Since April, Cindy Weber-Cleary and Stephanie Stahl have been shaking up the way retailers are speaking to women over the age of 45 with their new site, Apprécier. Both stemming from the fashion industry,–Cindy was director of fashion at InStyle for 15 years and Stephanie was former CMO of Coach and Revlon–the duo are giving readers who are at their peak career earnings a streamlined shopping experience. We caught up with Cindy to hear about the site and why she felt the world’s been needing it…
Why did you start Apprécier?
I’ve been an editor for 30 years. I know exactly which designers I like and where to shop, but when I started to shop more online over the last 5-7 years, I started to feel frustrated because nobody seemed to be marketing to people like me. It was all aimed at millennials, frankly. There were so many stories about what to wear at festivals, but I was like ‘I’m not going to Coachella! Why is every story about that?’ I thought that if I have all this knowledge, experience and I find it frusterating, what does the average woman feel? So I started to research our target demographic and who was speaking to her in an inspiring way. I found there was very little out there. Simultaneously, while I was still full time at InStyle, we got a lot of reader mail from people who had loved the magazine for 20 years or more saying, you know, ‘I still love it, but I can’t wear a lot of the clothes that you feature.’ So I went to Ariel Foxman at the time and said ‘Would it be ok with you if I write a weekly column, just so these readers have somewhere to go and feel acknowledged?’ And he was like ‘Yes, go for it.’ It was very successful, and that kind of gave me the idea that there was a very real need here.
How did you come up with the name, Apprécier?
My partner [ Stephanie Stahl] did, actually. We went through about 50 names, but it’s hard to find one that’s not taken and has the right nuance. But she had a flash of inspiration and it has a nice back story in terms of the double meaning. It’s the French word for appreciate, which also means to enjoy, grow and value over time.
How did you and Stephanie meet?
She was at Revlon, but most recently she was a CMO at Coach. A mutual, very dear friend, Jason Weisenfeld, who is now president of David Beckham’s clothing line, had worked with Stephanie at Coach. I was sharing my idea with him, and he was very excited for me. He was like ‘I think you should go for it. It’s a great idea and you’re the perfect spokesperson.’ So he really helped give me the confidence to proceed at the beginning. And he invested money, so at the very outset we were brainstorming all the time, and I realized that I needed someone with a really serious financial background, a business partner. I’m the creative person and the merchandise person, but I needed someone who had the business smarts and who also had the digital experience in terms of building a site. Jason said ‘I think I might know someone…I don’t know if she would be interested in a startup, but let’s just have a coffee with her.’ So we met at Barney’s for a coffee and it was like love at first sight. It’s like we met on a blind date and it worked. We just got each other and she really loved the concept and was looking for a challenge. It’s just been a very, very lucky turn of events.
What kind of content do you feature?
My favorite part is the style profiles we do on women who fit our demographic, because it was really important to me to show the range of style that women have as they get older. There’s this weird assumption that you hit a certain age and you become conservative– that’s just not the case. We’re as diverse in our 40’s, 50’s and up as we were when we were younger. It’s really frustrating that the brands that do cater to this demographic tend to be conservative and classic. I mean, it’s great that they do, but you still want shopping to be fun and exciting.
Who have you profiled?
We recently photographed Alessandra Ferri, the ballet dancer who just appeared in Romeo and Juliet last week at age 53–she had played the role 30 years younger.I reached out to Ariana Huffington just on a cold call email and she loved the idea and agreed to be profiled. We’ve photographed Norma Kamali, our first profile who’s always been my inspiration. She’s 70 and looks amazing and is so enthusiastic and modern in the way she thinks. Cornelia Guest, Lauren Ezersky, Jodie Patterson…it’s a really wide range of people.
Is your role at the site different from at InStyle?
It’s very much the same, for the most part. I’ve always gone with my gut in terms of the mix of merchandise–I know how to really speak in a very helpful and relatable way to a reader, but one of the most delightful things I discovered is you get immediate feedback online. When I used to do stories for magazines, you waited four months to find out if somebody liked it. Now, I find out immediately, and that’s really valuable in terms of planning your stories and being responsive to your reader.
How many people work on your team?
Two of us full time and an editorial director who is part time. Then we have about 20 freelancers that include photographers, illustrators, writers and market editors, but we’re a pretty scrappy startup.
What designers are you wearing these days?
I wear a wide range of clothes. My favorite designer is Dries van Noten. I’ve collected his clothes for many years. But I also shop at J. Crew. I like MaxMara, I love Carolina Herrera‘s designs…I love Vince. The range of prices that we focus on is very wide, because that’s how women dress today. And we want every woman to have an interest point into our stories. We don’t want her to be like ‘Oh, it’s just for wealthy women.’ Every edition has a real mix.
What has the feedback been to all of this so far?
It’s been ‘thank you, thank you for doing this.’ There’s not a lot out there to help this woman shop. And that’s our ultimate goal–we want her to feel inspired, to present her with a really exciting selection of clothes that make sense for her life as it is.