Patronizing Il Negozio Sbagliato may turn out to be the right move - even if the store's name literally means “the wrong shop”. In her unconventional women's boutique in Marostica in northeast Italy, Chiara Sonda offers high-quality and top craftsmanship products. The 29-year-old entrepreneur and artist has built her own competencies by innovatively combining her parents’ traditional jobs: her father used to manufacture ceramics and her mother used to sell tailor-made fashion. Sonda sells selected women’s apparel brands along with her own ceramic pieces while caring for the environment as she often re-employs dismissed clay and used fabrics according to an environmentally conscious attitude. We spoke to Sonda about sourcing, finding inspiration in night clubs and making her customers feel at home.
What are the current bestsellers of your store and why?
Our store’s bestseller is the “Chiccha”, a ceramic cup we produce by re-employing old chalk molds. It is available in different hues and people often pre-order when planning gifts for special occasions. Among fashion brands, TM, a Portuguese womenswear collection, is the most successful as it is characterized by comfy silhouettes, high-quality manufacturing and great materials. For knitwear also selling well is Catherine André for her warm and spicy hue mantles. Together with them we also carry small brands from France, Portugal and also Tel Aviv, Athens, New York and Italy. Although most of them are all small and still unknown, my clients appreciate them for their high quality and fits meeting everyone’s body type.
Do people buy according to their favorite brand, style, or impulse?
As I often change and put great effort in our shop windows, my clients are often attracted and captured especially by all the colors and the innovative silhouettes I show. Plus the store offers a nice mix of different styles and products, mostly made with natural Made in Italy yarns. What generally attracts my clients are style and impulse, but also knowledge. In fact, I often organize events in my stores including “Artists’ Saturdays.” At these occasions some designers behind the brands I offer often show our clients designs, studies and patterns of the pieces I sell.
Where do you order? How do you inform yourself about trends?
Research is a fundamental aspect as we want to offer fresh, new and not yet renowned brands. We also scout Tranoi and Who’s Next in Paris, Milan Fashion Week and Pitti Uomo in Florence. Even if I find it most stimulating spending time at concerts, DJ sets, clubs–all places where I can observe what the young choose daily–as they are the real trendsetters. I also travel often. I was recently in Japan and discovered unexpected situations, people and artists that are particularly tied with their territory and–exactly as I do–they employ leftover materials. Therefore I will soon present them in my store. Travelling is fundamental for finding oneself. This way my store presents international products originating from local and traditional craftsmanship.
How important is the communication with regular customers? How do you communicate with them?
I greet all of them and keep a friendly relationship. And when I cannot meet them inside the store I stay in touch with them through social networks or by messaging with them. I like to think that my store’s concept is the same one of old-time stores though transferred to modern days. For instance, I also organize ceramic laboratories inside the store through which I get to know my customers better and eventually organize new future design projects.
What do the collections you offer for next spring/summer look like? And what are the most important trends, in general?
As in music we speak about “mash up” by overlapping music pieces and genres that create some new hybrid piece. This can also happen in fashion. In fact I can offer designers’ collections characterized by androgynous and asymmetric silhouettes together with pieces inspired by dark moods and New York designers, mostly offering urban and feminine fashion. I also like to mix Japanese designers, 1980s reminiscences and pieces in 100% cotton denim that changes and fades out season after season.
Have you added any new labels to your assortment?
Together with emerging designers such as, for instance, Cristina Ruggiero, Cupro, Martina Cella and others, I will also offer my own collection that debuted for in October 2017 during Venice Fashion Night–Chiara Sonda per Berto Industria Tessile. This new “limited edition” is entirely made with soft-touch denim 100% fabrics exclusively made by denim fabric manufacturer Berto. This collection will be characterized by a kind of androgynous look added with 1980s touches and offering huge skirts, palazzo trousers and colorful asymmetric sweatshirts to be worn together with sneakers.
How does your store differ from other stores?
Stories, time and tactile sensations make a difference. Negozio Sbagliato is a “labotique” where one can work with one’s mind and hands. It is a ceramic laboratory crowded with clothes. Here we work clay, but also can touch fabrics and tell stories.
What do you like about your customers?
Their curiosity, their positive attitude and their energy. People passing from my store are those who come in looking for inspiration, asking questions about designers and the materials they employ. They are conscious they will bring home that “wrong” piece they fell in love with and in the end they will wear longer than the “right” one!
“Shopping in the ‘wrong’ place can turn out to be right”
How important is the interior, the atmosphere and the whole package?
Music, light, colors, materials and atmosphere are fundamental for explaining to clients what it’s all about here. Moreover, many tell me they feel as if they were at home. And, believe me, there is no better compliment!