"A small candle or a flower can create an emotion," according to Cristina Crespina, owner of Zoe Bassano, a women's store that offers 40-50 different labels. "We choose the best of the market and offer it to our clients, who always appreciate how we mix and select new ideas for them."
Crespina has long worked as a retailer, having run different stores under the Zoe insignia. She now co-owns another Zoe store near a chic seaside resort in Pietrasanta, Tuscany with Monica del Mancino, as well as a temporary Zoe Beach store selling mostly bathings suits, beachwear and accessories. For Crespina, a successful store has a strong personality that is not easily replicated – she says, "It's time for retailers to manage stores personally and focus on their products and clientele." Interview by Maria Cristina Pavarini

An impression from the Zoe Beach store
An impression from the Zoe Beach store
What are the current bestsellers and why?
Among our most successful products at the moment are Isabel Marant sneakers. Their inner platforms set them apart, they are produced with great care and even though they cost €450 at retail, we have clients that asked to be part of a waiting list - something truly rare for my store. Also successful is a line of women's shoes done by Argentinian artisans who produce special shoes for tango dancers. What we offer has the same appeal of those shoes, but for everyday life and normal women who simply want to look charming.
Another recent bestseller are long skirts for night and day with ballerinas, flip-flops and boots. Most successful are those by Semi-Couture and Forte-Forte. The skirt indicates a new silhouette trend: after so many leggings worn with wider tops, women are now starting to appreciate longer skirts with shorter tops or nice shirts. We've been selling mostly plain colors, but I expect to start selling flower printed versions to be worn with clogs or platform shoes.
Yummie Tummie, the shape-enhancing underwear line that's hyping everyone's image and silhouette, is also selling well. Among my bestsellers are also a few jeans brands like True NYC, an Italian jean brand, and Shine, a French jeans line, both focusing on skinny, clean denims. The Pietrasanta store also has Current Elliott on offer. I also started a collaboration with a partner in Italy, where the project is being distributed, on a brand called "Zoe by Tangoleike." Everyone loves it - from young girls who are fed up with ballerinas to their grandmothers!

Do people buy according to their favorite brand, style, or impulse?
I think they buy because they trust us. When I see clients outside the shop, they show me what they're wearing and say, “I bought it in your store,” rather than, "This is XXX brand." We are the brand they choose because they can find anything from a Petit Bateau top to a Marni dress.

Shoes by Zoe
Shoes by Zoe
Where do you order from? How do you inform yourself about trends? How important is communication with regular customers?
I visit many fairs off and on and I regularly go to White in Milan and Tranoi in Paris. Every city has something to offer: In London I visit flea markets, in New York I find inspiration and at Pitti I place orders, even if the offer for women is not so strong yet.
To keep our customers informed and updated I created a blog as part of our website, which will also include an e-commerce store starting at the end of May.

What do the collections from your fall/winter selection look like?
The whole color card will include many vibrant variants, especially warm tones and earth hues such as bronze, orange and redbrick. Our tango-inspired collection will also feature bronze hints.

Did you add any new labels to your assortment?
I've added Autocouture, Carlo Contrada and Viola Parrucchetti. From fall/winter 2012/2013 I will also offer my own collection in our own Zoe stores. It is a women's collection in earth colors like brown, brick, rust and bronze in fabrics like stretch crepe, crepe de chine, wool and silk. Ponchos, pajama pants, tunic-shirts, lapin hats and belts with buckles reminiscent of old gold Dupont lighters provide for some retro style accessories. The collection will also be sold through our e-commerce site and by Marisa Tassy in Milan, Boutique Victorienne in Bolzen, Quorum in Thiene and others.

Accessories at Zoe Bassano
Accessories at Zoe Bassano

How does your store differ from other stores?
For what people find inside and for the mix of products we offer. The difference lays in our mix and in how we interpret the best of what is around. We first select what we think people may be fascinated by and then mix many small brands, featuring up to 40-50 companies. When a customer enters our store they can find whatever they like, including some curious products and special lingerie like Yummie Tummie or tango-like shoes. They trust us and let us dress them even when they don't know what they are buying. In the end they might buy 6-7 items that they would have not bought if they had selected them alone. They understand how indispensable it is for a sales associate to select and mix for them.

How important is the interior, the atmosphere and the whole package?
It is not always the way I would like it to be. There are stores which are huge, completely decorated with great care and attention; a store like mine shows a small lighted candle, a flower or a pair of shoes that create a unique emotion. A few details can make for beautiful stores with personality. I also like the idea that I can easily change the layout of the store. This way it can look different every day and customers can always discover something new.