Sunday, April 13, 2008

Bowzntuff Interviews - Inside the mind of a Boutique Buyer!

Sydney in sugar*sweet*boutique

I first met Michelle when she featured me on her blog the Boutique Buyers Blog. Michelle's fantastic blog helps keep the boutique community in the loop as far as launches go and she always has something interesting to post, whether it be one of her fav finds or a list of the top $$$ sellers. And one of the BEST things about Michelle's blog is that is always friendly and upbeat. I asked Michelle to be interviewed on the Bownznstuff Blog to find out more about her great blog but also to give Boutique sellers an insight into the mind of an experienced Boutique Buyer.

1. Hi Michelle, can you remember when you first discovered eBay boutique? I first discovered eBay boutique when I was shopping around for unique clothing for my daughter, Sydney. She was 6 months
old at the time, and she is now 5, so I have been buying customs for 4 1/2 years now!

2. Do you remember how you stumbled across it? I stumbled across it when I was looking under children's clothing, and I saw the custom/handmade section, and I thought it sounded interesting, so I decided to take a look.

3. What age ranges do you buy for? I mostly buy for Sydney, who is now 5, but I occasionally buy for my sons. Trevor is 2 and Mason is 2 months.

Sydney in Nanas_Trunk_Boutique

4. What kind of sets do you look for for each of your children? Eg – twirl skirt, lounge sets, lots of frills and ruffles. I have seen my style change a lot over the years. When Sydney was small I would buy the pretty dresses and skirt sets. I also loved to get her applique overall sets, because her face would light up when she saw her favorite characters. Now I see myself buying more practical sets. I do still buy twirl skirt sets, I love the drop waist double layer twirl skirts. I love sets that come with maybe a halter or shirred back top for dressy occasions, but that also come with an appliquéd tank or tee for everyday wear. I love lounge sets, because you can wear those anywhere and still feel unique. I love capri pant sets, with a flare to the leg. I love Palazzo pants, because it looks like a longer tiered skirt. I love all the knit designs that have been coming out. We are big fans of knit here! I'm not big in to ruffles and frills. I'm not as big in to character sets anymore, but still buy those occasionally, especially when planning a trip.
Sydney in Vintage.Chic.Boutique

5. Do you have any favourite fabrics or favourite styles at the moment? I am in awe of Sandi Henderson's new line. Love it! I am a big Amy Butler fan. I love the colors and style of many Euro fabrics. I think right at this moment Euro fabrics are my biggest obsession!

6. What kinds of sets will you be on the lookout for as we move into summer? We are almost done with Summer shopping, LOL! Skirt sets are big with us. A few dresses, but not too many. My favorite dresses are just halter style sundresses that aren't frilly. We pair those with jeans or footless tights underneath in the Spring. I see more designers trying out shorts sets, and those work for us, but I must have them in Bermuda length! Capri sets are great, but not too much denim, I like the fabric capris. And again, we love the knit sets...jumper dresses with leggings, hoodie dresses, etc.

Sydney in fresh_and_vintage

7. What would you say your top priorities are when buying a boutique set?
Well, the first thing I notice when looking at a set is the fabric. If cheap fabric is used, I for sure won't buy. Quality fabric is very important! Next, I look at wearability. If I can't imagine Sydney wearing a set more then twice, I will usually pass it up, unless it is for a special occasion. I don't really think about originality, because I think most customs are original in the fact that I can't go in to a store and buy anything like it. I am not too big in to the "Wow Factor". I know a lot of buyers are, and it takes a very
talented designer to make "Wow Factor" material, but Oregon is not a fashion capitol, and we would probably get looked at like we are crazy if we wore things that flashy all the time. I do buy sets that take my breath away when I see them, and I guess that is "Wow Factor" too, but those sets usually only get worn once or twice.

