The 1950s model Bettie Page is known as the "Queen of Pinups." More than half a century later, Page's style still inspires. Her girl next door gone bad look has captured the imagination and devotion of legions of fashion-minded women.
Page's style also inspired former fashion model Tatyana Khomyakova, who, together with her husband, Jan Glaser, has turned Khomyakova's Page-esque apparel designs into a successful and growing retail business called Bettie Page Clothing. With nine retail stores and plans to go public, the company is poised for exponential growth.
Khomyakova and Glaser, the company's co-CEOs, started the company with the intention of displaying Khomyakova's designs, which were inspired by classic European fashions. The two quickly realized, however, that classic European fashion mirrored American vintage fashion. Despite their lack of retail experience, they decided to try to brand the clothing as Bettie Page. Thanks to Glaser's background in licensing, they were able to secure permission from the Bettie Page estate to use her name and likeness. The company currently has nine retail locations.
Giving Khomyakova's styles a brand name that was familiar did more than help consumers identify with the company's products. It also gave the company some credibility with real estate companies that were reluctant to lease high-profile retail space to a couple with no retail experience. After the pair hooked up with the Bettie Page brand, companies were more willing to rent prime retail space to the company.
Location, location, location
The business began with one retail location at the Shops at Miracle Mile at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. After the store's success, the company found other locations that Glaser believed would attract ideal clientele.
"We are located in really prime areas," said Glaser, who has spent many years in the real estate business. "We are at the best locations in any city we can possibly find." Bettie Page Clothing has shops at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, and is planning a Newbury Street location in Boston and a SoHo location in Manhattan. According to customer surveys, more than 90 percent of customers are walk-ins, drawn in by the clothes and mannequins in the windows.
"Our conversation rate is very high," said Glaser. "People who walk in tend to buy."
Glaser has focused his resources and used his real estate background to find the right neighborhoods for his stores, where the windows are the best draw for crowds.
Fashioning an ad campaign
Getting potential customers to the stores is another story. Creating an effective marketing plan has proven to be the biggest challenge for the company.
"Our biggest challenge is getting customers to understand that we have a broad appeal to professional mainstream women, not just rockabilly types," Glaser said.
Glaser said that marketing to a broad audience was not a waste of the company's budget because the company appeals to serves such a niche market.
The company recently aired an advertisement during AMC's hit TV show, "Mad Men," which boosted page views to its website, but didn't necessarily boost business. Yet advertising on local public transportation and in hotel rooms has brought in many new customers. "The biggest lesson is the advertising dollars we spend have to be geographically connected to where our stores are."
The best way to expand the company, the pair decided, was to go public.
"We have nine stores now, and we've done that all organically out of cash flow," said Glaser. "If we want to expand to the next level, we need equity to do that. The only way to do that is become a public company."
The name of the publicly traded company, Tatyana Designs Inc., completed a reverse merger in August. Tatyana Designs Inc. is in the process of completing an Securities and Exchange Commission audit and is trading under the symbol "TATD" on the OTC:Pink exchange. "Our goal is to raise equity in a meaningful way and expand dramatically."
For Glaser, the success of Bettie Page Clothing happened almost accidentally.
"We fell into everything backwards," he said. "We didn't have professional advice, no merchandising advice and no location advice, though I knew about where to be. We had no logical advice regarding POS or accounting standards – we just sort of jumped into it with both feet. What saved us were Tatyana's designs and products. We found people wanting to buy them."
The pair said they learned about the retail industry after the fact. "It's not a great way to go into business but it's what we did," Glaser said.
But the pair has found that beginner's luck can bring brilliant success. By not knowing the industry, Bettie Page Clothing was able to create merchandising with a unique image.
"People think our merchandising is creative … that it doesn't look like anybody else's," Glaser said with a laugh, "but it's because we didn't know what we were doing. We just fell into it and were successful largely because the dresses sell themselves."
The name itself has brought a wide following of fans, Glaser said.
"Seventy percent of the people come into the stores and have no idea who she is," he said. "Thirty percent do, but the 30 percent that do account for half of our business. They tend to buy more and are more connected [to other Bettie Page fans]."