Sarah Ashley and Erica Hanks

Erica Hanks has pivoted.

For the past decade, Hanks has been a successful stylist for professional male athletes as well as some female socialites and actresses. Among her clients are Carolina Panthers players Thomas Davis, Trai Turner, and Julius Peppers as well as NASCAR drivers Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson. She has also worked for Fox Sports to style its on-air talent.

Now, Hanks is taking that experience and creating Showroom, a fashion e-tailer for women seeking stylish clothes for work — whether that’s in an office or at home.

Hanks, who is based in Charlotte, N.C., made the decision to take the plunge into e-commerce last year after her female clients expressed how grateful they were that she could offer them entire outfits in one place, replacing the time-consuming process of visiting a variety of brands and locations. “They said I should start my own store,” she said.

So Hanks approached Sarah Ashley, whose background includes Neiman Marcus and McKenzie Claire, a Charlotte-based women’s contemporary store, whom she’d used as a source to find product for her female clients for years. “I asked her, ‘Are you happy? Maybe we can start something together,’” Hanks said.

Ashley agreed, and with funding from Hanks as well as an undisclosed outside investor, they created Showroom.

 

Showroom

A screen shot of the Showroom web page. 

“I had been styling for 10 years so it was time to do something new in the fashion space,” Hanks said. She said that while she’ll continue to work with a few male athletes, she’ll no longer style women and will direct them to Showroom instead.

The business, whose web address is shopshowroom.com, is scheduled to launch officially on Aug. 5. Quietly, it went live earlier this month and has already had success selling a couple of items including Valia Gabriel sandals for around $250, tops and caftans from Emerson Fry for $118 or $158, and Rachel Comey earnings for $235.

Following the official launch, the web site will sell a wide variety of established and emerging brands including Joseph, Sea, Mara Hoffman, Stine Goya, Rejina Pyo, Demylee, Equipment, Derek Lam, Loeffler Randall, Sprwmn and others. It will also offer bespoke styling services. Each brand will have its own profile page to introduce the designer and their collections to customers. There will also be trend editorial on the site, they said.

“Some of these are emerging brands so we’re intentionally editing the collection,” Ashley said. “It takes out the hard work for our customers.”

Showroom is also committed to diversity and sustainability and its brand mix reflects that. The company has committed to devote 15 percent of its virtual shelf space to minority-owned labels such as Black-owned Khiry jewelry and Korean Anna Quan, a contemporary designer. The company is working with the Black in Fashion Council.

“We hope to keep adding to this,” Hanks said. “I’m a Colombian-American so having diversity is important to me.”

The business will be promoted mainly on social media and will also be offered on Amazon Fashion and Garmentory. In addition, Hanks said they’re currently talking to other well-known e-tail companies in hopes of being added to their roster as well. “We’re looking to become a national digital player,” she said.

Hanks is also reaching out to other stylists around the country to tell them about Showroom and offer its services and products for them to use for their clients.

Showroom is intended to appeal to women with “high net worth who can’t find edgy, cool workwear,” she said. And even if they’re working from home these days, these women still need to look trend-right for Google Meets, Zoom conferences or in-person meetings. “My clients are still shopping,” Hanks said. “The business hasn’t slowed.”

There was never a thought to open a brick-and-mortar location, even before the coronavirus hit. “We knew e-tail was the way to go,” Ashley said. And although she said that the pandemic has caused some brands to delay their shipments, Showroom has the inventory in place to launch with a full roster.

“We’re super excited for Showroom to launch and to service women who work-on-the-go or work-from-everywhere,” Hanks said.

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