Retail Spotlight: Birdies

We’ve had the pleasure of running into the co-owners of Kansas City boutique Birdies, Peregrine Honig and Danielle Meester, quite a few times on the trade show circuit. They’ve always impressed us with their unique personal styles as well as their on-point fashion intuition and taste level. After exchanging random tidbits throughout shows on buying, brands and bikinis, we finally tracked down the shop owners for a proper Q&A that just went live this week in the report Miami Swim Week: Interviews. Among Honig and Meester, the report also features compelling interviews with designers Tori Praver, Matthew Zink of Charlie, Jeremy Somers of We Are Handsome, Nicole Di Rocco of Nicolita, Maria Dobrzanska Reeves of Marysia, Ruth Ferguson of Olga Olsson and Sue Di Chio of Suboo.

The Birdies owners summed up Miami Swim Week quite well and provided key insight into the art and the business of buying and how they create a unique, personalized shopping experience that keeps customers coming back for more. Here are excerpts from the interview:

Q: Where do you do most of your buying, and what do you feel Miami offers that you can’t find elsewhere?

DM: We attend Miami in the summer, and Curve New York in the spring, and also visit showrooms while we are in New York. I find that Miami invites us to take part in a lifestyle. Being a boutique in a landlocked city, we are able to make better orders if we allow ourselves to enjoy the beach culture the city provides.

PH: Miami [also offers] amazing seaside people-watching. The runway shows also give us an immediate sense of new shapes and colors, and it’s always inspiring to see how clever the sponsors get. For example, Makeup Forever had a lash bar with a two-hour wait. The lash decorators were under the wire in the heat, glitter and feathers sticky from the heat.

Q: What was your overall impression of the week? Did you feel like business picked up? Did the quality of the exhibitors improve?

PH: Designers have definitely gotten braver in the past two years, and some of our favorites have stood ground with a killer sense of style and consistent narrative. For example, Mara Hoffman gave us another stunning show, and we dedicated ourselves to a fuller order to commit to her aesthetic. Caffé is such a beautiful line, and [designer] Paula Saavedra is wonderful to watch create – her hardware is always lovely and well placed. Marysia‘s Maria Dobrzanska Reeves always freshens our shop with her modern hand at vintage colors and patterns. Kushcush is whimsical, clever and classic; and we’ve had a lot of success with [the line] since we first started carrying it six years ago. We picked up Wildfox, and I’m curious to see the reaction.

DM: This year’s [SwimShow] included lingerie as well, which made for many more designers to wade through, possibly too many. I think it makes for a more streamlined experience if a show is more focused.

Q: Describe the Birdies customer.

PH: Our average swim customer our women ages 25 to 45 looking for a statement piece that fits well and can be layered for travel. We do well with garments that reverse and can be worn in different ways. Selling swimwear is an emotional journey. It’s important that we carry a range of shapes that are well made and wear well without compromising what our customer is searching for.

DM: We are fortunate enough to have customers from many walks of life. Being in the center of the country, one thing all of our customers have in common is that they travel, so they purchase destination swimwear and lifestyle undergarments. Our customers find fit to be the most important factor over color and even trend. We encourage our customers to bring in items from their wardrobes, to help them find foundation garments to layer their existing pieces with. This seems to make all the difference.

Q: What brands were you particularly excited to see or discover in Miami?

PH: We picked up some [new] lines: Anna and Boy, Shan, Shivan & Narresh and Charlie. I was excited to meet Matthew Zink of Charlie–we had been searching for that perfect lounge swimsuit for our male customers, and I really fell for his full season. Zink’s retro sense of style and [Art Deco] prints will pair well with Shivan & Narresh’s modern fabrics and striking shapes. Anna and Boy’s resortwear was charming and elegant. We built up our season around unconventional pairings of color, delicate patterns, and comfortable cover-ups draped to be worn in multiple ways.

Q: Business aside, what other designers do you find inspiring?

PH: After almost nine years, Birdies carries the designers the shop was inspired by. In terms of content and history, I love Maison Martin Margiela’s accessories and editioned collectibles. I was so sad when McQueen left the planet, and Hussein Chalayan floors me. Hadley Anne Johnson is my studio partner, and she has taught me more about material and craft in the past eight months than I thought I would learn in a lifetime. Danielle and I pull inspiration into Birdies from different places and experiences—experimental jazz, museum acquisitions, modern dance, beautiful meals and travel lift our conceptual cobwebs. It’s important to keep the store fresh and activated so we can narrate the year and honor the garments we are asking our customers to understand and appreciate.

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