Marcia Patmos is a different-drummer kind of gal. Less than 18 months after opening her first store, on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, she had to shutter it in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet on the day we spoke, she found something to be positive about — her building finally had running water after a conflict between a pipe and a tree root had forced it off for several days.
Patmos, who launched her M.Patmos label in 2011, won the International Woolmark prize for women’s wear four years later. Before closing, the store accounted for 50 percent of her business. She attributes that number largely to a strong local community, which she wants to continue to serve during the coronavirus shutdown.
WWD: How are you feeling right now?
Marcia Patmos: This very minute? You know, I feel OK. Our whole building had no water for the past few days, and it was just turned on, so actually I’m happy about that. A tree root clogged the sewer pipe or something.
WWD: How are you feeling about other things?
M.P.: Businesswise, obviously it’s not great. It’s kind of scary. I’m trying to be positive and navigate it as best as possible. I forwarded you the last two e-mail newsletters we sent out. Everybody is stuck at home so, I’m trying to provide a sense of community and shout out to other organizations that could help or other neighboring businesses or other designers. On our Instagram feed we’re doing some messaging, and trying to come up with fun little things to keep people occupied or that are interactive, like showing our employees working-at-home set-ups, what everyone’s wearing to work at home, and projects they’re doing while they’re at home, things you never have a chance to do, like patch the pile of clothes you never patched or clean out your closet in a mindful way. Trying to like be positive, not negative.
On the backend, I obviously had to shut the store [before it was mandated], which just seemed like the right thing to do.
WWD: You have one store, right?
M.P.: I have one store. And then we are open online.
WWD: When did you open the store?
M.P.: I opened the store last year.
WWD: How many employees do you have?
WWD: Are they all still employed, and are you able to pay them?
M.P.: Two of them worked with me in the store, so they’re not working because the store has closed. I have every single web site tab open on my computer trying to get all these different things you can apply for. I don’t know what I can get yet. If there’s something I can get so that I can pay them because of loss of work, I will. My other two employees are behind-the-scenes people, production and sales and marketing. They’re working from home. I will be able to pay them, depending on how long this all goes on and how much assistance I can get. Because it’s tough right now. We also had some canceled orders.
WWD: Canceled orders for fall?
M.P.: For spring. Immediate, actually.
WWD: How much of spring hasn’t been delivered yet?
M.P.: Most of it. We’ve been waiting for most of it. And Peru shut down their entire country, so our T-shirts and our cotton sweaters aren’t leaving anytime soon. And then India is not doing great, either. So we’re trying to get a full update on our Indian shipment because it was supposed to be here already. I think they’re also in limbo as of right now.
WWD: Have you had a lot of fall cancellations?
M.P.: We did have fall orders. Well, we kind of did. We have a lot of outstanding notes where there was a back-and-forth going to confirm the order that then now has just disappeared.
WWD: Do you typically do resort, and what about now?
M.P.: I usually do. I honestly haven’t even thought about it.
WWD: You work closer to the season than most people. Most were already under way with resort.
M.P.: In the last several seasons, we’ve been working closer to the time, and also starting to do smaller capsules. We probably won’t do resort, but maybe we will. Because we have the ability to work pretty quickly with our suppliers.
WWD: What percentage of your business is done in your own store?
M.P.: I’m trying to think of the number. It’s a decent amount now. Maybe 50 percent.
WWD: What about wholesale accounts?
M.P.: Wholesale is something like 30.
WWD: So online is about 20 percent.
WWD: That’s a big store number, considering you’ve only had it for such a short time.
M.P.: I mean, it’s also because the wholesale has just dropped off so much. Like, drastically.
WWD: As a result of this?
M.P.: Different. Wholesale used to be somewhere about 80 percent and the rest of our sales were about 20. But wholesale has just been shrinking from season to season lately.
WWD: For how long?
M.P.: We’ve slowly been shrinking in the last couple of years, but then really drastically in the last year.
WWD: So you are very dependent on your store.
M.P.: Right. Extremely dependent on the store.
WWD: How do you feel now? Are you nervous, wistful about having had to close?
M.P.: Of course, I’m nervous, but I don’t really know what else to do right now.
At first I was playing it a little bit day-by-day. I started to have my employees work from home. Of course, before we closed, we had every cleaning solution and alcohol constantly in action at the shop and whatever. And even over that weekend, I almost shut before the weekend, but I was like, maybe I’ll stay open. But then I realized, this seems crazy. I was in communication with all the other business owners on my block and almost everyone had closed. And the ones that tried to stay open, it was surprising because when you walk around, nothing was open unless you’re a CVS. It didn’t seem like the right message or good for anyone’s health. We all know we’re supposed to be staying at home right now.
WWD: What kind of a lease do you have?
M.P.: I have a two-year lease.
WWD: You’re in the second year of a two-year lease?
M.P.: It actually ends in August. I’m waiting to find out what’s happening because the owner has the building for sale right now. That’s why he wanted a short lease.
WWD: So if the store continues, you might have to relocate it anyway.
M.P.: Possibly. I mean, hopefully I can stay there but I might have to relocate.
WWD: Are you worried that if these closures go on for very long you won’t be able to maintain the store?
M.P.: I’m trying to do all the research I can. I have every single government web site tab open on my laptop right now, trying to figure out all these different grants and loans and things to possibly apply for. But right now there’s not a lot, only one actual thing that’s applicable. Everything else is sort of pending.
WWD: Are you hopeful?
M.P.: I am hopeful.
WWD: What’s the source of your hopefulness?
M.P.: I know the amount of money I have coming in for spring orders once they ship. I don’t know how long this is all going to take but if you look at other countries, it’s starting to end now. So assuming we’re able to open up at some point. I’m not sure how long it’s going to take — a month or so? I don’t know if it will be business as usual…
WWD: I don’t think anybody thinks it will be business as usual.
M.P.: I don’t think it’s going to be business as usual. But where I am, I do have a supportive clientele. Who knows what’s going to happen? I’m trying to stay positive.