- Stacey Blume
- "I feel like I am 28 – so I'll go with that."
- Grew-up in New Jersey; now lives in the West Village
- Designer/Owner, Blume
What’s it like going from struggling actor to a brand name found in fancy boutiques?
It has definitely been a positive transformation, but I wouldn’t quite say I was a struggling actor. You have to have actually gotten some work for that, right? I prefer to say I studied acting. I have a lot of respect for people who have the perseverance to pursue that kind of career. I couldn’t hack it. For me, Blume has been a much more productive experience. Building the company has been exciting, and I’m learning so much in the process.
How did this transition take place?
While I was “studying” acting, I was really flipping out trying to figure out how to make some money! I was an administrative assistant, a waitress, and a personal assistant -- like the one who picks up dry cleaning for the big Hollywood agent. My dad was out in Pasadena on a business trip for his uniform company, and I dragged him into Urban Outfitters to see my friend NatalieAnne’s designs. While we were in there, my dad noticed industrial styled clothing like Dickies. He was really surprised that this was very similar to the stuff that he carried. That is when the wheels started turning. The next time I was home, I went to the uniform company warehouse and pulled a bunch of patches to make up some fashion ready samples. And that’s how it all began.
How fashion oriented were you before you came up with this idea?
I have always liked to look good but I wouldn’t have considered myself any kind of “fashionista.”
It’s one thing to have a good idea, it’s another to get it into the right hands. Was there a lot of pavement pounding?
Yes, I packed a bag of samples and popped into a ton of boutiques in the tri-state area trying to pitch the Blume personalized thongs. Sometimes people listened and sometimes they told me to go away.
Have you always had an entrepreneurial instinct?
I would say I have an adventurous spirit and have always believed in myself. I have a drive to make things happen, so yes, I guess that would be considered an entrepreneurial instinct.
How long did it take then, from inception of idea to getting Blume onto the shelves of Fred Segal?
About 2 years.
And if things hadn’t worked out…. Did you have a Plan B?
There was no Plan B. I was working as a social worker (I got my MSW before the “studying” of acting took place), so I had a full time job while getting the business off the ground and then went full time with Blume as soon as it was possible to pay the rent.
So then which came first: the publicity or the celebrity clientele?
My items have been carried in LA boutiques like Fred Segal and Intuition which have luckily led to celebrity clientele. So once people like JLo, Paris, and Britney became Blume fans, the magazines were happy to report the scoop.
What was your reaction when you found out Blume had made it into their hands?
I danced around my apartment for a good couple of days.
What was it about lingerie that made you realize it was something to personalize, especially since it’s a product that very few people can publicly see?
I actually embellished lots of items -- tees, tanks, and hats -- with all kinds of patches like "Security," "Supervisor," and "FBI," but the name patches on the underwear definitely got the best response.
Will you put anything on the patch?
Yes, anything up to 10 characters. Except I do remember one particular request that I asked a customer to change. I mean doesn’t the personalized name in that particular spot kind of say it all without spelling it out? I like to think of the underwear as sexy and fun, not crude.
Did they comply with the request?
Yeah- they went for the name rather than the act.
Are your customers generally women surprising their significant others, or do those others ever place orders for their girlfriends to mark their territory?
I think most shoppers out there are female, but when Stuff magazine did an article on Blume, we definitely got a huge response from their male readers. My favorite was from a US soldier stationed in Iraq who got in touch and enthusiastically reported that he couldn’t think of a better homecoming than to see his wife wearing his name on her ass.
Does retailing lingerie require that now you keep track of how high or low the rise jeans are?
I did create the "Tie Me Up" and the new "Glitz" collections to be seen hanging out of low rise pants, but for the most part my lingerie is really about the novelty and fun of the personalized names.
Because Blume had such a hit with the personalized patches, how much pressure is there to put out new collections so you don’t end up being just a fad?
There is definitely some pressure to come up with the next new thing, but I try not to focus on it. I don’t deal with the time line of regular designers -- I haven’t even begun to think about Spring 2006. I just create new stuff as it hits me.
How responsive have consumers been to your other products like the "Tie Me Ups" or "Glitz" lines?
Fortunately both of those collections got a really great response. It has been a nice validation that there is still a lot of life left in my company and my ideas beyond the original hit.
Has anyone ever knocked off your ideas and offered the same product?
