There’s a saying that says hard work + timing + talent = success. Sometimes, luck is even thrown into that equation. It’s clear that for the founders of Curio, the Miami-based high-fashion concept store, Danielle Licata and Jeffrey Lasota, they not only have all the ingredients for the recipe for success, but they have made one heck of a smorgasbord out of it.
The duo launched Curio in the Faena Bazaar in December of 2019, literally moments before the pandemic gripped the world. For that reason alone the curated retail experience had every reason to fail. Curio entered the market as a high-end retail concept the size of a small department store which launched within a climate where e-commerce was pinned against brick and mortar. And then, the world was hit with the most catastrophic global event in recent history. At this point, the odds did not look good for the founders, but unbeknownst to them at that moment, timing was actually on their side.
“We closed our doors March 15th and it was a very ‘oh my god’ moment,” says Licata in an interview. “But we re-opened after six months and even bigger than before because the writing on the wall quickly became clear that Miami would be the place to be for a while. So we doubled down.” It was a bet which paid off in droves. As wealth, business, and development transferred to Miami during the pandemic for its open-society policies, Curio’s business reaped the benefits. And it was because of their quick thinking, agile reassessment, and risk-taking doused with epic levels of commitment and hard work that made it happen.
Thankfully for the founders, the talent part of the equation was always there. Lasota spent decades as President of revered international brands Stella McCartney and Belstaff, after which he used his experience to guide businesses such as Yeezy, VFiles, and Johanna Ortiz. Licata served as President of East Coast Women’s Shows at Informa and is credited with reinvigorating the Coterie Trade Show in New York. She was responsible for sourcing, curating, and activating the bi-annual Women’s Designer trade show and still uses her connections to brands, governments, manufacturers, and influencers to help companies launch into the US market.
It was this talent which seems to have driven the success of Curio the most as, between both the founders, their 360-degree perspective on the fashion industry allowed them to create a distinct position and identity for Curio within the shifting sands of the time of their launch.
“I think what’s interesting about what we do is we don’t follow the rest of the retail world. We don’t go on sale, because good product is good product, it shouldn’t really have an expiry date. We discover, partner with, and mentor brands that people have never heard of. We also operate as a showroom,” explains Licata when discussing their business model.
“Our boutique is differentiated from other boutiques because it focuses more on storytelling, being conceptual, and creating a great experience rather than solely focusing on being a shopping destination,” she adds.
The founders, in addition to creating an experiential environment and stocking racks with the designer brands the public knows and loves, also scour the world for new and fresh brands. It’s these rare finds which encourage their consumer to spend extra dollars on something because it simply cannot be found elsewhere.
“Without this, someone might as well shop online because if you know what you’re looking for, you Google it and get it from anywhere. So why shop in a store? It’s experience and discovery and these things really excite people,” she explains. This incubation and discovery aspect of the business has positive affects on the fashion ecosystem as the brands they discover and elevate helps designers who have the talent and point of view which deserve to be presented to the public, but perhaps not the resources to break through.
Most interestingly, they build their inventory not necessarily by trend or designer–these are definitely a part of the process–but they are more drawn to categroize items by archetypes and personalities. They buy for bohemians, minimalists, sexpots, and other fashion aesthetics which allows the consumer to invest in pieces that suit their own personal style rather than shop for passing trends, and therefore hold on to pieces for longer.
“I believe in trends, but I don’t believe in changing the identity of the person,” the founder explains. “Let’s take Barbiecore, for example, that’s a trend. It’s undeniable. But it can be incorporated into all the different types of lifestyles. There’s a Barbiecore for the minimal girl, there’s a Barbiecore for the sexy girl and there even is the influence of hot pink in a Bohemian oversized kaftan that fits that Barbie trend.”
This is the first year since the pandemic the founders are seeing their business stabilize in the sense that the masses who went to Miami during the height of Covid have gone back to their normal lives and schedules, which means pre-pandemic events like summers in Europe were back on the calendar. But what they have learned–espeically during this time of inflation–is that their consumer is still a spender.
“We’re very lucky that we’re in a little bit of a bubble in terms of the fact that people might not be spending where they live at home,” she explains. “But if they are on vacation, they are feeling a little bit looser with their money, and then they’re looking for experience and they’re looking for interesting things. That’s where we come in.”
While it can generally be said that women’s wear is the meat and potatoes of Curio’s sales, there has been a recent surge in demand by men which Licate attributes to the desire of wanting to–like women–feel more put together post-pandemic. According to Curio’s recent sales statistics, men’s brands are ranking in the top 10 at the store while men’s transactions are trending way above womens in terms of units. “Once we get them [men] into a fitting room, they’re shopping,” she says.
For this fashion industry veteran, through the toil and hurdles of running a retail business, there is love of the consumer and love of the clothes which drives what she does.
“It’s true, it’s not as glamorous as people think. If you see us at the end of the day at market, or after taking twenty appointments a day in Paris during season, you would probably think, ‘Oh my god, they got run over by a truck,’” she laughs.
“But it feels really good to make people feel good and that’s the most rewarding part for me. I am somehow a part of helping people find things that might mean something or create a memory, like a first date or a wedding, and we find the pieces that will forever hold meaning for that person. And for me, that’s the glamorous part. Making people feel their best.”
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