Introducing Dagny + Barstow, now a featured boutique on Snapette! Located at 264 Bowery, it is a one-stop-shop for international and up-coming designers that you can’t find anywhere else. Follow their boutique profile on Snapette to see what’s the latest available in store.
We sat down with owners Meredith Blank and Emily Titelman to gain insight into their unique boutique:
How did you meet?
Emily: We went to college at the University of Pennsylvania together and met there. We had a mutual friend that told us we had to meet each other and when we did we were like “Oh my god you’re Meredith” and “Oh my god you’re Emily”!
Meredith: My favorite story ever is that we both went to an all girls school and something bizarre happens to you when you go to an all girls school. I just remember when I met Emily for the first time, she and all her friends were dressed up in costumes just for fun, for no reason, and I was so excited.
Did you bond over your love for fashion at that point or did it grow over time?
Meredith: It grew later.
Emily: We studied abroad together our junior year in London and there our class schedule was a joke. We had so much free time to go to Selfridges once a week and the flea market.
Meredith: And Liberty!
Emily: And Topshop wasn’t in the U.S. yet, so we loaded up on that. We also bought some Stella McCartney from H&M in Prague or something crazy. I think it grew there and then we formulated the idea to open the store during that time.
Meredith: Yeah, but what I think also lead to it was that Philly had very limited shopping options at the time, and there’s even such a different since we left. Girls would show up to the formal dances in the same dresses that they bought at the same two boutiques, so I think we were really looking for something different.
How did you come up with the name Dagny + Barstow?
Emily: So many people ask us that. Dagny + Barstow are both literary references and we really liked the sound of them together.
Meredith: It’s really just more that we’re not girly girls and we didn’t want a girly girl name. And people often tell us that the name sounds like its been around for a long time, which we like.
Emily: Either that or it sounds like a bar of sorts.
Meredith: Sometimes people even say it sounds like a bunch of lawyers.
What’s the overall vibe you want people to get when they come into your store?
Meredith: We definitely want it to be inviting and comfortable. People who come in, even if it’s there first time, will frequently stay and hang out for a while which we absolutely love. We also want to get a beer and wine license eventually to add to the atmosphere.
Emily: And as far as clothing goes, in the same vein, we always strive to have something really unique and different but also to have our whole collection be wearable for any type of girl. Also, whether you want to wear head-to-toe print or want to throw in a printed scarf here and there, we want everyone to feel like they can find something here.
How would you describe the other’s style?
Emily: Well we both get accused of dressing like lesbians.
Meredith: I don’t know if you can print that but I’m like aggressive dork lesbian and Emily’s like butch lesbian.
Emily: Yeah I’m wearing Timberlands and a cardigan.
Meredith: And I always have a collar buttoned all the way up. Emily and I have the same idea in general about dressing- that you can never be head to toe designer. Like, you know, if you’re going to put on the most expensive thing in our store, you better also put it on with a vintage t-shirt and in that, way you can make it your own style.
Emily: Also something that you can definitely see in our store is that we’re both not afraid of prints at all and we are really drawn to patterns and different textures.
Meredith: Next season we have one designer whose doing all alien and Egyptian prints and we just die for that. We always have a bunch of Swash London and their prints are incredible. They have these really elaborate stories behind them which, for us, is fun to get to explain to the shopper.
Emily: But back to Meredith’s style- she is always brining in different textures which I love.
How would you describe each other in three words?
Meredith: My favorite word to describe Emily is rational. She’s an incredibly stable, rational person and me being kind of unstable and irrational at times… I really appreciate that quality in her.
Emily: I appreciate Meredith’s persistence and never giving up on anything. It is very inspiring to me.
Meredith: Basically, what that comes down to is that I’m bad cop and Emily’s good cop.
Emily: No! Not even in that but in stocking designers and never giving up on getting what’s best for the store.
Meredith: In general we are really good balances for each other in terms of the experience we brought to the project and our personalities. I think we got really lucky that a lot of our traits balance each other out. I mean, there were times when it was better that Emily handle the situation and also times when I was like “No we deserve more money for this!”
How do you choose which designers you want to carry in the store?
Emily: Well its tricky. Being in this location we knew going into it we had to have something different because of distribution reasons and also because we wanted to. But a lot of the big name designers or designers that you typically find at what now seems like every store in NYC just weren’t available for us to carry and we didn’t want to carry them.
Meredith: Yeah, it made us work harder to find stuff.
Emily: I think that one of the first things we always consider is where else the designer is carried and if we find a line that isn’t in the U.S. that we love, we will break our backs for it because that’s what sets us apart from other stores.
Meredith: We always look for a level of sophistication, but then to balance that, we love something with a sense of humor, which is nice when something doesn’t take itself so seriously. But, again, it’s about balance.
Emily: Yeah and for spring we are definitely brining in a few more contemporary price point lines that are also still great, really wearable and can’t be found at every other store.
Meredith: We’re also really excited to be picking up TBA because they have these great dresses that, again, are really sophisticated. but when you look closely you realize that the print is made up of pac-men. But that’s not immediately apparent, so things like that really work well for us.
I read on your website that you collaborate with ArtStar.com. How did that come about? Were you always interested in art?
Emily: When we were first coming up with the store and considering being in this neighborhood, we were immediately drawn to the art culture here and the growing gallery scene. This is an art destination I would say even more so than a shopping destination, especially south of Houston. So we thought it made sense and also we were so sick of seeing the same west elm print in all of our friends’ apartments. We both know that there is so much more out there that can also be really affordable for younger people who aren’t gallery hopping and spending eight grand on a piece of art.
