This update is Tarsian & Blinkley’s debut effort at shameless commercialism…. announcing the launch of our new web site, www.tarsian.com. Holliday sales is what it’s all about I say, but Tarsian wanted to include her latest Diary, so here it is.
In my view, there can be only one good response to all this blathering, and that is to actually buy something. Look at the unique specials, only available while stocks last! Please visit, send this to all your friends, and let us know any and all feedback.
Sincerely Yours, Blinkley
Tarsian’s Diary, Number 14. Paris, October 2003
I returned to the States in mid-August, and days later, so did the shipment from Kabul, Good little things had happened to bolster confidence, such as having the customs duties turn out to be almost exactly what I estimated they would be. (It’s no surprise, since the dear girl lugged the telephone directory sized Harmonized US Tariffs Schedule with her all the way to Afghanistan. Blinkley). Maybe not an amazing feat if you’re importing from China, but believe me, when folks at the US ports are telling you that Afghanistan is a Category II country because their paperwork still says that the Taliban are in charge and duties are 97%, you have to wonder if you’re shipment will ever get home. So things were good…so far.
I had plenty of reason to be apprehensive about what would follow, but also reasons to be optimistic. After all, hordes of thin, pretty, fashion-consuming UN aid workers had streamed into the Kabul workshop and bought generously while spewing emphatic compliments about the clothes. And the stuff really had come out beautiful….
Over the course of the month, we had to face some realities about the identity of Tarsian & Blinkley. Whereas the clothes had a sweet and universally feminine beauty to them, the American market demanded that I be one thing or another hip, “edgy”, and young, or in obvious pursuit of the older market and totally out of the game. The stores we approached kept saying that the stuff was “really beautiful” and “like nothing else out there”, but they weren’t necessarily sure how to fit it in. According to a magazine editor friend, that could be a very good thing or a very bad thing. We still ended up with a handful of orders from good boutiques in the Bay Area, but I was shaken by the incredible pavement beating that had to go with it. One shop in Marin County was a classic case of how luck and momentum work in this business. The owner, an experienced retailer, could hardly refrain from expressing his displeasure at seeing me show up for the appointment. But a random customer, who was at the store at that very moment, squealed in delight when she saw the samples and said, “Oh my God, I love everything. You should buy everything”. He remained cranky, but placed an admirably large order with us. (Remains to be seen if they pay of course, Blinkley).
The trunk shows were also a bit jarring of an experience. I hadn’t quite registered that trunk shows are almost exclusively the domain of the “older woman” and she is really a size 12, 40+-something with hips, who gets quite cranky to discover that she can’t fit into anything. This became a recurring problem that would continue to haunt us throughout the season and I think marked the beginning of Takesh’s soon-to-be rapid hair loss. And there was some debate as to pricing, with me being quick to want to price low and Tricia, the former debutante and SF socialite, not understanding how someone would not want to pay $165 for a shirt. (Actually, the business plan had predicted many of these issues so there was no need to panic, yet. Blinkley).
Despite being worn out from our marketing adventures in San Francisco, I felt the best thing to do would be to jump ahead and do a trade show in New York, of which several good ones were coming up at the end of the month. After some masterful last minute cajoling and wrestling, Blinkley got us into one run by a French company with a relatively prestigious list of exhibitors. So off we were to NYC, schlepping all the samples with us and once again experiencing the joyously manual labor side of this so-called glamorous business. Of all the people willing to take two houseguests at once, it turned out to be Gigi, my NYC pal from my punky younger days when I fancied myself an artist and could actually keep my eyelids open past midnight. She had just been promoted to 2nd in command at Lucky Magazine, the bible of the retail scene in the US, and it was too lucky to have her with her famously critical eye there to tell me what I was doing possibly right or wrong. She claimed to genuinely like the stuff and told me to stand tight and not indulge in an identity crisis because it would take a breath or two to find our following. But I knew I hadn’t really dazzled her because after all, dazzling is big business in the mauled world of fashion editors. (Needless to say, a month later a Lucky journalist called and asked for samples to photograph, because apparently a “Lucky Girl” had been raving about us. Look out for the February edition, Blinkley).
If you every thought visiting Kabul or wrestling the bazaars of India is a scary thing, try doing a New York trade show and experiencing the terrifying specter of collective human jadedness. It comes in its most pure and frightening state when there is a longstanding slump in the economy, an absurdly saturated market based on hype and mimicry, and hordes of talented desperados wanting to get famous. This all makes for an interesting brew of possibilities, or impossibilities, rather. Indeed, there was a suspicious absence of foot traffic at the New York show, making the fleeting glances of those buyers who did come to the show all the more painful. Many would walk by, flash their eyes across the booth, and move on without a word and that happened enough times to start grating the nerves of a novice like me. But it wasn’t just us -- many smaller labels that lacked an established following came away with hardly any orders, thereby prompting them to stage a mutiny at the end. But Blinkley and I thought it best to move on - we had landed a few good orders from some well-known and respected stores (including Butter in Brooklyn and Vionnet in LA), so we left it at that.
The Paris show was almost not worth mentioning because after the fatigue of sitting through an unattended show in New York, I was now the jaded one and highly cynical about results. This show was very strange a bizarre mixture of attendees, some good, but many not, and I spent a lot of my time analyzing the fine nuances between the various shows going on all over the city so that I would choose more carefully in the future. Anyway, my sister was getting married in London smack in the middle of the whole episode, so my attentions were further limited. Just when I was ready to despair, a women ran up to us and bought the entire collection for her store, saying that it was exactly her “taste”.
It’s a strange and confusing business. I’ve heard that all along, but the only way to know, is to live it. The ultimate message from those few weeks was…you have a great product, but good luck figuring out how you’re going to sell it. Aaah, the joys of entrpreneurship…Fortunately, I’m off to New Delhi and then Kabul, and have left Blinkley to figure it out. Stay tuned. Sarah Takesh
(Actually, this whole Diary may be too business oriented, so to get a better picture of Tarsian’s fearless exploits in Kabul visit: link to Diary 13. In other exciting developments, Butter managed to sell almost everything in the first week, and called to re-order. And then the editor of the Style section of the New York Times magazine stopped by, absolutely loved the clothes, and wants to do an exclusive profile of us in February. Of course I said we weren’t interested, but I know they’ll call back. Hah. I’ll soon have the hang of this business. Blinkley).