TALES OF RETAIL: Poste Mistress Edition

Poste Mistress is the essential women's footwear boutique located in the quaintest of quaint Covent Garden neighborhood in London. Sophie and I had the absolute pleasure of bopping across town to meet with Debbie, the HBIC. Since the summer of 2001 Poste Mistress has been supplying the ladies of London with quirky mid to high price point shoes. A branch of the high street superstar footwear chain Office, Poste Mistress and her brother Poste are the younger, cuter, higher profile siblings. Set back on a beautiful gray cobble stone street, Poste Mistress lures you in with fun loud windows and keeps you coming back with an even louder fun-er interior. Yeah I said fun-er, deal with it. The selection is fiercely on-trend and often on the more comfortable end of the spectrum. Intrigued by the mission behind the shop and how the past decade has played out, we sat down with Debbie and talked shop while trying desperately not to shop. It's rough. [Side note: I had come to London for a week -- I'm the Miista stationed in NYC -- and I do not know how to pack. My suitcase was 72 lbs/32 kgs on the way there. I am an idiot. And then we get to PM only for me to find the Underground creepers of my most fantastical fantasies and it was utterly heart wrenching to have to walk out of there without them because I insisted on packing 18 shirts. Do you hear that tiny violin in the distance? It's all for me.] [caption id="attachment_10231" align="aligncenter" width="768" caption="Debbie in action!"][/caption] NAME Debbie Buchanan JOB TITLE Manageress [ed. note: loving this so hard] and buying assistant HOMELAND Northern Ireland ZODIAC SIGN Cancer LAST DREAM YOU HAD White mice crawling over me in bed [ed. note: a la Yolandi!] CURRENT NAIL COLOR gunmetal SONG STUCK IN YOUR HEAD RIGHT NOW Blur - Country House SIGNATURE ARTICLE OF CLOTHING Acne STAR boot PRINCE OR FREDDY MERCURY Prince LAST HALLOWEEN COSTUME Big Bird from Sesame Street BLOG OBSESSION Late Afternoon PERSONAL STYLE IN 3 WORDS classic fun wearable [caption id="attachment_10219" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Acne STAR boot"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_10220" align="aligncenter" width="470" caption="Picturing Debbie running around as this happy yellow creature is too cute for words"][/caption] 1. Tell us a bit about your role here at Poste Mistress. How long have you been part of the team and how many hats are you wearing on your pretty little head? I'm the assistant buyer and manager of the store. I've been working in the retail industry for the past 6 years -- I started off managing but this January I got to make the transition into buying too! I've picked a lot of the goodies for our Autumn/Winter collection and it really is so cool to see your vision of the product mix come alive. 2. Give us a little background on PM herself! Where did all of this fantastic inspiration come from (the interior of the shop is decorated as a dusty pink vintage style boudoir -- cute overload) and how did you celebrate the big 1-0? Poste Mistress came alive in 2001 and we had the best 10th birthday bash last year right here in the store! It was the most fabulous tea party...well tea party in the sense that we all had cocktails in tea cups. The date matched up with Vogue Fashion's Night Out so the streets were buzzing and the turn out was really nice. A bunch of brands that we carry were doing giveaways, and really, what's better than getting tipsy and winning some free shoes? As for the beginning, it all started with Lindsay Hand. 14 years ago she was asked to visualize her perfect store -- everything from the decor, to the service, to the offering itself -- and three years later Poste Mistress was born! The shop really is such a close construction of Lindsay's vision of "The Essential Ladies Shoe Boutique" and I think that's why we've found so much success. The amazing wallpaper in here was found in an antique shop and we've turned it into our signature print. It's on our walls, our bags, our receipt holders -- those giant pink flowers hold the essence of Poste Mistress. And that familiarity mixed with actually being away from the hustle and bustle of high street creates the vibe and luxury experience of a Parisian boutique. We aim to be welcoming, kitschy and open to anyone! Customer service is a huge focus for the whole team, we ensure one to one customer service for anyone who comes in and always try to go about it in the most leisurely manner possible. This has helped us build up such an incredible pack of regulars -- they know they can always come in and find something perfect for any occasion but they also know they can just stop in, say hi and chat shoes for a spell. [caption id="attachment_10233" align="aligncenter" width="1024" caption="vintage wall decor"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_10224" align="aligncenter" width="1024" caption="furry or faux-y?"][/caption] 3. How do you go about the buying process? What's the strategy that you keep in mind when making your selections and getting it all out on the floor? Well right now we carry 40 different brands and we really try to keep a nice range from high to low -- on any given day we'll always have something for everyone. We like to sit our high end, super in demand options next to interesting independent lines so as a customer walks through she's drawn to what she knows but will likely also discover something new too! Introducing our customers to new brands is important to us, we can't have all our ladies wearing the same thing as everyone else on the street! 