank top, a cardigan with a bit of the blue that ties back to a phantom-colored pant could be suggested.
The company is majority-owned by Boston entrepreneur Kent Spellman. Two private equity firm have minority positions. Mulder said there are no plans to sell the company or raise additional funds, and that the company is profitable. “The brand is currently experiencing very, very strong success in the wholesale channel and on our website,” he said. “That gives us the energy, enthusiasm and confidence to launch stores.”
Some bestsellers have been tank tops, tunics, layering looks, cardigans with fringe, knit twirl dresses and woven tops with signature prints and colors. Nic +Zoe sells at bridge opening price points.
“Dorian’s vision for color, patterns and textures comes from her travels, her art and photography. I became really intrigued by that,” said Robin Kramer, president of the firm bearing her name.
Among the features that will be in the store is a large visual merchandising space in the front, and printable fabric panels that line the perimeters. The panels will be changed out as the product on the selling floor changes.
“It becomes more of an installation, more of a reason for consumers to come more often,” Kramer explained. “This connection to the customer allows the company to tell their story of travel through an artistic lens. No one really knows the story of the brand.”