Image courtesy Elizabeth Jeffer
Interview

Elizabeth Jeffer

05.18.15

Elizabeth Jeffer has been working in the fashion industry for years, mostly on the sales side, so she knows what sells. Jeffer launched her highly curated online accessories shop, Roztayger, in 2011, and much to a fashion lover’s delight it is fully stocked with hard-to-find, interesting designer pieces. Having luckily stumbled across the shop while searching for a new pair of Martiniano shoes, I discovered many new designers. This is one of the most exciting parts of shopping on the site; the challenge of allowing yourself to discover something new. So many online shopping destinations are similar in who and what they carry, but Jeffer takes pride searching out and stocking lesser known, luxury, exotic, talented designers handpicked by herself.

Interview

What’s your fashion background?

I got my BA at UCB in Art History but went directly into retail after graduation. I worked in several independent boutiques in the Bay Area, learning the business for many years. The plan all along was to open a store, but I got side-tracked by fear (knowing too much about how hard retail was). Instead I worked as a rep – represented small high-end accessory designers for many years. I worked for an accessories showroom and owned that showroom in NY for a while.

What was the reason for launching an online-only, accessories shopping destination?

By the time I had decided to bite the bullet and do the store online, it seemed the way to go, plus I had had kids and was no longer living in NYC. I knew the business would be a very specific, niche business – so doing a local shop in Westchester did not seem wise. Online meant I could reach more people with the same sensibility. I chose accessories because it’s what I know and what I love. I do love clothes as well but, the fit issue as an online retailer especially can be challenging. Lately, I have been bringing in a small range of clothing but mainly key items, not entire outfits.

When did you launch?

I launched Roztayger in Sept of 2011.

How do you set yourself apart?

I try to stay true to what I find compelling, beautiful design.  So far it has worked out well that those designers are not overly saturated in the market. I go to Paris twice a year and look for new collections to bring in. I think what is also unique about Roztayger is the mix. It can be somewhat edgy but still understandable and classic. I try to follow up with every client after shipping to make sure that they are happy with their products. That way I can start a dialogue and get to know my clients a bit if they are game.

Lastly, an exciting bit of news. We are starting to use the IBM Watson technology (the one that won the Jeopardy! challenge in 2011) to advise our clients on the designers and styles that best match their personalities. As far as we know, this is the first application of Watson in online fashion retail. It’s now live on the site now. You just need to provide your Twitter account, FB account (in the process of setting this up), or, you can write a few words about yourself. Watson will analyze your data and tell you the top 5 designers that match your style.

Is it tough having an independent, online e-commerce competing with huge retailers?

Yes, it is tough. For one, bigger retailers run constant discounts so shoppers these days often expect everything to go on sale. I do run periodic sales as most do and occasional small discounts but I won’t be known as a discount site. Seventy percent of what I sell can be used year round and many products are not widely available in the US, so there is little need to run constant mark downs unless something is just not moving at all.

Is marketing a significant part of Roztayger’s budget? Driving traffic to the site?

Marketing over the last three years has been a learning experience. Most of my clients are working, busy people from the age of 30-60 so I don’t imagine them spending a lot of time on blogs, social media etc. I do spend on Google CPC and I do work with some bloggers as my budget allows. I do re-targeting on a small scale and email blasts every week or two to update clients on new designers, share interviews with them or my picks on the best seasonal pieces on the blog. I do a photo shoot 2x a year to create lifestyle imagery for blasts or PR outreach. Social media is of course important. It all contributes, but I don’t have the magic bullet answer on what really pushes the needle on sales, which can be frustrating. I think in the end it’s a bit of everything which will continue to propel growth.

Where do the majority of your customers live?

I would say 90% of my clients are in the US. Mainly urban areas as you would imagine: NYC,  LA,  Chicago, Seattle, Miami…but in between as well. Internationally some of my best clients are in Australia, Singapore, Tokyo, Seoul, France, and the UK.

Who are three designers you would like to introduce to our readers?

I have more than three but I will bite my tongue. I would say in the Spanish arena: Bonastre, Atelier Marchal and Steve Mono would be top picks for lesser known, beautiful product. Each has a different take on classic. Bonastre is architectural in feel. Atelier Marchal is a bit rock ‘n roll, and Steve Mono is retro classic with an artistic/painterly bent. OK, sorry, two more I have to mention in the German camp: Tsatsas and PB 0110.  These are collections for purists. Their designs are minimal, with sublime details that come to life using incredible luxury materials.

Any plans to open a brick and mortar?

I would LOVE to do this. It will probably happen at one point.  I truly enjoy helping people in person so I feel a bit frustrated that my medium is online only. The question is where though.  I currently live in a suburb where traffic is pretty light and rents are high. I am campaigning my husband to move back to the Bay Area so perhaps if we transition there I can fulfill the last aspect of my dream career.