Following a direct-to-consumer model instead of relying on wholesale accounts has become the norm among young, emerging brands. This type of business is primarily achieved online through e-commerce, butFlying Soloin New York City aims to connect with shoppers face to face from a storefront in Nolita.
Founded by jewelry designerElizabeth Solomeina, Flying Solo is a DIY fashion collective made up of 45 independent and local designers who have joined forces to afford a 2,000-square-foot space on Mulberry Street. "We want to sell to customers but we have no place to do so. With this concept, we basically cut out the middleman," says Solomeina. "Here, we can present our whole vision." The foot traffic is perfect for Flying Solo. Located on a quiet side street filled with small boutiques — just blocks away from Broadway's bustling strip of brand-name flagships in Soho — the shop welcomes a solid mix of tourists and fashion-loving locals. As a result, the designers benefit from hearing feedback firsthand, and in return, they canimmediately improve their product and brand.
Flying Solo stemmed from Solomeina's own struggles as a designer, from finding retailers that would take a chance on a new brand (a rarity these days) to production and inventory costs. "I realized that the industry is truly broken," she says. After testing the concept with a series of pop-ups throughout the Upper West Side and Soho in February, Solomeina was able to find a long-term space to house 33 up-and-coming designers. With the help of an investor (who put down a deposit to hold the space), Flying Solo opened up shop in mid-June.
"We got the lease on a Tuesday night and we had to open on Saturday," remembers Solomeina. "We didn't have money for construction, so we had to do it ourselves. I had tears in my eyes when we opened. It was amazing to see what we could achieve as a group because we really wanted it to happen."
Since then, the collective is nearing 50 designers offering womenswear, accessories and jewelry.Chikimiki, one of the newer additions to Flying Solo, is run by Elise Dealmeida, who creates ethically made, high-end apparel;Kalamarieis a luxury handbag line founded by two sisters; SoCal designerKarie Laksadds ease to her sophisticated clothing, whileS/H Kohoffers jewelry inspired by architecture, sculpture and geometry. Solomeina says she has plans to take on menswear labels in the future.
Approaching Flying Solo's six-month mark, Solomeina hopes to provide free education to those outside of the collective. "I see all of the mistakes that independent designers make when they start their brands, and I want to stop them from making [them]," she says. At the store, she'll hold seminars open to both professionals and fashion students on starting a brand, retail and finances. For the holiday season, Flying Solo will partner with a charity to present a fashion show and, most recently, the space held a meet-up for fashion bloggers and influencers.
Visit Flying Solo at 224 Mulberry Street from Sundays to Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.