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2013 March 7

Editorialist's Kate Davidson Hudson and Stefania Allen On All Things Accessories

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Stefania Allen and Kate Davidson Hudson Stefania Allen and Kate Davidson Hudson
Patrick McMullan
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(NEW YORK) Remember when Kate Davidson Hudson and Stefania Allen, Elle’s former accessories director and senior accessories editor, respectively, bid adieu to the glossy separately in the fall? The duo quickly regrouped to roll out a sleek e-comm take on beautiful accessories coverage, ‘Editorialist,’ which bowed a few weeks ago. It’s a fine time for a recap and a peek into what’s to come for the accouterment-adoring duo!
BY ALEXANDRA ILYASHOV 

Remind us why you both left Elle?
KDH: I think we both came to a juncture. For different personal reasons we had left. I stepped down in the end of September, I left at the end of October, and I stayed on at Elle on a freelance-stylist basis for another month or so. Then, after all of our market research and experience, we felt that the timing was right to do something.
SA: I left in October 2012. It’s just something we noticed in the market was missing. After we’d left, both for personal reasons, we sort of regrouped a few weeks in and thought the timing was right.

Why did you decide to create an e-comm and retail concoction?
KDH: This is the direction we see consumer fashion media moving in. We wanted to create this online environment where edit meets e-commerce. So, it’s really editorializing on the best of the best within the accessories world.

How is your editorial eye applied differently on this site, versus your work at glossies?
KDH: A lot of the time, retailers don’t buy what you see on the runway, because they might be a little too ahead of the curve from a commercial sense. A look can be a bit too directional [for retailers] in the sense that it hasn’t been tested—we’ll buy into that. We’ll also tap a lot of the designers that we’ve worked with throughout our careers.

For what?
KDH: On exclusive products that will be available only on Editorialist! Things that we’re loving and are in the mood for, and that we haven’t seen, since so immersed in the market. Then, we’ll shoot it in an editorial context.

Do accessories get enough play in mags today for your taste?
SA: A lot of the time, accessories are very much an afterthought to ready-to-wear in existing e-commerce environments, which is often the case in brick-and-mortar as well, except for some of the shoe stores out there. It’s about showcasing what we love—and, especially, what we love and can’t find. There are these Givenchy boots from last season that everyone was obsessing over as they went down the runway. The stores didn’t buy them that week, but there was a waiting list—I tried to track them down all over the globe, and finally got one pair. An old boss of mine was wanted them, too—we called 10 international stores to try to find a pair! That’s just a perfect example of the traditional retail formula’s disconnect 

So, in a nutshell, what can we expect to find on the Editorialist?
KDH: It’s a look at the whole fashion accessories world, from a 360-degree view. Sometimes we delve really deep into a designer feature to get a sense of where they’re heading, their design aesthetic, and where their inspiration comes from—we did that with Mr. Alaia, by looking at the whole repertoire of his whole career, from his archives to modern collections, to a preview of his spring accessories collection. We also took a look at Kelly Wearstler to show our readers how her interiors have informed her new foray into accessories. There are little designers we want to champion; when we feature big designers, we want to champion their important, directional pieces.

What can readers get on Editorialist that they just can’t get from their fave fashion titles?
KDH: Immediate gratification, in one environment, with a streamlined experience! Instead of ripping out pages from a magazine of items you love, saving them for two months until they actually hit stores, then tracking them down before they’re sold out, ours is an instant one-stop shop.

Any other compelling elements of the site?
KDH: We also have a concierge service; if you see something in the pages that maybe we don’t have in stock, or a piece you love but want in a different color or with a different setting, our concierge will connect you either with the designer to help create a bespoke piece or help you track down something that’s sold out. Or, if you love a striped Chanel shoe shot in a still life and you want to know what kind of outfit you would wear that with for next season, we have editors on staff who can help advise on that.

How big is your team at the moment?
SA: Right now, we have seven people on board. 

What’s the biggest change in your day-to-day, since decamping from Elle?
SA: Oh my gosh, where to start with that? Running your own business is a totally different ball game than working for a large corporation, from the minutia of financials to big-picture things. We have one investor right now, which clearly adds a different element.

Is this a working-from-home type of start-up?
SA: We just moved into our offices a few weeks ago! We’re very excited to be in a space.

Did the rumors of Kate Lanphear being involved stoke the pre-launch buzz?
SA: It was interesting because they didn’t necessarily have the correct story. We had the exclusive launch story so we were not able to speak to anyone so it was really like a heads down and focus situation. It was all very fast, so there wasn’t time to focus on the buzz. 

In terms of the e-commerce aspect of things, did you have to school yourselves?
SA:
We have a retail advisor who has 12 years of experience working at Bloomingdale’s. She helped us build up our e-commerce. She’s amazing, extremely skilled, and well-versed in everything with retail.

How did you get bewitched by accessories initially?
SA: I’ve always loved accessories! I remember my mom getting dressed and piling on jewelry when I was a child. I’d always tell her to take off one piece—and she’d always trust me, which is very funny because I was very young. 

How did that parlay into a professional move?
SA: I started off on the fashion side of things at Town & Country, dabbling for a year or two in read-to-wear, then quickly changed over to accessories. I just fell in love with and have never looked back! On the fashion side, stylists came in and dictated exactly what they want us to do. But with accessories, there was a lot more creativity. Kate and I love jewelry because it’s a totally different beast than the fashion world.
KDH: You can spend $2,500 on the graphic pair of pants that you’re sick of it after only one season. But you buy a beautiful gold band, and its value is only going to appreciate over the years. Accessories are really interesting from investment and creativity standpoints.
SA: Kate and I exemplify that. We dress very classic, we love basic colors, but we define our looks through accessories. 

Do you each have a signature item?
SA: That’s tough. I’ve never seen Kate in a flat, though, so that could definitely be hers!

Anything you’re on a hiatus from buying?
KDH:
I might have enough Chanel bags, but I don’t know if I want to admit that.
SA: And I don’t think you can ever have enough just perfect pumps. I love a perfect Manolo black pump; it just makes you feel sexier.

What kind of growth are you hoping for this year?
KDH:  Our projections are pretty healthy and aggressive. We’re really excited about the feedback so far! In our very first two days, we’d already sold out of some of our styles. That was mind blowing. We are opening up the platform to select luxury advertisers in early March Early this month, we opened up our platform to select luxury advertisers, which we’re really excited about from a luxury retailer standpoint. 

Any dishy secrets from the glossy grind of accessories?
KDH: In the accessories world, a lot of the work falls on the assistants! When a stylists requests 20 looks, there are 100 different ways to describe each look and the nuance of what they’re trying to convey can be said so much with the accessories. You add a hat, a belt, you take away, keep it minimal, you over-accessorize…it’s a completely different message each time. There’s a lot of power and also management in that, which I think gets a little lost to those outside of magazines. We’ve had the most amazing assistants ever in our careers at the magazines!
SA: Every handbag or shoe that ends up on the page takes so much time and coordination back and forth. It has to get to the set, the lighting, the styling, the propping. For just one shoe, there might be 20 different e-mails, messengers sent, and somebody waiting on set because you only have that shoe for two hours and then they’re picking it up. Every page has so much energy, love, and heart poured into it. 




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