We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend, and what's "you"? These are some of the questions we're putting to prominent figures in the fashion industry with our column, "How I Shop."
When sitting in on a conversation between Of a Kind Co-Founders Claire Mazur and Erica Cerulo, it's evident that the pair has known each other for quite some time. Never mind the fact that they've owned a business together since the limited-edition-focused e-commerce marketplace launched in 2010 — Mazur and Cerulo have been friends since meeting as students at the University of Chicago in 2002, and their camaraderie shows. The two speak in rapid-fire cadences, finish each other's sentences and know more than a thing or two about one another's style tendencies and shopping practices; this latter quality proved to be especially beneficial for the sake of this interview.
I chatted with Mazur and Cerulo at Of a Kind's loft-like offices in downtown New York City about how they've each built a covetable wardrobe that's also reflective of their business. Whereas Mazur is much more spontaneous about making purchases, Cerulo keeps a running shopping list organized into (at least) two categories. But in all of their years together, the two have picked up on more than a few tips from each other — and truthfully, I'm not sure how I've ever done any shopping without their counsel. Read on to find out how they always discover the coolest stores, how they balance personal and work-related dressing and what about online shopping gets them into a "rage-cage."
"Claire: We're both big online shoppers. We love shopping anywhere but New York. You know when you're on vacation, you're just in a better mindset to shop and you're not in your own head? In Austin, we're obsessed with Kick Pleat. In LA, we love Tenoversix.
Erica: We always end up going to Abbot Kinney when we're in LA because there's new stuff popping up there all the time.
Claire: Tortoise General Store in LA is amazing. The other thing we love in LA is Creatures of Comfort. Obviously the one here is really nice, too, but I think the one in LA is a little bit more accessible. Our newest Brooklyn discovery is French Garment Cleaners. It's really good. They have the typical brands you'd expect — a lot of Rachel Comey, a lot of Isabel Marant — but then they also carry Nomia, and others.
Erica: The two places we always pop into when we're in Nolita are Thomas Sires and Love Adorned. Love Adorned isn't that original of an answer, but they do such a good job of sticking to their aesthetic and evolving it, and always having things that you're not seeing anywhere else.
Claire: We both use ShopStyle alerts pretty religiously. For example, I know that I love Mother Denim and I know exactly what size I am in them, so it's perfect for when they go on sale somewhere and I can buy them right away. I have a Dieppa Restrepo alert. I think we both have Phillip Lim alerts?
Erica: You can get bombarded, though, because there's so much Phillip Lim out there in the world that it could be in your inbox five times a day if you let it.
Claire: ShopStyle alerts are also really good for when you see a piece you really love and you know it's so insane that it will definitely go on sale at the end of the season. Just set an alert for that particular piece and it comes back. I had a really good success story with that, with a pair of pants once. It was this pair of MC Hammer drop-crotch, slouchy pants with an under-the-sea pattern, and Erica goes, 'There's no way those are going to sell out at full price. Just put a ShopStyle alert on them!'
Erica: Claire has this issue where she's afraid of missing out on something in a massive way…
Claire: I had a terrible experience when I was 10. I was shopping with my mom at Bloomingdale's and saw a pair of DKNY espadrilles. My mom was like, 'We'll get them, but let's just go around the rest of the store first.' We came back and they were gone. It was heartbreaking!
Erica: I also keep a running tab of things in a saved Gmail draft called 'Want.' I have a list in there of particular items that I've prioritized, and then I have a list of things I'm looking for. I can't find a pair of flats I like to save my life right now and this is a problem, so that's on the list. I'm looking for something that's not super-masculine, not super-feminine and that's a little bit interesting — maybe a snakeskin print? This is apparently an impossible shoe to find. I really like the lines that are carried by Shoescribe. I’ve even gone back to places that, in my mind, feel like throwback sites, like Gilt Groupe. I also tend to search by brand on ShopStyle, so I'll search for labels I know are making interesting things and see where they're carried.
Claire: I return a lot. I didn't used to, but this is why I've started to shop in-person more. Especially lately, I feel like there are certain pieces I would never gravitate to online — like the perfect crew-neck sweater that I'd wear every day. I discovered Demy Lee at Kick Pleat in Austin, and now I have a ShopStyle alert for it; I go to their website, I'm on their email list. I think that's what in-person is good for: You figure out what looks good on you, and then you can go deep online.
Erica: I wear a lot of black, a lot of T-shirts and black boots without hardware, because I don't really like hardware. We both like Veda leather jackets. You always have a scarf, I rarely do. You're much better at layering than I am, I don't really layer.
Claire: I really like a low-waisted trouser. Recently, I've been wearing those with an oxford and a sweater.
Erica: I wear dresses a lot, when I have dresses I'm into. They're just easy — you don't have to put an outfit together. I [usually] hate tights, but I really like Wolford tights and will spend money on them; if I have to wear those goddamned things for six months, then I have to be comfortable. They never run, they never tear. They're totally worth it.
Claire: I'll wear two pairs of tights, which is as warm as anything else you can do in the winter — but if you have a salty dinner or a lot to drink, your toes will hurt from being sucked in. Last winter, I wore jeans, flat boots and a sweater every single day. I got really sick of it. I think the key to getting through the winter is having good winter footwear.
Erica: We're both big on accessorizing, which is where Of a Kind comes into play. I've been getting into a dangly earring again, and I love cuff bracelets — I feel like those are my two go-to jewelry accessories. You wear a lot of necklaces, you layer necklaces a lot...
Claire: I wear so much jewelry — bracelets, rings, earrings, necklaces, everything. I always do studs, but I've also been doing a lot of mismatched earrings.
[Impulse shopping] has become a real problem for me. Before I even met my now-husband, I remember my aunt saying to me, 'If I ever give you one piece of marriage advice, it's to not hide any purchases from your husband.' Even then, I remember thinking, 'That's going to be really hard to stand by.' [Laughing] I wish I followed rules. I'm a really irresponsible shopper. I will do the thing where I will leave something and if I'm still thinking about it a few days later, I'll buy. I also do this thing where if I haven't looked at the price tag, I ask myself how much I'd be willing to pay for it, and then see if what you told yourself fits in with the actual cost.
Erica: But it has to already fit into what you own and wear. You can't be shopping for some imaginary person that you think you're going to be or you'd like to be. It has to work with what you already have. This is something I picked up from my mom, who always shopped for outfits as complete, head-to-toe looks when I was growing up, and I don't do that at all.
Claire: And if I know no one is going to see me, I will take full advantage and wear something really dumpy, because I just need to have that moment. You have to take advantage of days when no one's going to see you — but the things you wear at home are almost more important, because you also want to look good for yourself!
Erica: I also think having our own e-commerce business and being really hard core about customer service has made us really judge-y of other online shopping experiences. We both can get into a rage-cage if we get bad customer service. I had a bad shopping experience on Saks.com recently, and I will call them out because it was so bad. I don't want to be that person who's like, 'I will never shop here again!' because I don't think it's terribly productive, but it was awful to feel that way about a business I otherwise felt totally fine about. It no longer felt like a luxury shopping experience, and suddenly felt down-market. There's so much competition in that space and there's so many other companies selling many of the same lines, so now, what would compel me to come back?"
This interview has been edited and condensed.