THE PARALLEL VIEW
A REP DISCUSSES STRATEGIES FOR BUILDING BUSINESS.
Byline: Deirdre Mendoza
LOS ANGELES — Glamour, luxury and even a bit of international intrigue.
It’s all likely to be found under one roof at the Parallel Lines showroom, where owner Liz Dolan has assembled diverse accessories from status names and newcomer designers.
Bettina Duncan, Isabella Fiore, Fahrenheit, M.J. Savitt, Chan Luu, Simon Sebbag, Lori Lori, Hal Ludacer, Johnny Farrah, Orly Baruch, Roxanne Assoulin and Frou by Paige Novick are among the key designers featured in the room.
Styles vary from ultrafeminine vintage-inspired beaded looks to utilitarian soft leather travel and shoulder bags with a contemporary feel. Prices range from about $18 to $350 for necklaces. Handbags run from $49 to $250; scarves and wraps, from $14 to $120.
Dolan described the accessories market as “booming” when she launched Parallel Lines back in 1985. She said belts and fashion jewelry in particular “were bigger than ever, and handbags were strong.”
Two years after graduating from the entrepreneur program at the University of Southern California’s business school, Dolan left a major accessories manufacturer to go out on her own. Dolan shared a showroom in the California Mart with sportswear designer Bonnie Strauss, and opened her doors with such collections as Jenny and the Boys, Alden Howard and Fahrenheit, the line that has been with her the longest.
Business tripled in the first year, according to Dolan, who then got key money to buy and renovate the space. In 1990, she moved to a 1,200-square-foot space on the fourth floor of the New Mart building, where business blossomed.
This year, Parallel Lines took another leap — this time to its current location on the 11th floor of the building, where it occupies a newly renovated 2,500-square-foot space designed by architect Ruben Ojeda.
He gave it a modern, clean and contemporary feeling that highlights the contents of the room. Interior designer Mary Lynn Turner was responsible for the streamlined furnishings.
Dolan said her strategy has been to develop a strong specialty store clientele and maintain those relationships by staying in close contact — via the phone and travel — with her accounts.
“My goal has always been to concentrate on what the stores are asking for. I’m on the phone three-quarters of the day, five days a week, asking buyers what they’re looking for. That information is what’s driving the marketplace.”
Dolan said she reads numerous magazines, shops the stores and is resigned to taking work home. She balances a full family life — she has two sons and is expecting her third child — with a work schedule that extends well beyond the doors of her showroom.
“I think the key is that you have to offer new collections as well as the core collections your accounts are familiar with, and you have to build what I call ‘sweat equity.’ It’s not just about 9-to-5.”
Dolan said road sales, backed up by promotional books and videos created by her designers, have allowed her to service accounts in the western half of the country.
She calls road appointments the blood line of the business, noting that once or twice a month, she or her staff travels to Arizona, Colorado, Nevada or Northern California.
“It’s being out there, and having contact with customers on a weekly to daily basis. That makes a difference,” said Dolan. Supporting that effort is an in-house public relations staff that provides information to retailers and the press about the showroom’s designers, as well as timely trend information.
Dolan said she plans to keep the focus on existing accounts while looking to promotion and trade shows to expand.
“We want to continue to make it easier for the buyer to see our merchandise through various types of trade shows, and through the color packages and tapes we send out. Another tier would be sending reps to places like Hawaii to meet with duty-free buyers, or to Texas, where we could work with accounts.”
For the moment, though, Dolan admits she has her hands full with the day-to-day, as the spring season draws near.
“I just want to give our designers the recognition they deserve and work with our great accounts,” Dolan summed up. “To me, that’s really more important than the financial reward.”