8. Do you buy holiday themed sets? Yes we do, and we love them!

9. When you buy a boutique set – how long do you feel is a reasonable shipping time?
Good question, Cree. I have seen this change a lot over the years! It used to be 2 weeks when I first started buying. Now I am seeing the norm as 4-6 weeks. I personally feel 6 weeks is way too long. If you listed a set at the beginning of a Season, lets say for example, June for a Summer set, then you are mid-July to get the set, and the Season is half way over. I would say 2-4 weeks is reasonable, and that also depends on how detailed the set is.
Sydney in Sweet_Feet_Boutique
10. Do you expect free gifts in your set? No, I do not. I only expect what is in the auction. Free gifts are great if you want to give them, and my daughter loves them, but it doesn't make me go back to that seller and buy any more then I would from a seller who doesn't give free gifts.

11. Is pretty packaging important to you? I love pretty packaging. It makes me feel like I am opening a present. I also think it is a good first impression. Your buyer is already happy when they see a nicely packed set, and when they open it they are probably more likely to be happy with the set itself. It is not required to do pretty packaging, but I don't want something that is just shoved in a box and is wrinkled when it gets to me. Not a good way to start things! Remember, buyers are paying a lot for these sets, and I do think packaging makes the set that much more special.

Trevor in Little*Red*Wagon

12. From a buyer's perspective how important are design groups to you. Do you for example search by group? If you came across a designer for the first time, would you be more likely to buy from them if they were from a certain group? Cree, you are an awesome interviewer! Yes, design groups are important to me. On a scale of one to ten, ten being the most important, I would say they are an 8. 90% of the time I search by group. I have my favorite groups and I will search them nearly everyday. The down side to that is there are so many talented designers that are either not affiliated with a group, or are in a less known group, and I sometimes miss out on those amazing sets. I honestly just don't have the time to browse every custom boutique listing, and that is why I search groups. And yes, I would feel more at ease to buy from a designer for the first time if they are in a well known group. I know it is hard to get in these groups, and that when you are in a group you are expected to maintain at a certain level. At the same time, I have known of unethical designers in big name groups, but I think there are very few.

13. Is there any one set that really sticks in your mind – not necessarily one you have bought? Oh yes, many! These are the ones that I kick myself for not buying! I can name a few, but if I named them all we would be sitting here for hours, LOL! DandelionAvenue just sold the most gorgeous beach portrait dress. It was light blue ribbon fabric, with a white gauze fabric underneath. I didn't see Sydney wearing it more then twice, so I let it go, and now I wish I would have bought it. I loved one of your sets, Cree. It was in your store for awhile. It was a Fairy set with one of your full twirl skirts and a pair of jeans with applique on them. And it came with a shirred back top, and I think the top had a fairy on it. So cute and with the jeans it was wearable practically year round.

14. The boutique community is always changing – can you paint a picture of the IT groups or IT buyers when you first discovered eBay boutique? Wow, I can barely remember when I first started buying. I remember seeing Emerson and Madi in many auctions, and I thought how amazing of a photographer Carrie is, and she seemed to work with a lot of the "It Designers". She sold all the sets her girls modeled, so I would frequently check out her stuff. I think there was a group called "Boutique Dreamers" or something like that, and I remember them being the "It Group", or at least one of them.

15. Do you shop for Boutique only on Ebay or do you also use other sites, like Etsy or winkelf or individual designers' web sites? I have an account at Etsy but haven't bought anything yet. I will shop there, though. I have looked on designers sites but have never bought off them either. I think they are great for designers, though, and I would buy off them.

16. What are your favourite 'non-boutique' brands? I love Room Seven, Oilily, Jottum, Cakewalk, Catimini, Deux Par Deux...I love many European brands. I also love shoes and buy Pom D'Api and Bear Feet.

17. What is the best thing about the boutique custom community? The friends you make and the people you get to meet. I have made many online friends in my years as a buyer...some are other buyers, and some are designers. Being in groups is also a fun thing for me because I love chatting with all the different people. And the clothing is just amazing. There are so many talented designers out there, and I love to support them.

