Suzanne Kopulos – Style Director, Garmental
Localized Web content has become a large focus for an audience that wants to know more about what’s going on right outside their front door. For specialized local coverage in fashion, however, a reader often has to go through search engines like Yelp and Google only to find a generic description of unique boutiques. With Garmental, Chicago now has a visual element to what’s available in stores at that moment.
Garmental launched in May 2010 and its supplemental blog followed six months later. The content on the main site features a look of the day that includes a whole outfit consisting of garments, shoes, purses and jewelry from a featured boutique in the city. The editorial director and co-founder, Korey Karnes Huyler, is also editor in chief of CS and Chicago Social Brides.
“All the looks that we do are pulled from our database of independent boutiques in Chicago. It really is the only online resource for how to shop, any city really, but specifically starting with Chicago and then we’re looking into expand to other cities,” Kopulos said.
The Garmental Blog features additional fashion coverage through different sections. “Wardrobe Wish List” and “Shoe Report” show numerous looks on certain must-haves that Kopulos finds noteworthy. Karnes Huyler, pens the “Sales 411” every Monday which features ongoing sales nationally, on the Web or any promotions that are happening that week.
“The blog is what really gives us the chance to expand and talk about more brands that are universal so that we have exposure to those as well,” Kopulos explained.
Also, the section “Street Cred” showcases photographs of regular Chicagoans on the street with a great style or look. These entries come from local blogger Emma Arnold who has a personal art and fashion blog called, Tres Awesome.
In January, Kopulos will start a new series called “Follow Friday.” This will feature some of her favorite designers and are not necessarily related to a boutique locally. She will ask them what their favorite runway moments are, their favorite thing in their closet and any advice or tips they might have to share.
“It really gives readers an insight into some of their favorite designers and how they relate to Chicago and what they think Chicago girls should be wearing,” Kopulos said. Some of these upcoming designers to be featured include Paige Adams, creator of Page Denim; Ruthie Davis, shoe designer; Monica Botkier, handbag designer and Rebecca Minkoff, handbag designer.
Kopulos has been into fashion and style her whole life. She received her undergraduate degree in marketing and then went to law school. After she graduated, she knew that working in a law firm wasn’t a great fit for her. So in 2004, she started designing and created Boujie Baby Couture, a line of luxury leather handbags for mothers. The line sells in various boutiques nationally, and she writes all of the marketing material. She also wrote for various Chicago nightlife blogs.
The concept for Garmental was an idea she had about four years ago, and then last year was when she felt she had teamed up with the best people to start it up.
“I used to be on the other side; pitching my brand to journalists, writing marketing materials, press releases. It can make you dizzy,” she said. “Now it’s fun to be on the other side, because I always loved to write.”
When looking for new boutiques to feature, self-proclaimed shopping addict Kopulos does her research first-hand. “I’m always out, I’m always shopping. I’m a constant window shopper just to find out what’s out there.”
Also, the site allows readers to give referrals to their favorite local spots through a contact form. “We get constant feedback from people in the suburbs and city that say ‘I love shopping at this place, I hope you can cover them soon,’ and then we’ll reach out to the store owners,” she said.
Fashion clothing lines and runway shows focus on looks from designers for the upcoming seasons. Garmental is not about forecasting trends in the future. “It’s all about exposing style and inspiration; showing people what’s actually available. We cover present tense fashion, what’s actually in stores, at this moment that you can buy.”
Social media has given Kopulos a great advantage to reach her audience. “Facebook has been such a great outlet for us. It allows us to give an even more in-depth look to our readers and have more of a conversation with them about every single piece that we feature,” she said.
Each hour, she posts on the Garmental Facebook page with one of the items featured and gives further detail about the designer.
“Also, we encourage readers to socially interact with our work and post pictures of themselves to the page to bring in real life to the fashion,” she said. Kopulos recommends that boutiques start their own page as well as it is an easy way to engage customers and promote sales.
The next city for Garmental to explore is still up in the air. New York City seems like it would be the natural next step, but Kopulos believes “everyone loves to cover New York, but I think New York has its place in fashion already.” She wants to feature cities that have a lot of character, tourism and shopping. “I do love L.A.; it’s a little more spread out. Plus, people travel there to shop. So L.A. is on our radar as well as Dallas, Nashville, Atlanta, D.C. and Miami.”
For now, Kopulos hopes that Chicagoans check the site as a daily routine along with their morning coffee. “Chicago is such an amazing city. People come here to shop, eat and be around nice people. We want them to know where to go. We kind of want to become everyone’s morning obsession,” she said.
The reason why she started Garmental was her love of fashion and ultimately to help both the shopper and shop owner to connect.
“There really isn’t a platform for boutiques to have, to keep them floating. We are giving them access to people because we want to see them thrive and stay open because those are the boutiques that you find to be the most unique,” she said. “And what do you have if you don’t have small businesses?”
Kopulos would like to receive press materials via e-mail with a few weeks’ notice.
For brand reps with entire seasons, she would like to receive the look book. “That will give me inspiration about stuff I want to write, otherwise I’m online looking for it anyway,” she said.
Pay attention to what she writes about in the Wardrobe Wish List and Shoe Report. She only focuses on apparel, shoes and accessories, not beauty products. “I’m getting a lot of blind pitches lately that don’t have anything to do with what I’m writing about,” she said. “If it’s not fashion related in some shape or form, then I’m not interested.”
Also, the brand doesn’t have to have a Chicago storefront. “If the product isn’t in Chicago, as long as it can be bought online, I can still write about it.”
She reads everything and so if she doesn’t get back right away, it’s because she filed it away and might revisit it later. Follow up emails are okay. “I know what it’s like to be on their side, because I’ve done it, so it doesn’t bother me.”
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