When Sarah Easley and Beth Buccini started their own store in NYC in 1999, fashion lovers instantly fell in love with the vibrant yet practical selection, kind and encouraging staff and stellar location. Today, Kirna Zabete is a must-visit stop on any Big Apple shopping trip, not to mention an ultra-tempting e-commerce destination. The secret to Kirna Zabete’s success: Sarah and Beth’s commitment to doing things their own way, with loads of personality, positivity and business know-how. Here, these two inspiring women share a bit about their journey in retail, their personal style and more.
Their Very First Jobs
A mannequin at Kirna Zabete. Photo: @bethbuccini
Sarah Easley: "I was 15 and I was a tennis teacher at a children’s camp. I learned patience. (Still a work-in-progress my friends and family would say!) My first “fashion” job was age 21 working in the corporate office of Christian Dior. Mainly I ordered office supplies, white roses for the reception desk and translated documents from French to English but I got amazing free clothes. I learned to be useful by wearing many hats and multi-tasking. Also, my mom was right, nice manners do get you pretty far!"
Beth Buccini: "My first job ever was volunteering as a candy striper at a children’s hospital in Norfolk, Virginia where I’m from. I learned the importance of compassion and the value of hard work. And I saw with my own eyes how lucky I was to have my health! My first fashion job was interning during college at Barney’s New York in the personal shopping department. That experience opened my eyes to the world of high-end fashion and I was hooked!"
Lessons Learned Early On
Beth and Sarah in Christian Dior dresses. Photo: @kirna
SE: "I really learned a lot in my previous jobs about the business of fashion. I figured out how to hire a great sales team and motivate them to sell and how to merchandise and edit a collection. But I had no market overview at all. Beth and I always say in the beginning we had zero overlapping skills. Now we have pretty much cloned skill sets."
BB: "I worked for various magazines before we opened the store. My last job was as the Fashion Editor of New York Magazine. Basically it was pre-internet so we had to credit everything we shot or wrote about to a New York store. It was a great lesson in who bought what where, and how they bought it. I saw there was a void in the market for a great shopping destination downtown. I lived downtown, and worked in midtown. I didn’t want to have to go to midtown on the weekends to shop."
How Retail Has Changed Over The Last 15 Years
Inside Kirna Zabete. Photo: Courtesy
SE: "The client is so much more educated now. There are so many options for buying luxury fashion. We have kept the same goal though: the best edit of the best designers, keep it personal and give outstanding customer service. We also still believe that fashion should be FUN. I think this is contagious."
BB: "When we opened retail was very straightforward. Department stores sold clothes, shoes, and accessories. “Lifestyle” didn’t exist. Nor did e-commerce. And there were fewer designers to choose from!"
Their Role Models And Mentors
Jade Hobson (bottom left) and Vogue editors photographed by Annie Leibovitz for the documentary 'In Vogue: The Editor's Eye'. Photo: Vogue.com
SE: "I think in many ways Beth and I continue to motivate each other to keep it fresh, fun, and work hard. Some days I am absolute luggage and she shines bright, other times she is not her best and I deal. We also alternate with the semi-unpopular role of BAD COP. We can also team up together which can be effective! There go our secrets!"
BB: "Jade Hobson. She was the Creative Director of Vogue for a long time, and started Mirabella magazine with Grace Mirabella. She was my boss at both Mirabella and New York Magazine. She’s now at Town & Country. She really taught me about the editor’s eye - in everything from flowers to home to, of course, fashion. Traveling in Europe with her at the shows truly opened my eyes!"
Sage Career Advice
Sarah and Beth in stripes and denim. Photo: Courtesy
SE: "You will only be good if you love it and keep another job opportunity in your pocket. This will make you more confident in your current job. Take risks."
BB: "One thing my parents always told us was to follow your passion. I was obsessed with fashion my entire life and my brother was obsessed with aquariums. He is now the Director of the Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco and I have Kirna Zabete. When you love what you do it doesn’t feel like work so much!"
A Jason Wu display at Kirna Zabete. Photo: Courtesy
SE: "See below!"
BB: "We’ve been best friends since we were 17 years old! So we know each other really, really well. We understood the best and worst of each other before we started the business, so we went into it with our eyes wide open. In the beginning I knew which designers to buy and Sarah knew how much. Now we’ve morphed into one! It is more of a sisterhood at this point."
Working With Target And Nine West
Feather heels from the Kirna Zabete at Nine West collection.