18. Your blog is fantastic – and I know I get a lot of people coming over to my blog from your's. Why did you decide to start up the boutique buyers' blog and what do you enjoy about it? I started the blog because I was inspired by my good friend Amelia's blog. She is the designer behind Sweet_Feet_Boutique. She no longer sells on eBay anymore, and I think she is truly missed. Anyway, I loved Amelia's blog, and she gave me some insight as to starting my own. I wanted to be a part of the boutique community in a way other then being a buyer. I have many designer friends, and I wanted to help them out by spamming their listings, and give them an open forum to talk about their launches and upcoming designs. I also wanted to do all this for free. I didn't want them to have to pay to advertise on my blog. So that why I started, and I have enjoyed meeting many more designers as a result of my blog.

19. Have you had any negative blogging experiences? Yes, but I don't really want to get in to those right now :) There are very few, and it is rare to have a negative experience, so don't let that stop you from blogging :)

20. How do you keep up with your blog in your busy life? LOL, I don't anymore! My blog has taken a back seat since the birth of my new little guy. I have been very busy and it is harder to find the time. I hope to pick it up here soon!

21. Do you have any plans for the Boutique Buyers Blog going forward? I would love to start my designer interviews again. Cree, are you interested? LOL. I would love to cover more launches. I am just one person, so it is hard for me to find every launch and cover it. I need help from designers to email me about upcoming launches, and sneak peeks are always great. I have been doing "Featured Auction Of The Day" and "Ending In Less Then 24 Hours". I am open to any suggestions!!

22. Would you like to give a shout out to anyone? Oh Sure, Some of my favorite designers are in LimeVine, so I will give a shout to those girls! I will be meeting some of them when they come to Oregon for Quilt Market. I want to give a shout to Amelia for being such a great online friend. I have recently bought 4 customs from Pheobes_Landing, and they are just darling, so Shelly, here is a shout to you! Oh, and my BDB Swap partner, Shirlene of Nanas_Trunk_Boutique, you ROCK girl! Search for our sets when the launch starts April 7th!
Thanks so much Michelle for such a valuable insight into the mind of a boutique buyer - It is so important for all us boutique sellers to see things from a buyers perspective.


Patty Young said...

Great interview, Cree. You've done it again! Michelle... you are such a doll and your blog is amazing! Thanks so much for your shout out to the LV girls! We *heart* you and can't wait to meet you in Portland! :)

JNG Creative Design said...

What a great interview and read!! I love visiting Michelle's blog and she is such a sweetie!!


Anonymous said...

yes, very interesting and I agree with almost everything you state Michelle. As a buyer I was not fortunate enough to know about custom boutique 4 years back, so it is interesting to read how things and design groups were different.

Great read Cree! :0)


Clara said...

Nice interview!!! I love hearing a buyer's take on things! Love your blog, Michelle--you do a wonderful job at showcasing everyone!

Great questions, Cree!

Anonymous said...

I love the interviews Cree-keep them up :) It's nice to see things from a buyer's perspective. Thank you Michelle for the kind words about LimeVine and for posting those darling pictures of Sydney in my designs. I hope to sew for her again soon. Looking forward to meeting you in Portland btw.

Cree-you rock girl!!!!!!!!!!

phoebeslanding said...

Awesome interview, Cree! I really loved reading your insights and reflections, Michelle... it was great to get to know you a bit more. And, of course, thank you so, so much for the "shout out" :)!

nic said...

cool interview--i loved reading michelle's perspective on the boutique scene. thanks for doing this, cree! :)

amelia said...

Michelle and Cree...this was SO fun to read and I am TRULY honored to be mentioned!!!! THANKS!!!

I love reading the buyer perspective, and I truly miss you all!


The Calico Flamingo said...

Wonderful interview! I enjoyed reading it!