Portland-based online boutique Le Train Bleu began as Bria Phillips’ showcase for fashion photography. Then she started posting designer interviews and style tips, as well. Eventually she began stocking carefully-edited merchandise from emerging labels, and now it’s the online destination for finding that one special item that will make your mouth water and your jaw drop. Affordable and luxurious might seem like an oxymoron, but Phillips marries the concepts effortlessly; impressed, we grilled her about the state of fashion in this economy and her trend predictions for fall.
Flavorpill: What are your best selling items?
Bria Phillips: Le Train Bleu has always been more focused on fantasy and very special pieces rather than outfits or practical items. We sell a lot of fancy dresses and quirky hats and although we sell jeans and tees you would most likely come to our site for something more dramatic and fashion forward.
FP: Who is your customer?
BP: Our customers always amaze and delight me. They vary quite a bit in age — some are students, but many of them are seasoned veterans in the creative industries. About 30 percent of our customers are international, mostly coming from Australia and the United Kingdom. In the United States, we have the highest concentration in New York.
I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know many of them over the years. Sometimes I joke about Le Train Bleu being like a mom and pop version of an international luxury boutique. Customers have been known to send us gifts and hand written thank you notes and packages covered in Koala stickers. We’ve also received CDs and countless book and movie recommendations — always spot on. If I customer recommends something, I always seek it out because I know they are like-minded.
FP: What do you think of the state of fashion right now?
BP: I think the economy has had a really positive effect on how people are participating with fashion right now. There is more mindfulness and WAY more creativity and most importantly to me, more true enjoyment. Life has slowed down a little bit and people are enjoying simple pleasures like gardening and sewing and eating with friends and family. Time is a luxury that we often forget about, and more people have that right now.
People are buying less and looking into their closets where they are rediscovering old friends and using their creativity to figure out new ways to wear things. This has effected what people want to shop for. Most people have the basics covered so they are looking for a little fun and fantasy. We are noticing that scarves and hats are doing extremely well and we will be adding more of those for Fall ’09. Bold jewelry and stand-out shoes are also important.
We are also offering some new silhouettes for restless iconoclasts to try out — bold, sharp shoulders have been reinterpreted from late ’80s shapes. Don’t be scared — I promise that our versions will be very tasteful and wearable. There is also a very strong ’40s vibe — really closely tailored dresses and jackets.
People are more comfortable wearing their special pieces rather than having them hiding away in the back of the closet which is so refreshing. We will be celebrating this trend in our fall fashion shoots which will be modeled after British Land Girls and tattered nobility. For example, silk dresses worn with rubber boots to pick the last dahlias of the season. T-shirt dresses worn with jeweled headbands. I guess it’s a new brand of shabby chic!