4. Poste Mistress is known for having a solid celebrity following -- who's been your all time favorite siting? Oooh actually Kelis came in recently and she was so down to earth and fun to work with. She's my favorite right now but really so many different celebs will stop in and it's been generating some great press for us. Superstars we've got the shoes you need! 5. With the large range of price points that you stock, what do you see really doing the best with your customer? Hmm well our average transaction usually falls between £180-200, so it's that middle price point that really does well with our people. For most of our customers though the price is kind of secondary -- we try to stock up on must-haves, you know the shoes that you lay your eyes on and know they belong in your closet. So when that love at first sight happens, price is definitely not the major concern. Our lady is super fashion savvy: she knows what she wants, she knows what's going on with trends. We get a lot of chic little local office workers, the lunch time shoppers who want to just run in and grab something fun for under £200. Sometimes shoes trump lunch, we've all been there. 6. So with the 40 brands you've got under the roof, which were your favorite to buy for the upcoming season? Well Grenson is my all time favorite. They're my everyday brand. And I think it's going to see a lot of success this Fall with the whole menswear inspired, androgynous feel coming back into womenswear because a lot of their styles are classic men's looks but with a slight feminine twist. Repetto is fun, sales have been pretty amazing. Oh god and the Liberty Prints we've been getting have just been to die for -- we've got some adorable Nike hidden wedges in a red, white and blue floral and then the fabulous collection Liberty did with Doc Marten. Statement pieces are big here. And of course, it's always a blast to buy with the Miista crew! [caption id="attachment_10229" align="aligncenter" width="768" caption="Doc Marten Liberty Print display"][/caption] I also live to buy from Acne and Opening Ceremony. Both showrooms are just incredible and filled with such cool people. And any time that work pulls you away to Paris...well that's a plus. Part of the Miista collection [caption id="attachment_10227" align="aligncenter" width="1024" caption="Miista MARCELA ready for her close up!"][/caption] 7. Who is the Poste Mistress girl? First and foremost, she knows what she wants. She's fashion oriented and takes comfort into consideration. Like, we don't stock Louboutins or any other massive high heels for the most part. Our girl comes to us because she wants to get a shoe that she can live in, not just store away to wear out 3 or 4 times to the club and end up coming home with bloody blisters. I mean we also are on a cobblestone street, so I think that kind of reinforces the whole desire for practicality! There is n-o-t-h-i-n-g harder than trying to look cool while walking on uneven stone in stilettos. 8. Just sitting here chatting with you it honestly doesn't feel like we're in a store. The colors are loud and fun but I think because of all the busy patterns it manages to create this homey, comfy effect. And the way the shoes are displayed throughout the store on the floating platters is so much nicer than the sterile feel of a department store. Do you ever have parties here? And we have to ask, who is doing these amazing window displays?! I know right! The store is definitely a really nice place to be -- the vibe is calming but there's so much stimulation everywhere you look. We of course do the Vogue Fashion's Night Out event I mentioned earlier and then we also do a couple Seven Dials evenings every year -- typically in April, for Christmas and then on FNO. We hold the event with full season merch and a 20% discount is offered, people stay open until 10, do goody bags, some cocktails -- it's really a fun little evening. [caption id="attachment_10230" align="aligncenter" width="1024" caption="party palace"][/caption] And then the windows -- I know. They really do seem to get better with each season. The display right now was created using the theme Above & Under the Sea. The Visual Merchandising team at Office HQ come out and put it all together, we work really closely with them to make sure there's a good amount of consistency and coherence. And mermaids are trending so hard, I think they hit the nail on the head. [caption id="attachment_10214" align="aligncenter" width="800" caption="Poste Mistress Above & Under the Sea windows"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_10216" align="aligncenter" width="800" caption="Such fun windows"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_10217" align="aligncenter" width="534" caption="Makes you want to just dive right in!"][/caption]