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Curating a Boutique Clothing Collection: A Creative Buyer's Experience at the Atlanta Apparel Market

As a creative buyer in the apparel market, shopping can be an overwhelming and mentally exhausting experience. But, with the help of a reliable cup of joe, and my previous experience with furniture painting and upcycling, I am learning to apply my knowledge and skillsets to this new context for myself and my shop. Today, I'll be sharing my experience at the Atlanta Apparel Market and how I navigate through the hundreds of showrooms to curate my shop’s boutique clothing collection and a unique and nostalgic shopping experience for my customers.


And yes, friends, the word curate is no accident--- I use this word because I personally research, investigate, and select each of the hundreds of items I choose to bring into my boutique for my customers. Much as an artist may “select, organize, and monitor” their art collections, I do the same for my clothing collections. I have taken my passion for art and channeled it into creating the boutique collections I source for my customers.


For instance, when I enter a showroom, I'm usually greeted with an overwhelming number of samples hanging or a primer with a few mannequin displays. My first step is visually processing the color, pattern, garment design, and art. I find I rely on my love for pattern, texture, design & color, which originates and translates from my furniture painting in the earlier days of the shop. Then, I quickly decide whether to stay and explore or move on. Once I decide to stay, I grab a sample rack and pull samples of clothing pieces from the masses to compile an assortment of possibilities from which to make a decision. I will start eliminating pieces from my soon-full sample rack until I have my showroom purchase order ready.

To make my shopping experience easier, I take pictures of each piece and make notes of the type of pieces I need to find in another showroom. This process continues until I am mentally exhausted by the sheer number of decisions I must make in a condensed time frame. That's when a trip to Starbucks is in order - no decisions to be made there, I know exactly what I am ordering, and the long line allows me time to process or strike up a conversation with someone in line. This processing time is essential in allowing my mind to synthesize all the clothing choice inputs and elements I have taken in over the day and focus my thoughts on what I want for my collections and how each piece will fit into the next to complement and elevate each other as outfits and assortments.


Once I have a core collection together, the other pieces seem to fall into place, and decisions become easier to make. New ideas begin to flow, and curating a boutique collection begins to feel like one of the many creative endeavors I enjoy. The creative juices further begin to flow as I start realizing how I use these newly selected clothing collections to redesign and restage the shop sales floor. At this point, the ideas are generally coming quickly, and my mind jumps to ideas of how I can help customers know what my new collections have to offer them. For instance, while still at the show, once the collection concept begins to unravel, my mind even jumps to window display designs and what I need for new displays to showcase the clothing.


Of course, my budget is never large enough for my plans, so being creative and repurposing elements usually becomes a necessity. But, within this reality, I can exercise my developed talents for design work and artistry across these new mediums of my shop displays and structures. By the end of the market, I have a long list of possibilities for helping create and continue my mission of providing a unique and nostalgic shopping experience for my customers and a strong sense of accomplishment and excitement over launching the new collections.


Overall, shopping in the apparel market can be a challenging experience for creative buyers. However, with the right mindset, translational skills, and a good cup of coffee, it can be an exciting and rewarding experience. It's all about making decisions, pulling from previous skills and knowledge, observing & taking notes, and allowing creativity to flow. And with every showroom I visit, I am one step closer to creating a unique collection that my customers will love.


Thank you all for your support and inspiration. Til' next time.

-Jeff (The Vintage Nest, Owner/CEO)

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