This past Friday, I spent the morning standing in the rain, with hundreds of designers… and one Romania celebrity. We were all there in hopes that a Henri Bendel buyer would like our product enough to put in it their store.
It’s called the Open See. For the last forty years, twice a year designers from all over the country (and world) come wait in line to be seen. You can bring basically anything besides clothing and shoes. The majority of people brought jewelry, but others brought handbags, scarves, and skin care.
i arrived at 8:00 and there were already 200 people in front of me (it didn’t open until 9:00). It was pouring down rain, so we were all juggling to keep our bags and products dry, while simultaneously keeping our nicely done hair from getting wet. Though the hair thing was kind of a bust. Since we were all bound to each other for the next four hours in line, we got to chatting.
I met a Swiss women who started an anti-aging skin care line, Adu Cosmetics. It’s already sold in Switzerland, but they were hoping to be bought in the US. I also met a unique jewelry designer, Vanessa Chew. A Pratt graduate with dreams of becoming a furniture designer, she began making jewelry for family and friends. So far she only sells her line on Etsy, but I think pretty soon she’ll be in every store. Her jewelry was beautiful, and her furniture was even more innovative.
And then there was the Romanian celebrity. She’s a model and newscaster turned jewelry designer. In New York on vacation, Malvina Cservenschi happened to stop in Bendels on the Thursday before. She heard about the Open See that was going on the next day and luckily she always wears lots of her own jewelry. So she grabbed everything she had with her, and got in line behind us. We heard all about how she got started as the weather girl and moved her way up by being persistent and taking risks. We even watched her behind-the-scenes video of her lookbook shoot. There were fans blowing, a white, silk gown and her draped in her fabulous, delicate jewelry. I was convinced, I wanted everything from her line, Malvensky.
After all the chatting, we were finally allowed into the building about 20 at a time, where we were put into another line to wait for an hour. This was the sign-in line. After we signed in we were allowed to sit in another room and wait for our name to be called. It was torture in there. No one knew at what point they would be called, the day had already been long, and we’d seen many people rejected in front of us. It was steaming with nerves.
FINALLY my name was called and I was put into another line. At least this time I had a nice view. I watched about 10 people pitch their jewelry, scarves and handbags to three different buyers. Some were turned away immediately with a, ‘it’s just not right for our store’, and others were asked to put the jewelry on, prices, and to see more. Some were given feedback about how to make it better and to come back next season. A few lucky ones were handed a business card of the buyers.
I think I spent about 90 seconds with the buyer. I explain the company, how the gloves and slippers are hand knit, and who it helps benefit. But she knew right away that it wasn’t a fit, and before I could even get everything out, I was already scooping it back into my bags.
I’m not sure if it was my own product, that I had spent hours making, that it would have been as easy to be turned away. So you won’t find me sulking or boycotting Bendels, it was a great time (minus the downpour), I met some lovely people, and I got to go underground at Bendels.
Now who wants to buy me all the jewelry from above??