In an age of big-box retailers and online vendors, shopping can feel impersonal.
There’s a certain convenience to instant access and vast inventory, but for those who value a unique experience, entrepreneurs Hillary Crittendon and Laura Mills will bring their vision for personal shopping to New Orleans this week in the form of a pop-up called Brandshop, which connects consumers with up-and-coming female entrepreneurs in the art and fashion industries.
“One of the coolest things about Brandshop is the ability to meet and shop directly with the designers themselves,” Crittendon said. “We’re working to create a completely novel retail experience for both customers and brands, and it’s our belief that experience-based retail is at the forefront of innovation in the retail industry.”
Other Brandshop events have been held in Atlanta and Charlotte, North Carolina.
“We’re focused on helping brands develop a presence in smaller cities fraught with culture, creatives and entrepreneurs,” Crittendon said.
The New Orleans pop-up will be open Friday and Saturday at Martine Chaisson Gallery at 727 Camp St. and at yoga center Reyn Studios, 725 Magazine St. Designers represented include By Smith, Whit, Kule, and CCH Collection.
This will be Brandshop’s third event since the company started in fall 2015, and it will offer a host of activities in addition to buying.
There will be talks from names like Maria Brito, an art adviser and designer from New York; caterer and restaurateur Mary Giuliani; and New Orleans’ own Jane Scott Hodges, founder of Leontine Linens.
Saturday will feature fitness classes from Anna Kaiser, Hillard Studio Method, and Reyn, and a presentation from Alexia Brue, founder of Well + Good, on nutrition and wellness.
Admission to the pop-up is free. Tickets to individual events such as talks and classes start at $20 and can be purchased at Brandshop’s website, thebrandshop.co.
Crittendon aims for a “360-degree experience,” with talks from industry leaders, happy hours, book signings, and fitness classes, encouraging shoppers to move beyond silent browsing and connect with the makers themselves.
Emily Rosenzweig, assistant professor of marketing at Tulane University, said Brandshop’s shopping model could work well alongside conventional department store shopping.
“I don’t think big department stores are going away, but I do think that over time the ones that succeed will be the ones that actually try to incorporate some of this experiential approach in their own stores,” Rosenzweig said. “The rise of online shopping in many ways means that brick and mortar retailers can no longer just differentiate themselves by selection or price. The selection available online will always be bigger, and prices are likely to always be lower.”
Entrepreneurs have a chance to fill a niche larger stores can’t by offering memorable experiences in conjunction with products, she said.
Crittendon hopes the concept will be good for both consumers and creators, who at Brandshop’s events will interact and build relationships in person.
Brandshop’s co-founder, Laura Mills, has seen that synergy at work.
“Alexis Mera, one of the designers showing in New Orleans, first worked with us in Charlotte,” she said. “Since then, she’s collaborated with fitness leaders, Liz Hilliard & Clary Hilliard Gray, who are the founders of Charlotte-based Hilliard Studio Method and speakers/instructors at Brandshop’s Wellness Day at Reyn Studios.” She’s also been picked up by local boutique Shop Capella, Mills said. “We’ve been so excited to see the positive response her line has received from the Charlotte, North Carolina, community.”
Crittendon and Mills have been working together since 2013, first on a mobile app called The SoGood, which helps users discover local businesses based on friends’ recommendations, and now on Brandshop.
The two friends are excited about this next step.
“The designers love the instant feedback,” said Crittendon. She hopes these connections will last, saying, “we want the designers to come back to New Orleans.”