The Pattern Store — a combination store, event space and office created by the fashion collective Pattern with the help of the Riley Area Development Corporation, other non-profits and a last-minute Kickstarter — is opening its doors to the public Friday, Aug. 1, from 5-10 p.m. But let's be clear, says Pattern co-founder and executive director Polina Osherov, this this is a soft opening/sneak peek, with plans in place for an official, grand opening in September or October. Featured vendors at Friday's event include House of 5th, PRINTtEXT, Luur Design, Rue Violet and No Bad Ideas.
Planning for the store started only four months ago, according to Osherov, and they hired the store's only full-time employee, retail expert Jeremiah Williams, "little more than four weeks ago." When I phoned Osherov in Colorado on Monday, she said that there's "a lot of furious merchandising, tagging and steaming happening right now" in the store. Osherov, by the way, planned her vacation well in advance of the grand opening and will be back in town in time for Friday's event. Here's more from our interview.
NUVO: Why'd you move so quickly to get the store open?
Polina Osherov: Primarily, it was motivated by economic reasons. From August to December is probably the best time for retailers, especially in clothing. Eric Strickland — who is the executive director of the Riley Area Development Corporation, helped me spearhead this whole project and has had extensive experience in retail — was pretty insistent that we launch now or we don't launch until next spring. After we got the grant from Central Indiana Community Foundation, we didn't want to sit on it; we wanted to strike while the iron was hot!
NUVO: And as you say in a piece on the Pattern site, founding a retail store was never part of the master plan.
Osherov: As a non-profit with limited resources, we try to make the dollar stretch as far as we can and try to kill as many birds with one stone as we can. So when this opportunity first came up, it certainly didn't seem like an appropriate fit because it had never been something that we'd thought about. But the more we worked with Riley, the more they were able to figure out how they could help us on the back end, the more we got more comfortable with the idea of an incubator. Of course, having a physical space is really great for us; we do a lot of events. When we work on Pattern Magazine, we're sort of nomads; we go between The Speak Easy and the Bureau at the Hinge. So we thought that we could do a lot of things with the space, as a retail location and an events space and an office for Pattern Magazine.
NUVO: Why was creating a retail space something you had never thought about? Is it because Pattern thinks of itself more as a community-building organization and a publication?
Osherov: I'm such that I'm open to change. I think one of the reasons why the organization has done a lot is that we've been able to move quickly, and adjust on the fly, and see what the community was looking for us to do and what's being supported. The biggest reason we hadn't thought about it is, frankly, manpower. With the exception of Jeremiah, we're still purely a volunteer-run organization; no one gets paid. How do you open a store, open seven days a week, with just volunteers? It seemed an unlikely scenario.
Obviously the hope is that the store starts generating revenue, and in a few months we're able to bring on some other staff. We've been having so much trouble finding funding because we're not a typical non-profit; when funding organizations look at us, they have a lot of trouble figuring out who we are and what we do, we don't fit into a normal bracket of an arts organization or medical needs organization. So we said, if we can figure out a way to becoming self-sustaining and leave the grant dollars to artists and others who really struggle with funding and have a hard time figuring out a way to really make money, why don't we do that?
For us, the next step we want to see happen is creating a cut-and-sew shop. Of course, we want to represent as many local vendors as we can in the store, but the trouble for them is producing the product locally. There are so many folks with great ideas but no means to create even prototypes to test them out and see if they sell and how well the public responds to them. You have to go to China, India or Chicago. But we want to figure out a way to make it happen here in Indy.
NUVO: So you'll be carrying more in the way of national or international brands because a lot of locals wouldn't necessarily be able to provide the kind of quantity you're looking for.
Osherov: We're definitely starting out carrying national brands more than local, mostly because of availability, but also because we don't want to compete directly with stores like Homespun or Boomerang Boutique that are basically our neighbors. We have women's wear, menswear, accessories. Opening up we're going to have a really low level of inventory. We didn't really have the amount of money that one should have to open up a store of this size, so we're going to start out small and build on it. But there's going to be some emphasis on collaborations with local brands on specific stuff for our store that no one else have. Hopefully that'll stimulate a lot of new ideas and cool products to come out of it. When we have visitors in town, we want to be able to hang up stuff made locally next to stuff that's been made in L.A. or New York, to promote the whole idea that Indianapolis is just as good as anywhere else.
NUVO: What kind of apparel and accessories will you be carrying? Any high-end products?
Osherov: We have four archetypes to help us figure out what we want to have in store. They are Sporty Stylista and Cultural Trail Chic for women; one is more sporty and urban, the other is more professional and fitted. And then for men, one is called Startup Style, for the young professional working in, say, a tech startup, so who's not quite as conservative as someone working at a bank or as a lawyer, someone who's going after trends but keeping it professional. And the fourth one is called Urban Explorer, which is more of a streetwear look, casual but not sloppy or messy. We're targeting a younger demographic, an age group between 20 and 45. Price bracket-wise, we're going to be in a $45-150 range, not high-end. We're not going with an idea of a couture boutique at all. We want to make this accessible, catering to a demographic that's starting to move downtown.
NUVO: Will these archetypes be seen by the public or are they more of an internal organizing rubric?
Osherov: It could be somewhat public. We might merchandise around them. It's important that people realize that we need to be gentle with us. We're not trying to present ourselves as experts in retail. It's an experiment for us, a lab of sorts. So to answer your question: maybe? I don't have all the answers! We're just going to try it out and see what happens.
NUVO: And you can use the space for a bunch of purposes. I assume the store can be rearranged for events?
Osherov: Everything's on wheels or moveable and it can be reconfigured to be an event space. That's exciting for us to be able to have more frequent, smaller events on more specific topics or catering to specific groups of people. Continuing to engage the community is at the heart of it. There aren't enough of us to go around to be the middleman. So to bring people together and allow them this opportunity to meet each other and take it from there, and allow them to make whatever plans or partnerships that they want to is really at the heart of what they're trying to do.
NUVO: You noted on your Kickstarter that there's a two-year incubation period for the store.
Osherov: If everything goes to plan and generates good revenue and allows us to hire people to do lots of other things other than just working at the store, it's something we'd probably want to continue. But then again it might just be a means to an end, a way for people to get to know us and what we're doing, of spreading the good word that fashion and style are alive and well in Indianapolis, to get attention from the national or maybe even international scene. I think that what we're doing as an organization is pretty unique. And we've got other cool initiatives and things with the city that are happening in the next four months, so who knows? We may be on to bigger and better things than just having a retail store. But the two-year incubation period is exciting because 50 percent of profits are going to go back to Riley, and they're going to use that money to incubate other retailers and small businesses. If nothing else, we'll help somebody else get up and running.