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Friends and fashionistas

Two woman from different fields of expertise combine efforts to open gently used clothing store from

Posted: May 16, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 16, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Bella Brandelli co-owners Ann Drexler, left, and Kathy Gonzales with their products on display at the Cinco de Mayo celebration on Main Street in Newhall on Saturday.

 

Contractor Ann Drexler and systems analyst Kathy Gonzales realized that despite their differing jobs, they shared a common bond — they occasionally tired of the contents of their closets.

While consignment and thrift stores exist in the Santa Clarita Valley, the pair decided there was a niche that had yet to be filled for those who want to switch out last season’s purses without breaking the bank: an online consignment shop.

In March, Drexler and Gonzales launched Bella Brandelli and www.bellabrandelli.com, which sell new and gently used clothing out of the dining room in Drexler’s Valencia home, where customers can schedule an appointment to see the clothing in person.

“It puts a whole new twist on shopping,” Drexler said.

Filling a niche

Drexler, who owns Drexler Group Inc., a construction management company, and Gonzales, a service center manager for HBO, had wanted to work together on a new business venture for a while, but inspiration never struck until they both were looking to clean out their closets. Drexler, who does most of her shopping online, realized that consignment hadn’t really hit the Web yet.

What the two came up with was a hybrid of online and in-person retail, which allowed them to combine Gonzales’ computer expertise with their passion for fashion.

“We knew we wanted to do something a little out of the box,” said Gonzales, who designed the website and logo.

Building inventory

While Drexler and Gonzales brought their passion for fashion to the table, the industry is not on either of their resumes, other than Drexler’s past experience working at Nordstrom. To build the inventory, the two had to start researching trends and vendor options, and began taking regular trips to Los Angeles and Hollywood for vendor fairs. Since January, the two have been meeting vendors and purchasing the first rounds of inventory.

“It’s a really cool way to actually buy,” Drexler said. “They were excited that new companies were starting to open up and buy.”

Bella Brandelli carries new clothing from labels, such as Diane von Furstenberg, Jimmy Choo, Kenneth Cole, Prada, Anne Klein New York and Coin 1804.

From there, the consignment portion of Bella Brandelli grew through word of mouth. The two started building the inventory from friends who cleaned out their closets.

“It’s not so much about being caught up in the trends but finding pieces that are beautiful and long-standing,” Drexler said.

 “I think we have a balance between new and consignment.”

Additionally, the two started seeking out local artists who could sell their merchandise on bellabrandelli.com and display items in Drexler’s dining-room showroom. Rosie’s Toes is a local line of hand crocheted baby clothing Bella Brandelli carries.

“I think it’s really important to showcase local art,” Gonzales said. “Clients have been really receptive to it.”

Gaining speed

The website launched in March, but for a couple of weeks, there was little traffic.

“That was a bit daunting,” Drexler said.

Bella Brandelli expanded online with its inclusion on hipswap.com, a marketplace for used clothing and merchants.

In the two months since the website’s launch, Bella Brandelli has seen its Web presence expand beyond the Santa Clarita Valley. Most of their customers are local, but orders come from all over the United States and Europe, Drexler said.

To compete online, Bella Brandelli heavily uses social media to get its name out across other states and countries. The fashion retail store came just around the same time as Pinterest exploded — the latest social network to gain broad appeal, and one that focuses heavily on sharing photos of clothing, home goods and other merchandise.

The Web and beyond

While Bella Brandelli is an online shop, the pair has begun to bring the merchandise to the customers, as well. Drexler and Gonzales started attending local events like the Taste of Cinco de Mayo in downtown Newhall. The two bring some or all of the merchandise to events.

“It’s a huge market,” Gonzales said, adding that swap-meet-like events bring them to a younger demographic who enjoy browsing.

The store hopes to expand its mobile presence to other parts of Southern California, first by displaying at the Pasadena Rose Bowl in June. If the events continue to be successful, the two hope to invest in a new truck to carry and display the merchandise.

Beyond a new set of wheels, Bella Brandelli will likely eventually be in a brick and mortar location somewhere in Southern California, but the duo is carefully vetting locations and figuring out the tone of the store.

For now, between their full-time jobs, vendor events, weekend events and Pinterest, the two are keeping busy.

“It’s 24/7,” Drexler said. “You cannot just put this up online and walk away.”

smitchell@the-signal.com

661-287-5593

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