Thursday, May 24, 2018
Business

Fashion designer Tracy Negoshian gains national attention

ST. PETERSBURG

The new Tracy Negoshian store on tony Fifth Avenue in Naples features the designer's bright printed dresses, tops and shorts in a sleek, elegant setting. It's Negoshian's first and only store. But her increasingly popular line, known for shifts with geometric designs and tops speckled with coral and sea horses, is sold in 500 boutiques around the United States from major cities to posh resorts.

What most of her shoppers, ranging from teens to retirees, don't know is that this growing fashion company is based in the attic of a home-building office on 49th Street S in St. Petersburg.

Negoshian, a 32-year-old Zephyrhills native and golf standout at Zephyrhills High School, started her business about five years ago with a loan from her stepfather. She paid him back within a year.

"It was the right thing at the right time," said Negoshian, who graduated from the University of South Florida with a marketing degree.

Shortly after college, she was working at Saks Fifth Avenue in Palm Beach selling Lilly Pulitzer and Emilio Pucci dresses at $250 to more than $1,000 apiece. She often wondered why the clothes, with brightly designed graphics, had to be so pricey — and "dry clean only."

"If I did have something that I got on a great sale, I'd wear it a few times then I would set it aside for weeks because I had to get it dry-cleaned," she lamented. Meanwhile she was wearing sharp clothes she bought at Target and Kmart that she altered slightly or complemented with a belt, button or scarf to work. Her Saks customers always wanted to know where they could get her look.

After convincing her stepfather there was a niche she could fill in women's fashion, Negoshian met with sample makers in New York's Garment District. The first attempt was way off the mark but she tried again and ultimately wound up working with a South Korean manufacturer in Seoul.

In 2009 she launched the Tracy Negoshian line by sending out postcards and making personal sales calls to stores around the country that also sold Lilly Pulitzer, Tory Burch or Trina Turk. Her dresses looked very similar but were in the $100 to $150 price range instead of $200 to $400. Within six months, 175 stores were selling her clothing.

Because of the recession, boutiques were selling fewer of the higher-ticket items and decided to invest less money up front in something that would be easier to sell, Negoshian said. She sold out of her first year's inventory. Right product at the right time.

The fact that everything can be washed in the washing machine on a cold temperature and hung to dry was a plus for savings and convenience. Another distinguishing and popular feature on Tracy Negoshian designs are the slightly longer hemlines.

"It's easy to make something shorter but its hard to make it longer," she said, adding that many younger shoppers shorten the dresses while those with more mature figures are grateful for a little more coverage.

"I just had an $1,100 sale and it was all Tracy," said Kathie Orrico, from her C. Orrico store in Palm Beach. "She has always had incredible prints and color combinations and they really translate between blonds and brunettes. The way she designs is very fresh and contemporary but literally can translate throughout generations."

The cuts and prints can also transition from work to dinner or a business breakfast to a football game, she added.

"It has just enough of an edge wherever you go. She uses very rich colors, mostly graphics," said Orrico, who co-owns five stores with her sisters and has been in women's retail for 29 years.

The new Tracy Negoshian store in Naples was something that fell into place without the fashion designer looking for it. Two brothers in retail in Nantucket, Mass., heard about space becoming available on Naples' noted Fifth Avenue. They had met Negoshian over the years at wholesale markets and asked her to join forces with them. The store is co-branded Tracy Negoshian (for women) and Castaway Clothing (for men).

That's why her first store isn't on Beach Drive, she said. She hopes to open two stores this year and is considering St. Petersburg.

Negoshian and just three other employees create all the designs and prints. She sketches patterns, inspired by the ocean, shells, Mexican tiles and beyond and another designer produces them on the computer so they can be printed on fabric in Korea.

Her company is lean and that keeps prices reasonable. She contracts salespeople who represent multiple designers to market Tracy Negoshian to stores and boutiques. At some point she would like to have her own sales force represent only Tracy Negoshian and push it harder.

Business has grown steadily and last year the company saw $3 million in sales, she said. She recently added separates, such as tops, sweaters and shorts, which cost between $58 and $72.

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Katherine Snow Smith can be reached at or [email protected] (727) 893-8785.

 
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