Inven.tory, situated nicely on the corner of Kenmare and Elizabeth, is a minimally decorated boutique with one very important twist: It sells a rotating selection of designer items at wholesale prices. The October opening, coincidentally timed with the plunging of the Dow, displayed men’s and women’s pieces from Imitation of Christ, Staerk, and Corpus. The labels featured in the store change frequently thanks to the numerous fashion connections of the three owners. Whitney Singer met Mike Townsend and Kat Berkery through hosting sample sales in the neighborhood. We caught up with the threesome to talk shop.
The vision for the store is selling clothing at outlet prices. How did you come up with this?
Whitney Singer: This came from doing pop-up sample/overstock sales together. We did this for about five months and realized we had enough designers interested to have a boutique.
Mike Townsend: Being on the brand’s side of things, I knew it was a much-needed option; they need the cash flow.
Kat Berkery: Mike had the idea since he started a men’s line. He knew how new lines have overstock because of factory minimums, which force them to produce more than they can sell. Whitney and I were doing sample sales in the neighborhood (which are basically overstock anyway), and when the space became available, it all came together.
How did you pick the brands that you’re selling?
W.S.: Most of them are from personal relationships in the fashion industry, and now that we have momentum, designers are reaching out to us.
M.T.: Basically, relationships I have in the wholesale business. I’m lucky to have a nice network and group of friends that have started labels.
K.B.: We get on the horn and call people we know! Or we pursue brands that we’re fans of and see if they have overstock.
What are some brands you’d like to carry?
M.T.: I don’t think about brands. I look for items that are relevant and on trend. We see a demand, and we can react more quickly than traditional stores.
K.B.: Grey Ant, Acne, Cheap Monday, VPL. I’m looking for good accessories and winter stuff at the moment.
Can you describe the type of person who shops at Inven.tory?
W.S: We have loyal clientele from the neighborhood, but we also get tons of international tourists. They all are psyched about the bargains and like the boutique environment.
M.T.: Our customer will look for a find in a boutique, at a thrift store, at a department store; this is just the new stop on their rounds.
K.B.: We get an interesting mix: LES kids, Upper East Side ladies, and Dutch tourists.
What was the first designer item you ever bought?
W.S.: A Donna Karan black purse.
M.T.: At 23 I got my first suit tailored in Stuttgart. I felt like a million bucks.
K.B.: Oh God, I got my first credit card during a bad time in the O.C. for fashion. Do Seven jeans and a Juicy Couture sweatshirt count? I’m so ashamed.
Who are your favorite designers?
WS: Alexander Wang, Nicolas Ghesquière, Stella McCartney, and Christophe Decarnin’s collection for Balmain.
M.T.: 3:33, Idol Radec, and Robert Gellar.
K.B.: LD Tuttle for shoes (they’re amazing), VPL for underwear, Imitation of Christ (I’m sad they’re shutting down because they were making some really amazing pieces).
What trends do you like for this winter?
W.S.: Oversize cardigans and leather leggings.
K.B.: Printed tights, booties, no jeans.
Any trends you wish would go away?
W.S.: American apparel hipster.
Where do you like to shop in NYC?
W.S.: I love Project No. 8 on Division Street, No. 6 on Centre Market Place, Oak on Bond Street, and Funky La La on East 9th Street.
M.T.: Linda Derector Sunglasses and Oak.
K.B.: Oak for some splurgy shopping.
What’s something that every woman should have in her closet?
W.S.: A tailored black blazer.
K.B.: Matching hangers.
M.T.: R. Kelly.