In a city known for high-tech startups and world-class universities, Christina K. Pierce is establishing herself as a Boston business leader in an unlikely industry…fashion. Pierce, a former merchandiser at TJX (parent company of T.J. Maxx and Marshalls) owns an eponymous showroom and fashion agency on Newbury Street, the purpose of which is to propel young, promising apparel and accessories brands to success through a combination of sales and marketing strategy. While Pierce has a number of lines she represents from Boston, she has clients from around the country, and hopes to expand her reach internationally in the near future.
We caught up with Pierce at her showroom earlier this week to learn more about her business, to see what’s in store for 2013 and, of course, to discuss her plans for New York fashion week.
BEFORE YOU STARTED YOUR OWN BUSINESS, YOU WORKED AS A MERCHANDISER AT TJX. WHAT MADE YOU BREAK OUT ON YOUR OWN?
I did! I got into styling [on my own] while I was still at the TJX Companies and I noticed the more time I devoted to it, the bigger it became. I’ve always had a business mindset (and a business background) and it was through styling that I uncovered a couple of emerging brands with great products, but that were in need of an image to make their way into stores. I was determined to work with them on growing their businesses. Soon it became a struggle to devote my time to two places so I figured it was worth breaking away from TJX to explore my own business ventures. Again, the more time I devoted to it, the faster it grew. Those brands’ successes began opening me up to new designers and companies who wanted similar growth, so we adapted our company’s business services to function as a full-fledged showroom, with reach across the United States and, hopefully soon, internationally as well.
WHAT WERE THE EARLY DAYS LIKE? DID YOUR COMPANY TAKE OFF RIGHT AWAY?
Like anything, it takes persistence, drive, and not getting discouraged when life hands you a setback. I am a firm believer in “feeding the beast” so I try as best I can to feed the company as it grows, devote as much of myself to it as humanly possible, and not to give up. We quickly went from four local lines that were housed in my guest room (when not on the road) to a full showroom of clothing and accessory lines from around the country.
YOU STARTED OUT STYLING—DOES THAT SIDE OF YOUR BUSINESS STILL EXIST?
We still have personal styling clients, which we try to keep limited to our “Black Card Members,” an elite group of styling clients. Membership is on a referral basis and typically not open to the public. Think of our styling as a fashion concierge on demand. We handle everything from red carpet to everyday and have worked with everyone from movie starts, reality TV stars, to notable men and women in cities from Boston to New York and Los Angeles.
YOU’RE SUCCESSFUL AT A YOUNG AGE. ANY SECRETS?
I’ve always felt very old for my age! I usually lie about it because if you say you are young people assume you don’t know what you are doing. My secret is I am really 45.
WHAT’S YOUR DREAM FOR YOUR BUSINESS? WHERE WOULD YOU LOVE TO TAKE IT?
I would love to ultimately have full-time offices in some of the major cities [we already have a presence in] across the country. I would also love to expand further into the UK market.
YOU’RE ABOUT TO HEAD TO NEW YORK FASHION WEEK. WHAT SHOWS ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING MOST?
I am very excited for Milly! Though I love Milly year round, Fall/Winter Milly and I have a strong connection and I usually have a laundry list after the show of must haves for my personal collection. It’s my season! I am also excited for some of our gown favorites as I have Oscar event selections to make this month. Some of my favorites are Yuna Yang, Carmen Marc Valvo, Bibhu Mohapatra, Reem Acra, Monique Lhuillier, and Tadashi Shoji.
HOW MANY PRESENTATIONS DO YOU GO TO AND DESIGNERS DO YOU VISIT DURING AN AVERAGE FASHION WEEK?
When I started attending fashion week I used to go to as many as I could humanly fit into my schedule. I actually remember being in line for an event once and hearing some serious editors have a conversation about how they were attending five-10 shows throughout the week. A magazine editor from Paris said he was attending 20 and they laughed at him and said they weren’t sure how he would keep his head on straight. I couldn’t help myself and I chimed in “I’m going to 34,” and they all looked at me and gasped. That’s when I learned it’s okay to say no. When you see that much, it all blurs together and you honestly can’t remember DVF from Herve Leger. I like to say I will see 14 shows but at the end it might be more like 20. I’ve still made progress but the fashion lover in me just wants to see it all!
WHAT CAN’T YOU GET THROUGH FASHION WEEK WITHOUT?
My BlackBerry and I are very close. I never leave home without it.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE STYLE OF BOSTON WOMEN?
I think it is evolving. I see more and more fashion forward people everyday. I think that Boston is very up and coming in a fashion sense. We’ve always had style, but I think we are getting a little more “fashion” thrown into the mix.
All photos by Andrew Wang.