Blake Scotland worked in fashion PR in London before opening her boutique, Ferality, on Clinton Street in New York’s Lower East Side in June 2010. However, after several months in business, she decided to completely rebrand and rename the shop and recently reopened it under her own name. Here, she discusses why the change was necessary, her love of selling unique merchandise and some of her favorite brands and styles. Interview by Christopher Blomquist


Blake Scotland exterior
Blake Scotland exterior
Why did you decide to rebrand your store?
The boutique was originally called Ferality.  To me it really captured the entrepreneurial spirit of the effort as it means “a return to the wild from domestication.” There came a point last winter, though, where we really wanted to streamline our offering, limiting the selection to midrange contemporary designer brands for a savvy, fashion customer. Over a couple months we worked really hard at this, keeping Mara Hoffman for women, Nicholas K and Trovata for men, Retro Super sunglasses for both and not much else. It was critically important to us that we would want to wear each and every piece that we sell.  After bringing in a new selection of designers and redecorating the space it made sense to complete the transformation by rebranding. My name is unisex, different I guess, and I was encouraged to use it.

What do you hope to achieve with the new look, name and product mix?
I want our customers to come in the store and immediately identify it as a space for them. It has always been a welcoming, laid-back environment but the primary focus should always remain on the special selection of merchandise. I would hope that this is what keeps people coming back again.

What are some of your best-selling brands and specific items and why do you think they are so popular?
One Teaspoon for women is a new Australian brand we just brought in this spring. It’s been selling incredibly well.  The line already had such a great international following but almost no representation in American stores–as far as I know we are the first boutique to carry it in New York. We carried their capes in two styles (Havana Cape, Black Poppies Cape) and both have nearly sold out. From Boxing Kitten, the Billie Cutout Dress has been another hit.
For men, Trovata has consistently sold well. Their shirting is really well done, classic tailoring and nice attention to detail. They’re based out of California so a lot of their fashion pieces have a laid-back look that’s great for vacation but that I find downtown New Yorkers staying in town are craving right now too. Lightweight hoodies (San Jose light-weight), shorter frayed khaki shorts (John Essential) providing the illusion of escapism.

Who are your “typical” customers?
Our customers are so diverse but increasingly local, most live or work downtown. I’ve been surprised by the percentage of our customers who work in creative fields:  the music industry, publishing/editorial and a surprising number in fashion.

You offer both womenswear and menswear. What are the shopping differences between the two genders in your opinion?
I think men shop with a general idea about what they feel they need or what they're comfortable in. The important variable is the fit. This makes them overall faster shoppers. Predictably, I think, women enjoy the process more. Women will browse and are perhaps more willing to take a risk.

Where do you find new brands and products?
Some are brands that I’ve seen for years (Mara Hoffman, Ksubi) and consistently loved the collections. More recently we get a lot of feedback and recommendations from friends in fashion (One Teaspoon from my great friend Cat Marnell, the beauty editor of Jane Pratt's new website XOJane.com), customers are vocal for sure, and just constantly keeping our eyes open. Anytime I’m out and see someone wearing something that looks exciting or different I'll almost always ask them who makes it. Blogs like Knighttcat.com, fashion magazines and lately I’m finding it fun and helpful to read international (UK) editions to find out about brands we may not necessarily be as exposed to.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a shop on the Lower East Side and what do you like most about your location?
There are so many things that I love about this location but top of the list is that this is a neighborhood of trendsetters. All I have to do for inspiration is look out the front door. There is so much diversity of culture and style. This can also be a challenge because the residents of this neighborhood want everything–music, news, fashion–first. There’s an awesome and unexpected sense of community amongst the business owners in this neighborhood.  A disadvantage may be that the Lower East Side is not known for shopping the way that other neighborhoods like SoHo may be. But probably for this same reason the boutiques around here are able to maintain such a quirky, creative spirit–one of my favorites, Maryam Nassir Zadeh captures this perfectly.
Blake Scotland interior
Blake Scotland interior

How do you promote the store and get the word out about it? And how do you stay in touch with current customers?
We worked with People’s Revolution PR on our reopening event and press surrounding the launch. I’m just beginning to get more into social media like Twitter (@blakescotland) Tumblr and Facebook. We distribute a monthly newsletter to current customers which includes sales, special events, press and information on new lines we’re carrying. (For addition to our newsletter please email amaris@blakescotland.com).

What special events do you hold and how important are those in specialty retailing?
We’ve hosted trunk shows for a number of independent designers, hosted Fashion's Night Out and wine tastings. Special events are useful for making connections between people with common interests, always a fantastic time and potentially introduce the store to new designers and/or customers.

What is the biggest challenge you face as an independent retailer in NYC?

It’s challenging to keep expenses low in this city and as a new business that’s critically important for us.

What current fashion trend are you loving? And hating?
It was fun that mesh made a comeback for women’s summer—I was into it. The only trend I can think of that I’m hating is tie-dye but it had its moment for sure.

From your own experience and after talking with vendors and other insiders, how do you think the independent fashion scene is doing? In other words, is the recession really over?
Things are definitely looking up. People seem willing to shop provided that the selection is right. I feel like the fall will be a really great indicator.

What do you love most about the new store?
Aside from the selection, the new decor has made the store brighter and more open.  It has such an open, inviting feel now.

What looks or items do you think will be popular for fall 2011 and/or spring 2012?
Going into fall ’11 maxi skirts are huge—loving them with a pair of chunky platforms. Drop crotch pants and Nordic print sweaters look popular for men.