Let's take it back to freshman year at FIT where I first met Carla Davis. We became acquaintances when we discovered we were placed in the same major courses together. Soon enough, we found out we had similar interests from listening to Vampire Weekend to laughing hysterically at things that don't make sense to others.
When graduating, we had a heart-to-heart discussion about our future as designers and for Carla, it was clear that she did not want to continue this path. Fast forward to eight years later, Carla slid into my DM's (ha ha!) in order to promote her new project, COALITION MARKET.
COALITION MARKET is an online-based retail distributer, giving the opportunity for independent designers to gain exposure, promote their brand and sell their merchandise at pop-up shop events. When Carla first introduced me to her business, I was amazed and intrigued. It was clear to me I had to have a one-on-one with her to learn more about the brand.
For a look at our detailed conversation, read below about the beginnings of Carla's project, her shift from designer to retail distributor & her plans for COALITION MARKET's future:
Q: What is COALITION MARKET and how did this brand come about? From the looks of it (through research & links to the brand's website/social media), it seems to me that you're a platform for independent designers focusing on streetwear aesthetics.
CD (CARLA DAVIS): I fell in love with streetwear for the past year or so [as I would like to recall] and the idea behind COALITION MARKET is to create a platform for independent designers/brands based upon the growth of social media and online [in general] which has given them the ability to expand their business. Overall, the online space is very saturated and there are so many brands out there in this very large and competitive field that somehow they end up getting lost within it. I did a lot of research on retail and design where I noticed a lot of industry leaders were stating that even though there is a shift towards an online market, consumers still prefer to shop in stores. I believe it was said that 85% of consumers would rather shop in stores vs. online and I felt that way as well but I assumed it was just me who thought so. I would normally see all these cool brands online and think to myself, "this style is cool but I don't know if I would buy it" since I don't have the product in person therefore, I wouldn't take a chance on buying that item. I think having a presence in stores does have a particular advantage for independent designers, giving them a competitive edge and an opportunity for long-term success. Previously, I worked as a fashion stylist and I would have the chance to meet a lot of independent designers where they would inform me about wanting to have their own store but due to high rent in NYC, it seemed more than impossible. I thought to myself, if I acted or became the middle man in this situation, by providing space for them at an affordable price, it would allow these designers to sell their merchandise and test out products before officially placing them in production. The pop-up shop display would give designers access to show their line & have a direct link to customers while the customers themselves would be able to discover new brands on-the-spot.
Q: You use to be a designer, what made you decide to take a more business/behind-the-scenes approach towards making your own path in the industry?
CD: When I was in my last year at FIT, I began to fall out of love with fashion and started my own career in political lobbying which had a more business focal point rather than artistic. After working as a lobbyist for two years, I had the sense of wanting to return to the fashion industry however, I did not necessarily want to do design. I accidentally got into styling and fell in love with that since I had a eye for trend and became good at putting pieces together.
Q: When you say you "accidentally got into styling" what do you mean by that?
CD: I can't really pin point when or what exactly was the moment that got me into styling. I believe I was scrolling around Craigslist for short term fashion gigs to see what's out there since I wanted to get back into fashion and started to see more job posts for fashion styling. When you go to fashion school, styling doesn't seem to be an option/career choice so when I came across the job postings, I felt like this would be something I may be good at. There was an opportunity where this former designer wanted to enter the field of photography and since I was a former designer as well who wanted to get into styling, we ended up collaborating on a shoot which gave me material and substance to reach out to other photographers. From then on, I became in love with styling and since I would interact with other designers, I kept on thinking about my eye for trend and turning that skill into having an eye for finding brands and to be able to place designers with similar aesthetics in the same room. I also worked in retail for a bit and I still do, so having that experience I was able to combine my creative and business sides in order to form COALITION MARKET.
Q: You have a pop-up shop event coming up, what can the consumer expect? What independent designers would be introduced?
CD: The pop-up shop is more focused on streetwear. There are menswear brands as well as womenswear and unisex brands so there's a bit of everything for the consumer to take a look at. A lot of brands have come up to me to be part of this event and in the end, I ended up with 6 brands to show this weekend. [Within these 6 labels] There is a sense of cohesiveness without the conflict of overlapping [in aesthetics]. [Because of this] There is a broad spectrum for consumers to take a look at and I would describe all 6 as having a bit of streetwear influence and a lot of them are locally made which for me, was important to have as part of my business and support local production.
Q: What is the future for COALITION MARKET?
CD: For now, we have the pop up shop event. It is a two-day event but from there, the real goal is to have a permanent space where we would just have a rotation of designers [to be represented at the space]. The designer/brand would then have the option of a short-term contract or long term where the space would be available to them for a couple of months and they can show their line for an entire season.
COALITION MARKET forms a connection between online and in-person shopping experience. To learn more about the brand or if you're an independent designer who is interested in participating in future pop up shop events, click here.
For more information on the pop-up event, check out the flyer below and follow COALITION MARKET on Instagram.
Thanks & Best,