Ugh, yes. There was a big lingerie company – Biatta – that copied the name underwear. The long sleeve thermals were also copied by Acrobat, and sold to all the department stores. Annoying to say the least. But in both cases the patches didn’t have a rhinestone, didn’t look authentic, and they didn’t have the capability to make any name the way Blume does. It was definitely frustrating, but I guess it is all part of the game.
Do you oversee the financial aspects of your company as well, or do you primarily concentrate on the creative side?
My brother Brad is the finance guy and I definitely stick to the design/sales/marketing/public relations side of things.
What’s it like working with your brother?
Well, on a good day it is really great. On a bad day, we might as well be punching, kicking, and screaming like we did we did when we were 7 and 9.
Besides underwear, you also manufacture hats, tops and items for pets and babies. How successful have these products been? Why launch into these products? Was it a natural evolution, or did you do market research, etc to decide what to do next?
I haven’t officially launched the baby and dog items yet, but it was a natural evolution. The personalized name patch is a cool kitchy kind of twist on the authenticity of workmen’s uniforms, so I hope to continue to expand the products we offer.
Is there still pavement to pound? Is the brand big enough now that people come to you—be it publicists looking for handouts for their clients, or shops hoping to stock Blume?
There is always pavement to pound, but thankfully I now have sales reps in LA, Chicago, NY, and London that help make that happen. My business is still growing, but because publicists, stylists, and stores hear about it or have seen it somewhere, [they'll now also] contact Blume directly.
You appeared on Craft Corner Deathmatch on Style Channel…
How did you know that?!? Actually, a bunch of people I know caught me on that show. I was asked to participate as a judge for a particular segment that had an underwear challenge. The contestants were asked to turn a guy’s tee shirt and boxers into sexy undergarments, and apparently I was considered a “lingerie expert”. It was a fun day and a nice change of pace.
Does that mean you tune into other fashion/entrepreneurial programming like The Cut or The Apprentice? Have you found either show relatable to your own experiences?
The Apprentice, yes -- definitely really enjoyed it. The Cut? Never saw it. I have been anxious to pick up savvy business skills, and who better then Trump to help get some of that across. I also related to the concept that people were being challenged to figure things out that they most likely didn’t have much experience doing before.
What’s next for Blume?
What’s do your knickers say?
“I am the Best” -- On a heart from the Eye Candy collection; special edition – not available online.
Things to know about Stacey:
What's the best thing you've ever purchased/salvaged off the street?
A red leather cuff bought on the street in SoHo that I wore for a good 6 months straight.
Which city establishment sees more of your paycheck than you do?
NYC taxi cabs
Personality Problem Solving: Would you consider your personality more hysterical or more obsessive, and have you changed since living in New York; has "New York" become a part of you?
Not hysterical or obsessive. Maybe a little neurotic and definitely more impatient.
NYC Confessional: Do you have a local guilty pleasure?
Jake’s Coffee on west 10th street and his homemade chocolate chip cookies.
When you just need to get away from it all, where is your favorite place in NYC to be alone, relish in solitude and find your earthly happiness? (We promise not to intrude.)
Rollerblading along the water on the West Side Highway.
Assuming that you're generally respectful of your fellow citizens, was there ever a time when you had to absolutely unleash your inner asshole to get satisfaction?
I try to keep it under control for fellow citizens and save the unleashing for my nearest and dearest.
Describe that low-low moment when you thought you just might have to leave NYC for good.
The first 3 weeks I moved to NYC, I was desperately searching for apartments. They were all so small and dark and expensive that I almost turned around and moved back to California.
Besides more square footage, what luxury would you most like to have in your apartment?
Closet space, a washer/dryer, and a backyard with grass.
There are 8 Million stories in The Naked City. Tell us one, but try to keep it to a New York Minute.
The first couple of weeks I was living in my apartment, I was awoken way too early on a Saturday morning to the blasting sounds of Cher. Of course Cher is fabulous, but I couldn’t understand why my neighbor felt the need to blast her music on and off repeatedly at such a ridiculously early hour. I banged on the wall a couple of times and then finally got out of bed, looked out my window, and there she was-Cher -- in the flesh strutting down the street filming a music video.
For more information about all of Blume's products as well as to purchase online, visit the website at www.blumegirl.com.
-- Interview by Lily Oei & Aaron Dobbs