I sat down for a cup of coffee at Bard with Michelle Marchesi, manager and buyer at Bliss, a boutique on 58 Exchange Street in Portland. She has been with the store since its doors opened 10 years ago, when owner Angela Foddrill was offered the space by the previous owner with whom she helped run the store. At the time, she had only been 23.
When Marchesi tells me she is a buyer for Bliss—that is, she works in conjunction with Foddrill to hand-pick the items that the store carries—we immediately delve into the nitty-gritty. “It’s really fun because we get to travel to New York,” said Marchesi of her position as a buyer. “It’s like a huge trade show.”
The duo go visit booths, which are represented by different designers like 7 For All Mankind and Velvet, and take notes on the pieces they view to compare comments and construct outfits from what they’ve seen. “We build a story based on what we feel is going to work well together and what we think our customers will like…‘Cause that’s a huge part of it; it’s not just what we like, it’s what we think our customers will like. That’s the challenge!” she laughed. An added challenge: they view the pieces nearly two seasons ahead of their retail-floor debut. “We have to be in the mindset of what trends are going to be for spring when it’s still hot in summer,” said Marchesi.
While the pair base their choices on intuition rather than mimicking runway trends, Marchesi credits her artistic eye to her degree from Maine College of Art, where she focused her studies on color photography. “I really think a lot about color and pattern design, light, the way that things work…things you don’t really think about when you’re looking at clothes, but really it all comes into play.” The end result? A collection of classic, quality, versatile pieces that caters to women of any age. “[A boutique] is a different setting than a department store. We’re not going to invest in 50 of the same shirt. We want things to feel more special.” Added to the boutique’s hand-picked collection are several accessory lines that are created from local talent, including Marchesi’s own. “We love to support local artists,” she said.
Bliss has a second location at 85 Market Street in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and because of a loyal customer base of seasonal tourists, is preparing to open an online store. The third “location” will be a digital destination for shoppers to find all their favorite wardrobe staples in one place, from any place. And although the shop is not being built in a physical location, thorough preparations must still be made. Said Marchesi of the endeavor, “It’s sort of like opening another store!” Look forward to its launch in the early months of 2013.
Stuck indoors? Shop Bliss now at their online pop-up store.