2011 March 31
The Retailer Files, Vol. 3: Laure Heriard Dubreuil, The Webster
The Webster View Gallery
(NEW YORK) For the third installment of The Retailer Files, we take you inside Miami's hautest shopping hot spot, The Webster. Deemed the Opening Ceremony for Floridians, The Webster has capitalized on an untapped market for beach-combers in search of a luxe multi-brand hub. While noshing on eggs benedict at Balthazar, Laure Heriard Dubreuil's dishes to your Daily about her latest role as CEO and co-founder. MARIA DENARDO
Where did the name come from?
It's the original name of the building, The Webster Hotel. It’s an art deco space from the '30s. We found it just by passing by, and the name for it came just as naturally. We were calling it that before we had officially decided on the name.
What made you choose Miami?
It was a very rainy day in Paris. I have two business partners, Frederic Dechnik and Milan Vukmirovic. I was with Frederick in his car, stuck in traffic. We decide we needed to do a project and move to a place with some sun. We’re both from the southwest of France and we’re very sensitive with the light. Originally, we were thinking L.A., but Milan, our third partner, came to Miami for a fashion shoot. It was his first time there and he came back and said, ‘If you really want to open a store, I’m willing to do it with you, but we have to do it in Miami.’ So I said, ‘Okay, let’s go!’ I love Miami. I used to go for weekends when I was going to FIT. We moved to Miami with just our luggage, without knowing one person.
Describe the décor.
We wanted something comfortable. We don’t want people to feel intimidated just because we sell upscale merchandise. We have a café and free wi-fi, so people can have a coffee downstairs and read magazines and hang out. Sometimes, we have people asking for a computer and checking their mail. It’s not a store. It’s a house. The space is evolving.
How did you get involved in the fashion scene?
I started when I was fifteen as a sales associate in Paris for many years. It was great, because I learned Mandarin and Chinese. When I was sixteen, I was a sales associate at East Hampton. It doesn’t exist anymore, but it was a store with clothes for children. After that, I moved to New York and went to FIT. I interned at PR Consulting and met Nicolas Ghesquiere. From there, Nicholas hired me to work for Balenciaga's merchandising. It was such a small team. We really built the company. After that, I joined the merchandising team at Yves Saint Laurent. Mechandising is a strategic position, because you’re in between the designer, the retail stores, the wholesale clients, and the production. You’re the link, because you’re the one bringing back the information for the creative studio on what sells and what doesn’t.
How often are you in the store?
When I’m in Miami, I’m at The Webster. I practically sleep there.
What’s been the biggest challenge since opening The Webster two years ago?
The construction and renovation took a lot of time, more time than we expected. We had to find a temporary store—two small ones next to each other, one for men and one for women. They were open for about a year and a half. We had different departments that weren’t agreeing with each other. We were stuck in the middle between the fire department and the historical preservation, since it’s an historic building.
How has the economic crisis affected your store?
We’re lucky. Miami is a leisure destination, so a lot of people who budgeted to go to Europe ended up coming to Miami. It’s a nice place to go and it’s more affordable than Europe right now with the Euro-dollar rates.
How did you get the word out when you opened?
The temporary stores helped, but there’s nothing like this in Miami. There was really a need for that kind of fashion. There are malls with big brands, from Prada to Gucci, but there wasn’t a multi-brand store with a strong fashion vision. Since we opened, a lot of other small stores like ours have opened. We really brought back Miami on the fashion map. Even Lanvin opened its first store in Miami. I just had lunch with Alber the other day. We were chatting and he asked me in the middle of conversation if I was a Virgo. I said, 'Yes! How did you know?!' He told me he can sense these things.
What’s the Miami customer like?
There are so many people from out of town, a lot of Latin Americans, and a lot of New Yorkers on weekends. It’s a travelling clientele. We have mothers and daughters.
How do you buy for such a range of clientele?
We buy much more colorful items with the weather and Latin American influence. We buy more color than we would for a store in New York or Paris. We buy a lot of dresses, too. We buy what we love but we also buy fashion-forward pieces that are timeless--you want to keep in your wardrobe and give to your daughter or son.
Pastel colors—all the colors of the macaroon. Beautiful Alaia dresses.
What’s the top seller right now?
For men, we’ve been extremely successful with a line of bathing suits called Orlebar Brown--very colorful pieces without any patterns. When we first opened, we didn’t sell a lot of bathing suits. There are so many bathing suit shops everywhere in Miami, people were coming to us for something different. For the women, it’s not just one brand or one item. It’s a wider range.
How much will your customers pay for a cocktail dress?
We only buy one or two pieces of everything, so two women in Miami won’t be wearing the same thing. There’s always newness. For a cocktail dress...we sell Balmain so...
What new designers are you introducing to the store?
We have this new brand called Julietta. The designer’s name is Sophia. It’s a very chic line. We're starting to carry Prova which is uniquely different. It’s very bright with silk print dresses and colorful beads. It’s a sunny day dress. For Julietta, the collection is more classic in the quality of fabric and cut. Both of them are amazing but completely different looks.
How do you learn about new designers?
A lot of them contact us, but we also know so many people in the industry. I love word of mouth. It’s better when it’s personalized.
Do you have events in the boutique?
We do. We’ve done trunk shows with Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga Edition…and runway shows on the third floor. We invite local people and clients. We’ve also had a pop-up gallery.
Where do you like to wine and dine designers?
There’s a local restaurant called Tap Tap. It’s Haitian, and covered in Haitian art. It’s an authentic hole in the wall—no tourists go there. I love Mandolin; it’s a very cute Greek-Croatian restaurant. Great for fish. If you want more of a party scene, there’s Mr. Chow. There’s not a lot of places you can sit by the water, which is why I love The Standard.
How do you choose the industry insiders who pick their weekly favorites on TheWebsterMiami.com?
It started at Art Basel. The word spread that we had people like Stefano Tonchi and Derek Blasberg, but it’s not just fashion people. It’s also people in press and the music industry. Everyone was having fun imagining The Webster as their closet and picking outfits to feature. I have people calling me saying, ‘Oh, I’ll be in Miami this weekend. Can I do the Pick of the Week for The Webster?’
Harper's Bazaar en français? Indeed! The title is launching a French edition, as a joint venture between Hearst Magazines International and Groupe Marie Claire. The French iteration...
Marni Golden, formerly editorial director at StyleCaster, has been named entertainment director at Allure...Liz Doupnik, formerly fashion editor for StyleCaster, has been named fashion...
Another John Galliano interview might be in the works. The man hasn't spoken to the press since an apologetic announcement after his famous incident, but Galliano still continues to...