Nell Love is the founder of Sirène, the ultimate online source for swim and resortwear. Nell has sought out styles from a variety of lines such as Camilla & Marc, Mara Hoffman, Lisa Marie Fernandez and Zimmerman to deliver a unique blend of bohemian cool and urban chic.
What made you decide to start with e-commerce rather than open a store?
My background has always been in fashion e-commerce, through the years I decided I wanted to start my own online retail shop. I found that there wasn’t really a great online destination that really focused just on swim and resort. I love the beach and was already a bit of a bikini freak so to me there was no better section of the fashion industry to be in.
Where did you work prior to going out on your own?
I started off as an ecommerce buyer at industry pioneer Girlshop, they were one of the first online retailers and specialized in bringing a larger customer base to new up-and-coming brands. I then moved on to other endeavors, prior to launching Sirène I was the ecommerce manager at Steven Alan.
Is there an up and coming swimwear line that is launching that you are hoping to add to the site?
YES! Muther Of All Things, a new Aussie brand that sells both bikinis and functional surfwear. I saw the line a few months ago and immediately ordered my favorite style for this season that’s up on Sirène now. I am really excited about seeing more of the line for 2013.
I am also super excited about Minimal Animale, which has a great edgy look that feels really new to me and I am obsessed with this season’s look book, as well as Australian brand Bikini Atoll, I am loving designer Louise Bond’s eye for color and pattern.
Which collection has been the most popular?
My first season it was Mara Hoffman and MIKOH, but this year Acacia Swimwear has been wildly popular. In fact I only have a couple random pieces left!
Have you experienced many issues with fit not being as expected on bathing suits resulting in returns?
That’s a great question that I get a lot. I have a sizing tab on my website that is very “tell it like it is” meaning I am very honest about the fit of a suit. For example, if you have a really large bust you just aren’t going to fit into an Acacia top period. Swimwear, similar to lingerie is very personal for people, if I see a customer ordering a size large string top that offers no support and an x-small bottom I will actually call them and make sure they are ordering the right suit for them. I encourage customers to call me for fit questions, and personally work with some customers to get them the best suit that fits their body. That being we do get returns, that’s the nature of online retailing.
What cities are you shipping to most often?
New York is still my biggest city since I live here my taste leans slightly towards the East Coast. Next is Los Angeles and San Francisco. I also get a lot of orders from Hawaii, Seattle, Portland, Canada and Australia. I think because I specialize in smaller brands, I do best in cities where there is a lot of brand awareness surrounding the swimwear designers that I carry on Sirène.
Where do you keep inventory?
I house inventory myself. I ship and work out of my office in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.
Can you tell us about the challenges you’ve had launching your business?
I think the biggest challenge for me is doing it all myself, I don’t have someone like a business partner to bounce ideas off of or motivate me. It can get overwhelming at times and you just have to persevere. I have a very patient husband at home, which is enormously helpful.
How do you transition merchandise for the winter season? Do you rely on people traveling to warm places?
My first season I tried ready-to-wear in fall from my swimwear designers like Zimmerman, and it just didn’t translate. So I now I stick to classics for the off-season, great shapes in solid colors. Typically people buying off season aren’t looking for the fun and flashy new designs that they are during resort and spring. I also get a lot of AU customers as they have the opposite seasons as we do in the US. Australians are very savvy online shoppers and they love to find great sales during our off season.
What other product categories are you hoping to expand in? Sandals? Bags?
Aside from my Moroccan beach baskets that I sell constantly, I hope expand with offerings such as sandals, towels and sunscreen. Also a lot of my cover ups that I ordered this season got cut or didn’t ship so I will be getting many more cover ups for Resort/ Spring 2013. I want Sirène to have everything you will need to pack in your beach bag for vacation.