SE: "We were so thrilled to be creative. And! See total strangers wearing products we designed. Cannot wait to do it again."
BB: "We found our inner designer! And we learned how much fun it is to work on a mass level where high fashion can be accessible to such a huge audience."
New York Fashion Week Favorites
Thakoon, fall 2014. Photo: Courtesy
SE: "The bold, wild prints at Thakoon were really tempting."
BB: "I loved the Patagonia-type jackets and knits at Altuzarra. I can’t wait to wear those. And the knit sweaters with chiffon drapey skirts at Prabal Gurung."
The Evolving Format
Pedro del Hierro's fall presentation. Photo: @kirnazabete
SE: "It was pretty hard getting out of Brooklyn after Alex…but a cool show! I agree with Beth's response below. VIVA MILK!"
BB: "There are far too many shows in NYC; more designers should do presentations. Every editor and retailer loves a presentation. I promise! Also, Milk was the most efficient and pleasant experience this season. And getting in and out of the Proenza Schouler show was so easy since it was a small venue. That was such a relief! It is hard enough to do our jobs during fashion week, the circus and size of it all has gotten out of control."
Fashion & Beauty
Their Personal Style
Beth in a bold green coat. Photo: Courtesy
SE: "I love finding ways to wear sports gear on the street in a grown-up chic way. For work, I feel most myself in a pretty print blouse, a tailored blazer and jeans. I guess 70s is my decade. Too bad I wore mostly OP and Lily Pulitzer then."
BB: "A hodge-podge! Mood-driven! A little whimsical, a little boho, a little clean, a little Audrey. But really the joke is that Sarah is Sporty Spice and I’m Posh Spice."
On Their Shopping Lists
A look from Baja East's spring collection. Photo: Courtesy
SE: "My favorite new designer is Baja East. Two of our great friends (former Lanvin and Celine execs) created this line which makes me want to throw out my closet and start over. Think cashmere-cool Montauk bonfire vibe."
BB: "A Mansur Gavriel bucket bag. We’re not getting them until April and I’m counting the days! And I can’t wait for Céline and Valentino runway."
Night Out Essentials
Tonya Hawkes Snake Tassel Clutch, $1150
SE: "I love sleek Celine dresses and Valentino jumpsuits."
BB: "I just got a Tonya Hawkes gold clutch with a big tassel. I’m really excited about that! And a red lip; I like Nars Red Square. A also love a great Nicholas Kirkwood heel and a Stella McCartney blazer."
Favorite Beauty Products
What We Do In Paris Is Secret by Lab on Fire, $110
SE: "The best lip gloss is Lip Spread tinting lip gloss by Vbeaute. I am wearing a fragrance that completes me (ha!) called (not kidding) What We Do In Paris Is Secret by Lab on Fire. It is impossible to find and I hunt it down."
BB: "I’m obsessed with Nuxe Huile Prodigiuese a dry oil for the body; I love scent and feel of it. Onesta Play Paste for perfect amount of spiky lightweight hair. And Amanda Lacey Oils of Provence for the face."
Sarah and Beth's Picks
On Finding Balance
Sarah and Beth with family. Photo: Courtesy
SE: "I am still working on it to be honest. My main strategy is no waste. If I am at work, give 150%. If with my family, try to be present and if I do something with friends, make it really count. I try to be conscious on the 1000 tiny decisions that make up each day and make mostly good ones."
BB: "One of the main reasons I wanted to start the store was because I wanted a career in fashion on my own terms. I hadn’t even met my husband, but I knew I wanted a family and needed the balance. And my mother likes to say that even from a very early age I always liked to have a lot going on! So my life is incredibly scheduled and I try to ruthlessly prioritize. For instance, I missed Thakoon’s show on Sunday because two of my children had basketball games at that time. I said to Thakoon, 'my children care more about me being at their games than you do about me being at your show!'"
Three Things We Don't Know About Sarah and Beth
Khai Khai Jewelry at Kirna Zabete. Photo: @kirnazabete
SE: 1.) "I am obsessed with music and my second best meditation is making playlists"; 2.) "My best meditation is dancing to it (Thank you AKT!)"; 3.) "I make excellent cakes and pies."
BB: 1.) "I have four kids who are my everything"; 2.) "I was terrible at sports when I was younger but I’ve found my inner athlete later in life. I love to horseback ride, surf, and do Tracy Anderson"; 3.) "I was voted Best Dressed in high school!"