Chatting with Natalie Bloomingdale of The SIL
With The SIL, Natalie has leveraged the knowledge she’s gained from working in public relations to spotlight independent designers who weren’t getting the attention they deserve for lack of brand awareness. We visited Natalie to get the inside scoop on her quickly expanding roster of trendsetters.
Melissa: How did you get started in the fashion world?
Natalie: There was a designer in Texas that I love, and I wore her garments exclusively. Every time I wore her pieces, I’d get compliments. I’d be at restaurants and people would interject and ask me where my dress is from. It’s because the designer’s fabrics are different, the construction and silhouettes are unique. They’re lady-like but different from what you see and what you can buy off the rack. It was frustrating to me because the only way you could buy her things was in this little store in Dallas. It’s impossible—there’s no online presence. The store was only open between ten in the morning to two in the afternoon, Monday to Friday. I started The SIL to give her more of a platform.
Melissa: How many designers are on the site currently, and how do you find designers you want to showcase?
Natalie: The premise of The SIL is that you can’t find the designers anywhere else on the internet. Much of it has been really organic. It’s mostly word of mouth, It’s mostly word of mouth, but one of the first to come on board was handbag designer Hayden Lasher. She was a client of ours and she agreed to do a couple of exclusive items. The jewelry designer Cassandra was a good girlfriend. It started out with friends and has grown organically from that. There is one girl in particular, Molly Moorkamp, who was working at Ralph Lauren and had a custom womenswear business on the side. She wanted to dip her toe in without fully committing to her own business. I offered to give her the platform to do that. She created two styles that have been best sellers, and since then she has started her own line called Molly Moorkamp.
Melissa: How do you define your own personal style?
Natalie: I’m really all over the place. The line I am wearing right now, Keehn Deutch, is feminine, sophisticated and elevated daywear. I always wear dresses because I don’t work in the corporate world, so I don’t have to wear slacks and button ups, but at the same time, I like looking sharp when I leave the house. I would never leave the house in workout clothes. I like wearing easy-to-wear, comfortable, easy to pull-off lady-like looks.
Melissa: Do you have certain criterion that designers must meet in order to be on your site?
Natalie: No. For example,Hayden Lasher is pretty established, but the catch is that I want to have the exclusives. So, they’ll do a piece just for me. Sometimes that means they provide me just one certain color. Sometimes they pull something from their site but don’t give it to other retailers. There are so many e-commerce boutiques, so my mission is to not be like the rest.
Melissa: Do you have a favorite trend for the Spring/Summer season?
Natalie: Lately, I have to say caftans have been performing really well. Tish Cox did a robe version and I have one designer in San Antonio who did a house dress for me with a pink bow. I’m also bringing on La Vie Style House and they’re known for their caftans.
Melissa: How do people find you? Do you use Instagram? Do you email clients?
Natalie: I think Instagram helps a lot. I never email my clients. I did a trunk show at the Beverly Hills Hotel in November. It was the first collaboration of its kind. I asked 5 of my designers to come up with something in our shared color palette, modelled after the hotel because I love it so much and it was really successful. Whether people saw the little yard signs, or learned through word-of-mouth – I’m still seeing interest spike and repeat customers from that.
Melissa: If we were to raid your closet, which accessory would we find the most of?
Natalie: I’d say earrings and shoes. I also have a pretty serious handbag problem.
Melissa: Do you have a particular color that’s really popular for Spring and Summer?
Natalie: Yes, a light green. A mint green. Molly Moorkamp is doing something for me and Tish Cox is doing a silk satin robe thing in green.
Melissa: What’s your favorite way to spend time in LA when you’re not working in PR or on The SIL?
Natalie: I love being at the Polo Lounge. I’m obsessed with the Beverley Hills Hotel. We’re also members of a beach club, so having a cocktail and sitting outside somewhere enjoying. I’m kind of low key.
Melissa: What has been the most challenging and surprising part of working on The SIL?
Natalie: Putting the trunk show together. I have an amazing friend who handled the production elements which are way over my head. There were a lot of challenges. There are lots of little things you don’t think of like running peoples’ credit cards, getting invitations out. I’m kind of a luddite with technology which sounds like an oxy-moron since I run a website, but timing all of that and making it come together beautifully was a massive undertaking. What’s surprising has been the evolution of it. I get emails from people all over the world asking me how they can be a part of The SIL. I guess it’s the power of social media and word of mouth.
Melissa: How do you see The SIL growing?
Natalie: I love where we are now, meaning that the mission is to serve as a megaphone for these designers. My day job is in PR and essentially, we’re noticing it’s more and more difficult for independent designers to get their voice heard in any news stories because they don’t have either the backing of a huge retailer like Saks or they’re not an advertiser. If you don’t have the big backing and you’re not spending thousands on ads, it’s really hard for smaller, independent designers to break through the noise. There are so many designers on my site who are truly creative, but maybe [selling] is not where their skills are. The goal is for more appreciation. I’m hoping the pendulum will swing back to the unknown, unfamiliar and to being excited about unique finds.