Meredith: Yeah, for our age group it made so much sense just because a lot of people aren’t really ready to be investing yet just because we’re in rental apartments and it’s so much about the space you put it in. You don’t want to buy a piece of art unless you’re sure it’s going to be there fo a while. We really love the content that ArtStar.com has works really well for us because a lot of it has a fashion slant, but then also its just so nice to have in your current apartment at that time and its so affordable.
Emily: We’ve had a lot of success with eleven by fourteen prints that come framed. It’s so easy for people to walk in here and leave with it. It’s like that immediate gratification in your apartment in the same way that you can walk out with something that you want to wear out that night.
Meredith: And we do always work with a different artist and try to bring in different art objects. That’s definitely a part of the business that we are looking to expand right now as well. Because its been so successful, we want to build on that success.
Emily: And this space naturally lends itself to be a wonderful event space. On Thursday we are having a little art opening for an artist we met through a friend, whose work we are excited about. So we’re going to continue to try to do that stuff.
Meredith: And the people at ArtStar.com are so wonderful, we love working with them.
I know you have a lot of international and up-in-coming designers-where did your love for international designs come from?
Meredith: It was just out of necessity.
Emily: And there’s so much out there that people don’t bring into the U.S. because of shipping costs or their production isn’t quite ready to have a number of U.S. stores.
Meredith: Yeah we have a lot of designers that are like “Oh my god this is crazy we were just thinking that maybe we wanted to find a U.S. store”. We are particularly in love with everything coming out of Australia right now.
Emily: And a lot of British designers!
Meredith: There’s always more of a cerebral element to the British design that we find. Like what we were saying about Swash London, there are these really complex, elaborate stories that go along with it and customers love hearing about that. But then Sophie Hulme gives like a charm. There’s always just a little something more special. Like Mother of Pearl, which we’re picking up for the spring, the pieces are so special. Each one is like a work of art.
Since you have been working with a lot of international designers, have you picked up an international flair yourselves?
Meredith: Well if you’ve heard us try to speak to anyone…
Emily: I can definitely appreciate much more the way different cultures dress.
Meredith: I think we’ve always had a flair for it though!
When did you realize that your store had really gained a following?
Emily: Out of issues with getting permits to do construction in this space, we were forced to have a temporary pop-up location in Meatpacking. It’s been really fun to see that customers we met in Meatpacking come find us over here now and seek us out as a shopping destination. Also, it’s been really fun to watch our regular customer base just grow and grow and grow. We have so many awesome girls who have such a special and unique style who come in here on a regular basis to shop and that’s my favorite part.
Meredith: It’s just so gratifying when someone comes here and we can totally tell that they get it. Those are the people who always come back and I feel like we’re friendly with so many of them now. I feel like we have a strong customer base that understands what we are trying to do with the store.
Thoughts on Spring 2013 trends?
Meredith: We had a few bra tops last spring and only got a couple because obviously it’s a bit more of a risky piece and they were such an incredible hit. They were one of the first things in the store to go. This season a couple of our designers have done some really unbelievable floral, embroidered and striped ones so we are really excited to be getting those in. A bunch of designers are doing fruit.
Emily: Like Sophie Hulme the British designer who is so talented and creative – this past fall she did her own dinosaur lace where the dinosaur actually made up the lace and for spring she’s doing a pineapple lace with little brass pineapples on tops that are adorable. A local designer also has an awesome watermelon sweater.
Meredith: Also a lot of really graphic black and white prints, color blocking. Like Reece Hudson did her bondage bag in a black and white rubber which is a really fun piece.
If you could only wear one outfit for Spring 2013, what would it be?
Emily: I personal ordered a floral jumpsuit from Sophie Hulme that I think I could wear a thousand different ways. I could dress it up or make it really casual.
Meredith: I’m actually not very good at spring dressing because I like different textures and layering. I am so excited about this motorcycle jacket that I personal ordered for spring. It’s really oversized and it’s this beautiful graphic print. Also basically anything grey.
Emily: With pops of neon!
How do you think mobile will transform the way people shop?
Emily: It’s been amazing to see the recent response on all the different photo sharing apps. If we post something and people are really drawn to it, then they come in and buy the product. That’s sort of like instant translation into actual customers. And being able to click on something on your phone and purchase it right away…its amazing. It makes it so much easier for shoppers and for stores. I mean we both wanted to open a physical store because we feel like there’s something really sad about losing that element of trying something on and falling in love with it or playing around with it in the store that got lost in the increase in online shopping. So we still really appreciate that.
Meredith: It has to be a mix of both, though. Even for the most die-hard shoppers, mobile shopping is just such a part of everyday life now.
Emily: But with Snapette, it drives actual customers who are on their phones all the time who see that they’re close to a store to come in, that it actually drives foot traffic is a really wonderful thing.
Is that one of the things you like best about the Snapette app?
Meredith: Yeah, exactly what Emily said. Not just the people clicking and buying, but the app actually drives foot traffic into the store, which makes it really different from other apps.
How have you used the Snapette app to communicate to other shoppers?
Emily: I mean, it’s such a nice way to showcase new products and give a more general sense of what our store is about.
Meredith: Also, updating a website can be so clunky and we don’t have a blog right now, so it’s just such an easy way to keep people abreast of what is happening in the store.
Be sure to follow Dagny + Barstow on Snapette for what’s in stores now!