After a four-year run, Suite 1521, which hosted members-only trunk show events, is winding down its business.
The company was cofounded by Kim Kassel and Lizzie Tisch, longtime friends who set out to reinvigorate the personal shopping experience.
“We’re canceling all of our fall events and we are going to stay open through our shipping period, which will probably be March,” Kassel said on Tuesday. “We have fall and resort orders to ship. We will be fulfilling all of our commitments to our designers and fulfilling all of our orders to our clients.”
The company occupies a 4,000-square-foot showroom and offices at 980 Madison Avenue in New York.
Tisch said the partners couldn’t pinpoint a specific reason for the closing and there were many factors at play. “We had a real specific vision for the business, and it was all about the experience and we tried a number of different avenues. When we really sat down and started to think about how hard we’ve worked over the past four years and where this is going, we just came to the conclusion that after four years, that it would be the best decision for both of us and our team to close,” Tisch said. In addition to Tisch and Kassel, the company had four employees.
Kassel added that “it was not a financial issue.” She and Tisch had numerous discussions over the summer about what they wanted to accomplish, whether they should expand across the U.S. or go global (they brought their salon shopping experience to Dubai this spring), and how they should proceed with the model, which they continue to believe in.
Asked whether they thought about selling the company, Kassel said, “We thought about selling it several times, but the marriage has to be right. Partnerships have to be right. How many companies have we seen over the years make mistakes in terms of making decisions that ended up not being good for them? I’m super wary of creating something on your own and making wrong decisions or doing something that would be bad for the business,” she said.
Tisch explained that the business grew organically and came out of the idea of the way people used to shop, and that was the old-fashioned trunk show. Designers or their representatives brought their full collections to Suite 1521 for one- or two-day sessions, during the wholesale selling period. They met with clients and presented the entire collection. Orders were put into the season’s production, and clients received their merchandise in the first shipment. Initially customers were charged a $500 membership fee, but that eventually was phased out. Consumers still had to register to make an appointment to pre-order the clothes, which they paid for in full upfront. The company, which owned no inventory, hosted 54 events a year.
“We moved a lot of units,” said Kassel.
Suite 1521 gave designers direct exposure to an impressive client base. (The average sale hovered between $3,500 and $4,000 per customer.) The designers would not only reap sales but also receive direct feedback on what worked and what didn’t work on real women who paid retail and had certain requirements.
Among the more than 65 ready-to-wear and accessories designers that Suite 1521 did business with were Courreges, Adam Lippes, David Koma, Jason Wu, Giles Deacon, Jonathan Simkhai, Mary Katrantzou, Libertine, Mugler, Prabal Gurung, Preen, Rodarte and Roksanda. Accessories designers included Anya Hindmarch, Edie Parker and Jennifer Fisher.
Kassel didn’t feel the boom in online shopping influenced their decision to close. “I feel there is a new way of looking at the shopping experience where not everyone wants to make a click, and it is about touching and feeling and seeing,” she said.
Suite 1521 had about 500 members, whom will be notified at the end of the week. Kassel said she was in the process of calling the designers with whom the company worked to let them know about their decision.
Kassel said she and Tisch are proud of what they accomplished over the past four years. “We went through all different scenarios and came to the conclusion that this was the right time. Otherwise you end up on this treadmill, you say one more season, one more season. It’s been four years of your life. It is your life. When you have a start-up, we have a very small staff. It’s not that we weren’t committed to it. We couldn’t decide what it should become next,” Kassel said.