Beth Buccini and Sarah Easley are the business partners and former sorority sisters behind New York boutique Kirna Zabete. After forming a friendship at the University of Virginia, the duo went on to work within the fashion industry: Easley worked in luxury wholesale fashion for Christian Dior, Christian Lacroix and Ines de la Fressange, while Buccini served as a fashion editor at Mirabella magazine and New York Magazine. Inspired by their penchant for discovering new designers before they’re ubiquitous, the two launched the well-edited and highly influential Kirna Zabete in 1999. This summer, the SoHo emporium traded its longtime location on Greene Street for a 10,000-square-foot redesign on Broome Street.
When you opened Kirna Zabete nearly 15 years ago, did you anticipate getting to this point?
Well, we were so young; the one thing we always say was that it didn’t occur to us that failure was an option. It just never crossed our minds. So thank goodness it worked out!
Kirna and Zabete are your nicknames—who’s who and where did these names come from?
We’ve been best friends since college! They are silly college nicknames that just stuck. Only our oldest and closest friends and family call us by Kirna and Zabete. We wanted the store to be personal and meaningful, so using the nicknames so dear to us seemed to be the best option.
How do you maintain the friendship formed back in college aside from being business partners? What’s the biggest argument you’ve ever had?
When we started the store back in 1999, we had already been best friends for 10 years! We knew each other so well at that point and promised the friendship would always be more important than the business. But really our relationship is more like that of sisters. Neither of us has a sister, so luckily we found each other. And sorry to be so Pollyanna—but I can’t even think of a big fight!
How would you compare SoHo then and now?
SoHo is much less indie and much more mall-like than ever. However there are still plenty of quirky places and people around and such wonderful downtown energy.
What were some of the first collections you carried?
Balenciaga, Rick Owens, Chloé, Pierre Hardy, Proenza Schouler.
As a go-to for high-end luxury labels like Céline and Givenchy, how do you keep your selection different from other retailers?
We tend to buy in a more editorial way, less safe than department stores.
Who are some of the more emerging designers you will be adding for the fall?
Swash, Myriam Schaefer and Wanda Nylon.
In addition to space, what have you gained by moving to Broome Street?
A total redesign, which we felt couldn’t wait a minute longer. We wanted a new vision that represents the women we are today and we wanted all our retail on one floor. Plus, we have expanded office space so we can work on growing our e-commerce business.
Did you run into unexpected challenges with the renovation? What were they?
That mannequins are really, really expensive. More so than we thought! Plus, getting things done in NYC is much, much harder than it was 14 years ago. We had to jump through a lot of hoops, but we persevered and made it happen.
Would you do it all over again? Perhaps in another city?
Never say never, but we really love the idea of one store in the best city in the world and a big online presence.
After all these years, have you formed new nicknames for each other? Can we lend them to the next retailer looking to follow in your footsteps?
Well we’ve recycled some nicknames ourselves… Kirna is Sporty Spice and Zabete is Posh Spice…