Fashion First had an opportunity to catch up with Merge owner Pat Wolfkill for a one-on-one boutique interview.
How long has your store been open?
What was the inspiration behind opening the store?
I saw an opportunity in Seattle for a boutique with a more sophisticated urban selection-something that was inspired by the shops in New York.
Did you know you wanted to do this when you were younger?
Not really. I spent over 20 years in the wholesale fashion industry doing everything from sales to design to PR. When my husband and I moved to Seattle, I felt there was an opportunity for a more ophisticated/modern/urban boutique here. So I created Merge.
If you could describe the style you’re trying to project through your clothing in three words, what would they be?
Modern, sophisticated, intelligent.
What would you claim as the secret to your success?
I guess it's just the determination to survive this situation.
I've tightened up the buying, controlled the inventory and really edited the mix as much as possible. I try to find pieces that speak to me. Retailers need to give their customers a "reason to buy" these days, so that means moving beyond basics and giving them more special items that they can add to their wardrobe. But let's not kid ourselves, these are tough times for
retailers and it can be very draining.
How do you keep Merge working, when so many others are falling prey to the ‘doom and gloom’ of recession blues?
My determination has kept me going. I have looked at my buying and I have begun to really control what I put in the store. At this time there is no margin for error. I make sure to find the pieces that will speak to the customers. Today there has to be a reason for the consumer to buy right now. The last thing a woman needs now is another boyfriend t-shirt; but, an outrageous novelty piece is not what their looking for either. Being conscientious about what I buy is more than important right now; it’s vital.
What is your look for the upcoming season?
I feel like fall is going to be elegant/feminine/strong. We'll see rich fabrics, modern cuts, and deep colors that play well together.
What trends are you carrying in your store that people should be the most excited about?
While I give a "nod" to trends, I prefer to stick to "modern" pieces. For example, the new trouser is pleated up top and tapered/cropped at the bottom, fitted jackets work well with this cut and I'll have plenty of both. However, I will avoid the "MC Hammer" pant trend as that is the extreme version of this look and difficult for most women to wear.
Is there something about your store that people should know, but don’t?
What is something that many may not know about Merge?
Some women think that everything at Merge is very high priced so some of them are hesitant to come through the door. The fact is that I carry a wide range of price points that all fit into the "look" I offer. So don't be afraid!! Stop in and take a peek.
Any lasting words of wisdom for us Fashion Firsters?
Trust yourself. Try a new look if you like it and don't wait for your friends to approve or to see it on the "street" over and over again before you buy it. Fashion is supposed to be fun. It should make you look and FEEL good.