Lisa Lori of Perfect Provenance: “Know Your Client”

Know Your Client — age, lifestyle, income — fashion companies will try to get you to buy fashion that may not work for your clientele don’t succumb to it! Understand your clientele and buy with a specific person in mind — if you can’t see them wearing it don’t get it. As part of our series about the 5 things you need […]

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Know Your Client — age, lifestyle, income — fashion companies will try to get you to buy fashion that may not work for your clientele don’t succumb to it! Understand your clientele and buy with a specific person in mind — if you can’t see them wearing it don’t get it.

As part of our series about the 5 things you need to succeed in the fashion industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Lori.

Lisa Lori is the founder of The Perfect Provenance, an award winning lifestyle luxury company that features curated men’s & women’s fashion, home decor & gifts from around the world. Lisa Lori has more than 25 years luxury marketing experience working in fashion, beauty, travel and wine & spirits. She founded The Perfect Provenance in 2016.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was living in Greenwich, CT with my family and owned a public relations agency based in Manhattan. Through my work and travel, I was introduced to designers routinely from around the world. In Europe and bigger American cities like New York City, interesting boutiques are common but once you leave a big city boutiques are becoming more and more rare. When I would socialize with new friends in the suburbs they were often asking where I got my dress, cover up or shoes and I soon came to realize that most of the items i cherished were much different than everyone else. My friends started to tell me to open a store. I had worked with large and small retailers for years in my career as a marketing and PR person and I had always wanted to open a store but never found the right time. I decided to shut down my PR firm and explore the idea and the Perfect Provenance was born.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started?

Wow there are so many but the most heartwarming one is after we opened and since we have been in business, we have noticed this wonderful phenomenon where men and women wear something they bought in our store and come by to show us they bought it. They walk around the store until we notice it is our garment, bag or jewelry. It is so fun — they are excited to show us how much they love it and we always make a big fuss out of it because we get a kick out of it. It is really sweet and gives us so much happiness to see that they love our designers or gifts.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Our second season of selling we had a winter jacket that came very late in the season and wasn’t selling. We decided to put it on sale and there we about 6–7 left, we had a restaurant in our store in Greenwich as well and we were hosting a private event for a group of women for dinner one evening. People would often shop during private dinner and this group of women all started trying on the coat (it is actually a common experience that one client will buy and item and another will see it and buy it too) but this night, the women at the party ended up buying the coat until all of them were sold out! Our staff was mimicking Oprah saying — ‘you get a coat’ ‘ you get a coat’ — they took pictures and all laughed so much. It was so memorable for them and for us. We loved it — much better than selling the coats individually!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our personal touch, I write emails every week that share stories, anecdotes about the store, my life etc.. people feel like they know me. We send hand written thank you notes with each online purchase, we often give a little gift with purchases. Clients come in the store all the time and tell us how they love the emails and feel like they know us personally even when we haven’t yet met. We try to personalize everything we do by hosting exhibitions that focus on cultural themes rather than boring merchandising themes. We try to have fun, make it memorable. We are selling fashion after all — it should be something happy not to be taken too seriously.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

There is an old quote that i love — ‘I work 60 hours a week so I don’t have to work 40 hours a week’ which I think is so true. I love what I do and when you have a small business there is just no way around working very hard but I am at my best when I take time to work out, eat right and get sleep. I do some of my best brainstorming while I’m going for a run so whatever you need to do to relax, change gears and take a step back incorporate time for that — it will help keep you sane and balanced.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Philanthropy and giving back is incorporated into everything I do. As a PR professional, I worked extensively with charities my entire career. As a young woman I worked for The Body Shop, a British skin and haircare company that incorporated social justice in all of its product campaigns. I worked closely with Anita Roddick the founder on numerous initiatives and she had a profound impact on how I saw the world and what one person could accomplish. She taught me how important it was not to just raise money for causes but to raise awareness and advocate for change. As a result — every project I undertook after that I asked questions about what we were trying to accomplish and who it would help. Our company supports Operation Smile year round with our Smile Collection but we also help three to four local charities a year in the communities where our stores are because we believe strongly in supporting our local communities. To date, through our events and product lines, we have raised over 3 million dollars towards the foundation.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?

There is no replacement for hard work — there just isn’t. Almost all successful people worked hard to get there and were laser focused on their dreams. You have to put in the time, set goals for yourself and pick yourself up when things don’t go as planned. I have always loved what I do so working hard was never a burden but has energized me. Of course, when things don’t work out on something you wanted it can set you back but it is also an opportunity to learn and grow.

Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?

Technology and marketing are evolving everyday — it is thrilling when we try something new and it resonates with our clients. We are living in a strange new world with covid and how we adapt and pivot will continue to make all the difference. Our clients are shopping and living in a hybrid world — some shopping is in person, some online, some via social media and we need to try and understand all of those areas and deliver a positive experience. Covid has spurred online shopping to new and exciting levels but it will never replace an in person experience — the key is to try to understand both and deliver on both.

Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Top 5 Things Needed to Succeed in the Fashion Industry”. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Know Your Client — age, lifestyle, income — fashion companies will try to get you to buy fashion that may not work for your clientele don’t succumb to it! Understand your clientele and buy with a specific person in mind — if you can’t see them wearing it don’t get it.
  2. Don’t Overbuy — we made this mistake a lot in the beginning again because vendors were forcing minimums on us — — huge minimums were common in fashion as they all tried to pad their numbers. Luckily, the industry has changed a lot during covid and has become much easier to work with but now if a minimum buy is beyond what we think we can sell we walk away even if we love the product.
  3. Reward Loyalty — whether it is with employees or clients — give an extra day off for great employees and let them know how much they matter. For clients, create a loyalty program that matters and offers real value. Letting people know how vital they are to your company keeps them coming back again and again.
  4. Break Up with the Merchandise — Sometimes you love a line or garment and just can’t believe no one else does. In the beginning, we had such a hard time putting gorgeous pieces on deep discount because we couldn’t believe it didn’t sell. No more! If things don’t sell within a certain time period it goes on sale — — we ‘break up with it’ and let it go!
  5. Don’t Try to Compete with Amazon or Other Big Box Retailers — Do You — yes I said it. I cannot compete with free shipping year round, products that sell for pennies on the dollar, endless returns etc… We have clients all the time ask us why they can’t return items bought 5 months before because Amazon policies have infiltrated every level of our culture, but we cannot have a successful business by absorbing every cost of doing the business like this, it’s literally impossible. We just don’t have the scale of those enormous business. Our goal is to stay small and special. We have to believe in the value of our products, the quality of the goods and the experience of our boutiques and online and if we do that we will continue to hope that our clients will want to participate in our business.

Every industry constantly evolves and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself? Can you give an example?

I wish the fashion industry would go back to four seasons selling of product there are so many shoulder seasons and it created this insatiable need for selling people items they didn’t need. Covid has already brought some retraction and a new focus on sustainability has also brought about change but it needs to go further. We need to focus on quality over quantity. Americans especially got so hooked on ‘fast fashion’ — I sincerely hope that we can see what this enormous overproduction of goods has done to our world and the climate.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

There is so much frustration and anger in the world right now most of it is due to misinformation and the inability to listen. We have slowly begun to devalue experience and expertise and disregard differing opinions. I wish people would listen more, appreciate and respect different opinions and learn to value expertise from professionals in respected fields.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@theperfectprovenance on instagram and facebook

@tpp1640 for Twitter

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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