When Los Angeles-based
Bloomingdale launched The SIL in early 2017, it was intended as a passion project—a side hustle to her day job in fashion PR.
“I was always on the hunt for unique brands you couldn’t find anyplace else,” she says. “Many of them didn’t have ecommerce, so I decided to create a platform for them, and The SIL—The Stuff I Love—was born.”
The initial launch was with a handful of four or five of Bloomingdale’s favorites, including Dallas-based Tish
who had only been selling her sculptural dresses and elegant blouses to customers in her hometown. Bloomingdale, a Texas native, had heard of her through interior designer
and would constantly beg Cox to send her boxes of clothes to try on in California.
“I’d inevitably be in the powder room at an event in something of hers, and someone would ask where I got my dress. It was always a letdown when I explained it would be nearly impossible to find,” Bloomingdale recalls. “The site was really a labor of love to give these independent labels a louder voice and a wider audience.”
In just a few years, she has amassed a collection from more than 25 designers, all but one of which are female, something that has been important to her since day one. The diverse range of brands includes designers from all over the world, including France, England, Italy, Argentina, Berlin, and Amsterdam.
“I love being the first retail partner for a brand, which was the case for New York-based
who launched a house-dress line in the midst of quarantine—genius!” she says. “We’re also the first retailer to offer ZAZI Vintage’s exquisite
dresses, made in partnership with the UN’s Ethical Fashion Initiative.”
With The SIL, Bloomingdale has found success not only by giving independent designers a retail platform, but by forgoing seasonal crazes and forecasted buys, something that has served her particularly well during the pandemic, when trends have nearly ceased to exist. “To me, good design is timeless,” she says.
Bloomingdale spoke with Penta about the ever-changing landscape of fashion, retail, and finding success during Covid-19.
PENTA: What’s been your approach to digital marketing?
Natalie Bloomingdale: Online awareness of The SIL has been completely organic, and we have been fortunate to have some strong digital cheerleaders. While digital natives are not necessarily our core customer base, our clientele have proven to have such a valuable social megaphone. Since we don’t participate in affiliate marketing by design, it’s that much more impactful—not to mention gratifying—when a ‘professional social influencer’ is compelled to share our mission without any strings attached.
How have buying patterns changed during Covid?
Value systems are being reevaluated across the board, and there will continue to be a focus on meaningful over mindless purchases. Consequently, we’ve incorporated a made-to-order model with several of our designers and have seen great success with that concept. Not only is it more sustainable, but it is also more specialized…a signifier of a more thoughtful investment.
How are you handling the trend for diversity and inclusivity these days?
Initially, one of my goals was to help empower female-owned businesses, but now I make decisions about what goes on the site based on what I personally like… thereby continuing to empower those who make exceptional products.
What purpose do you see for brick and mortar in the future?
I think digitalization will be at the forefront of the fashion industry, as well as potentially less of a dependency on overseas manufacturing. I think brick-and-mortar retail concepts are finally bringing their inventory online, and there will be new and inventive ways to service the client (like virtual styling) that will become more mainstream.
That said, and I know I run an ecommerce site, but I prefer shopping in real life and hope it never goes away. To that end, we send “Approvals Boxes” so our clients can try pieces on in the comfort of their own home in order to appreciate the feel of the quality and see the fit—because your device can never replicate delight of the senses like in-person shopping.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.