When Yoli Rapp first thought of leaving corporate America, she never imagined owning a fashion boutique on wheels. But her growing dissatisfaction for the nine-to-five lifestyle soon became too intense to ignore. As a vendor at the Green Flea Market on the weekends, she began to listen to her own customers’ feedback and soon realized there was a missing opportunity in the mobile fashion truck market – one that sold new and used designer clothing, from Chanel to Yves Saint Laurent. She decided to give her vision a go in 2012 and created Le Fashion Coupe, a high-end mobile shopping experience. Operating Le Fashion Coupe and talking with real women, provided Yoli with insight into how they wanted to be styled. She began working on silhouettes full-time for her own designer line, Yoli Rapp, which launched in late 2013. The Yoli Rapp Collection is for the every woman – the mom, the executive, and the student looking for comfortable, sexy pieces that transition easily from day to night. They want to make our customer feel special by delivering looks that are simple and elegant but reasonable. Along with the Bohemian Luxe apparel collection is the Alma Di Piedra Collection, one-of-a-kind, handmade jewelry made of leather and semi-precious stones.
Who is Yoli Rapp?
Yoli Rapp is the “typical” New Yorker – unfiltered, outspoken and passionate. She prides herself on being loyal and honest. That attitude is what, for the most part, helped Yoli obtain a loyal clientele. If something is not flattering, she will address it immediately. “If a customer purchases something from me that doesn’t look good on them, I feel it is my obligation to tell them and explain why. It’s not about making a quick sale. It’s about establishing a long-term relationship”.
Can you tell us more about the collections?
The Spring/Summer 2014 collection was inspired primarily by the feedback I received from my boutique customers. Most lead hectic lives and were all in search of staple pieces, comfort, versatility and flattering silhouettes. The color palette was inspired by sand and sea. There are 3 fabric choices – super soft jersey, non-itchy metallic and silk. I purposely veered away from too many prints. Most women want solid colors, which they can mix and match with their existing accessories. The fit is what is the most important to me. When a woman wears Yoli Rapp, I want her to feel comfortable and sexy!
(This look is my personal fav!)
I think your mobile boutique “Le Fashion Coupe” is such a fresh idea! Tell us more….
I was on a plane on my way to Chicago, when I came across a magazine that had an article about fashion trucks. At that time, my mother and I were working at a fantastic Flea Market on the weekends selling new and designer resale clothing. I recall thinking, “As soon as I get off this plane I’m calling my husband. I’m getting a truck!” Within a week, I purchased a truck and Le Fashion Coupe was on the road! It was an amazing experience for me.
How do you go about collecting designer pieces for your customers?
My boutique on wheels was the first to house curated items from Chanel, Gucci, YSL and Proenza Schouler to Rag & Bone. My customers ranged from 20-60 years old. I gained so much knowledge. I learned what silhouettes they preferred and why. I would watch to see what colors they were drawn to. Le Fashion Coupe was the platform I needed to venture out and start my own collection. The experience was priceless!
As we know, fashion is often times 60% business and 40% actual fashion. Do you have any financial advice that has served you well in managing your brand that you can share with new designers?
Starting your own line can be very expensive….and lonely. I’ve made so many costly mistakes along the way. If I could turn back time I would do many things differently. My advice to new designers is “slow and steady wins the race.” First, purchase a book about starting a fashion business. This is your reference guide. A $30 investment goes a long way vs. hiring a consultant for $500 (or more!) just to have them tell you exactly the same thing. We sometimes become so enamored with fashion itself that we don’t think about the business side. Artists like to create, but at the end of the day, it’s still a business. Once you make your decision to move forward then you need to be frugal. Think about your customers’ lifestyle. This will eventually become instrumental; not only in your designs, but in your branding as well. Visit a few department stores to get a better understanding of who your competition is and what their price points are. Before you decide to buy even one piece of thread, make sure that the fabrics you choose have continuity. No sense in buying a fabric you are in love with to later find out that you can’t get more then 50 yards. Read as much as you can about manufacturing. Some may not agree with me, but I think fashion shows, when jumped into prematurely, are a waste of time and money. I would start small – allocate the dollars towards the samples, patterns, photo shoots, website development, social media, marketing and copy. Do a few trunk shows, markets and street fairs with minimal inventory. Pay close attention to how shoppers respond to your collection. Their feedback will help you edit your collections and build your confidence. Remember, negative feedback is not negative! When you eventually venture out and meet with boutique owners, equip them with as many selling points as possible. For example, my Dolman Sleeve Shift Dress covers the midriff, thighs and arms. Women are often searching for tops that cover these problem areas. It can be worn with heels, boots or sandals. Pair with simple accessories for a look that’s office-appropriate or with bold accessories for a glam, evening look. Grab some of the accessories they sell in the store and show them how beautifully they can pair them with your pieces. They will love and appreciate the advice.
Great advice! The world of design can be a very crowded place. How are you setting yourself apart from other emerging designers?
The world of design can be a crowded space, but there is truly something for everyone. I’m trying to pave the way with pieces that I believe women will wear and want in different colors and fabrics. I have a checklist that I created for each design based on customer feedback. If a design doesn’t meet the criteria, it needs to be scratched from the collection. For example, a silhouette can look absolutely beautiful in a size small, but would never work in a large. That needs to be scratched then because down the road, this may need to be sold in a pre-pack and a boutique owner is not going to want to get stuck with a surplus of inventory. I would have never known this if I wasn’t on the retail side. What I think sets me apart from other emerging designers is that my collection is primarily driven NOT by design, but by what’s going to really sell. If retailers see that your line is moving, they will purchase from you season after season. Building long-term relationships are key.
How can interested buyers contact you?
Interested buyers can visit my website at:
http://www.wholesale.yolirapp.com or call the Los Angeles Blackout Showroom at 213.624.2477 to schedule an appointment to view the collection.
Thank you so much Yoli for sharing so many gems with our readers! Very special thanks to Beth for facilitating this introduction.
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