Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Shopping as Event with Appel & Frank
Jody Frank and Karen Appel, the duo behind the increasingly popular Appel & Frank shopping events first met in their hometown of San Diego when they were 9 years old and have been close friends ever since. As Appel & Frank, they put on a series of seasonal fashion and shopping events throughout the year in San Francisco, Marin County, and now San Diego. A portion of the proceeds for all events is donated to a local charity, and at their Eco-Chic shopping event last fall the IFCSF was the lucky organization. I was intrigued by how they went from full-time careers in marketing and advertising to being able to start their own business around one of my favorite activities – shopping!
DP: So the first thing I want to know is, how did you come up with the idea for Appel and Frank?
KA: We started in 2003 on Valentine’s Day. And we had a couple of friends who were designers and they had a couple of friends who were designers, and we held an event at my apartment in Noe Valley. It was a 2-bedroom apartment and we had about 8 designers, a couple in each room, and we just invited all of our friends and the fee for the designers was 2 bottles of wine. So all of our friends came and shopped, we had a great time, and the designers did really well, and we saw this opportunity to tap into this incredible community of designers and bring them to the shoppers of San Francisco who are always looking for unique pieces and accessories for their wardrobe.
DP: It’s amazing that even with all the boutiques and specialty stores we have here, you can still find a market for this outside of the stores.
JF: And what’s nice is that the designers come and we also invite a lot of little boutiques. If they’re lucky some of them have even had their lines picked up by the boutiques, so it’s great exposure for them to be able to get in front of consumers and directly in front of retailers in an area that otherwise they might not have been able to.
DP: What kinds of boutiques usually come to the event?
JF: A lot of local boutiques, Rag, Mingle, Azalea, independent boutiques on Hayes and Union and Chestnut Street, Fillmore.
DP: Can any designer do the event if they pay the fee, or do they have to be chosen by you?
KA: They definitely have to be chosen by us, and how it works is they have to fill out an application on our website and we’ll look at their web site or they’ll email us and if we think it’s a good fit for our event we’ll let them participate. There are also quite a few designers we find ourselves, like if we see something in a store or on a friend I’ll do a little research and find out who the designer is. But we are very particular about who we invite to the event and we only have a certain amount of space per category so it’s not going to be 40 jewelry designers or 40 handbag designers.
JF: And we’re also careful when doing our floor plans to give everyone a fair opportunity to be in front of the shoppers.
KA: And they do pay – we have 2 table options, a 6-foot table or an 8-foot table or the equivalent space and it’s just a flat fee, we don’t take any part of their sales, everything they earn is theirs to keep.
DP: Are you now able to make this your own business?
KA: We’ve both been doing this full time for a couple of years now.
JF: And we recently expanded to San Diego and do events down there as well.
DP: For a designer just starting out, what are some good ways for them to get their work shown?
JF: Besides our events, there are other great events around town and sometimes if a designer isn’t the right fit for our event, there might be some other events they’re a better fit for.
KA: Or bringing it to a boutique, and that’s where I think we have unique niche because it’s hard for a designer just starting out to shop their lines to different boutiques. Our events are relatively low-priced and allow them to test it in front of the shoppers and get in front of the boutiques.
JF: We can never guarantee boutique owners, it’s just something that we do. We invite them all and give them complimentary admission but the event is primarily a shopping event for the consumers and it’s more of an added bonus that there are boutique owners there and buyers, but it’s not something we guarantee or advertise to the designers.
DP: Do you receive photos or press kits on an ongoing basis from designers?
KA: Definitely – we get about 10-15 applications a week.
JF: And there are especially more when it’s closer to the events we’re hosting.
KA: And the word seems to spread a lot that we’re out there so we definitely see more activity closer to the event, but it’s consistent throughout the year.
DP: What would you advise a designer do to make them stand out, such as press kits?
JF: We actually don’t receive any press kits since we have an application they need to fill out.
KA: But as far as what we’re looking for, it’s quality and then also current style or either jewelry or handbags that we think would be a good fit for our clientele, meaning we know our shoppers pretty well and what they’re going to like. I think our top thing is quality.
DP: What do each of you like most about putting on these events?
KA: My favorite part, and I always say this to Jody, is the day of the event when we walk into the room (the Sutter Room) and it’s kind of a clean slate, and then by about 4:00 it’s buzzing with designers who are arriving and setting up. And just seeing the transformation from that empty room into a room with 55 talented, excited designers who are putting together their tables, that’s one of my favorite moments of every event.
JF: It’s also really fun to see the mix of designers and what we’ve been able to put together because each of them is so unique from the ones before. We have a lot of our regular designer but we get so many new ones each time, and there’s something so cool about seeing their work and feeling that we’re bringing it to the public and putting together this stunning event for them to be able to show their lines.
DP: Do you find that more of the designers you work with are becoming more conscious of sustainable or eco design?
JF: Absolutely. For the past couple years we’ve done an event dedicated exclusively to that called Eco-Chic. We’ve seen a lot more designers going into that direction.
DP: I’ve spoken to people about it and especially with the economy I wonder, do you ever think it’s something that can be part of the fashion mainstream because you have to pay a higher price point?
KA: That was one of the reasons we started doing the Eco-Chic event was to really call attention and allow these designers who made the conscious effort to become more green and eco-conscious with their business practices and give them the proper attention we thought they deserved.
DP: Are you adding anything new for this year?
JF: We’re not adding anything new this year but we did expand down to San Diego and we did expand our Babes & Babies event up to Marin. We’re hoping to expand it to the South Bay as well.
DP: What do you think are the differences between the designers in San Diego and the ones up here?
JF: There’s definitely a lot more designers in the Bay Area than in San Diego, so it’s been a little bit easier having a larger selection up here and the designers are a little more experienced in shopping events because more are offered here. There are a lot of really talented designers in San Diego and we’ve had designers coming down from Los Angeles and Orange County as well so we’ve been happy with the designers we’ve been working with.
DP: Do you have any plans to expand into more cities?
KA: We always talk about the different cities we’d like to go to. I think up north would be a great area, Portland or Seattle and then we’ve had people contact us from different cities who want to start Appel and Frank events so it’s something we want to do in the relatively near future.
DP: I was recently in Portland and it seems like there are so many designers and crafty types up there doing their own thing.
JF: I think what’s really great about places like Portland and the Bay Area is that people have a creative passion and they have their day jobs and they always do their passion on the side and I think the Bay Area attracts those kind of creative people.
DP: If you weren’t doing this, what else do you think you might like to do? Or is this the dream job?
JF: We pretty much love what we do. Karen used to work in PR and I worked in advertising and since we started this, I really love doing events. If we didn’t have our own company to work on I’d really love to be involved in event planning.
KA: I did that in marketing and so it’s great to do it for myself and also be able to plan events that I love.
Appel & Frank’s Spring Into Style Shopping Event will be on Thursday March 26th at the Regency Center Sutter Room from 5-9PM. Admission is 2 for $10 purchased online or 2 for $15 purchased at the door. Each guest will receive a complimentary glass of Barefoot Wine, and the first 300 guests to arrive at the event will receive reusable gift bags filled with products and offers. For tickets, click here.
Featured designers include Birdy Botanicals (bath & body products) , Charming Sam Studio (jewelry) , organice-it (travel/organization products), Rebecca Ciccio (handbags) and Verrieres & Sako (women’s clothing).