Foley + Corinna's Anna Corinna Dishes On Brand Evolution And Vintage Prowess

by The Daily Front Row

(NEW YORK) What’s Anna Corinna of Foley + Corinna been up to since launching with former business partner Dana Foley over a decade ago with a spate of chic carryables and vintage finds galore? From its roots as an LES boutique (back when the ‘hood wasn’t littered with retail options) Foley + Corinna has grown into a full-fledged brand with a recently-retooled business M.O. that’s less focused on the brick and mortar. How so? An expanded web presence, for starters, plus e-comm accounts like Shopbop, and prime retail real estate in the likes of Bloomingdale’s and Saks. Corinna dished on her brand’s evolution, vintage meccas worth stalking (or trekking west for), and savvy and B.S.-free tidbits of industry wisdom she’s accrued along the way.

How did you get into the fashion biz initially?
I come from a very unconventional fashion background: I didn’t go to fashion or business school. Living in New York City has made me very aware of what’s going on, what people are wearing and what people are looking for. I see newness and creativity walking down my street—not in fashion magazines. That’s why Foley + Corinna has been around, and relevant, for so long.

Recap, s’il vous plait! What’s the backstory of Foley + Corinna?
Dana Foley and I met about 13 years ago—we were both doing the Chelsea art and antique flea market. I was selling vintage and she was designing and selling clothing. We both really loved each other’s aesthetic and had really great followings at the flea market. One day, Dana said we should open a store and we did! Eventually we opened a second store in L.A., and then we started wholesaling. 

What’s one of your tricks of the retailing trade?
We’ve only done what people are asking us to do and what people are paying us for. If they weren’t buying something, we stopped doing it. That approach comes from my nontraditional way of learning: fashion school is great and everything, but to go out and sell your stuff is actually the true test of a product! I wouldn’t do anything if I didn’t like it.

What’s new with the brand as of late?
About a year ago we partnered with Artisan House, a very strong handbag and accessory company. Now we’re capable of things that we were never capable of before. It was the first time someone with experience came in to guide us. We’ve grown our handbag business; eventually, we’ll branch out into more of a lifestyle direction. In terms of our customers, we started out with a really creative group of women who love Foley + Corinna—that grew from a very select small New York City cult following into women across the world learning about us. 

Who’s the ideal Foley + Corinna lass?
You can design for an ideal customer, but what if she doesn’t like you? I’ll make a bag that I want to wear—then, my 17-year-old sister wants it, my mom wants it, too, and my grandma will even carry it!  If you can find something that will satisfy all those women, you’ve hit it. 

Have you had any particularly precarious moments on the 13-year Foley + Corinna journey?
Of course I’ve had doubt, I’m human! It’s a good thing: doubt makes you figure out what you can change, where to grow, what your needs are, and what’s missing. We currently don’t have a store, but we have a web presence. Also, our wholesale accounts have really grown. People change, brands change, your customer base changes, and I’ve changed as a designer. It’s really important not to stay exactly the same; nobody does that. That wouldn’t be honest, and it probably wouldn’t be successful. 

Why focus on the e-comm iteration of the brand, in lieu of brick and mortar boutiques?
It’s beautiful to sell to stores, but no matter what you’re selling, everybody picks what’s right for their venue at that time. Nobody ever buys everything, as much as I wish they did! So it’s nice to have your own selling venue, which we can really play around with. 

Where did you catch the vintage bug?
My family is heavily into the antique, art, and collecting businesses. My mother is actually an antique dealer, so I always saw her buying and selling. I started collecting when I was really little because I was with her. I would buy little brooches or pocketbooks, and it just grew—I had a collection before I even realized it was a collection! 

What proportion of your closet is comprised of vintage gems?
Maybe 50 percent of my closet is vintage. Funny thing is, I don’t wear lots of the pieces; they’re just so beautiful that I have to own them. So, the other 50 percent is what I’d actually wear. 

Any designers or eras you rabidly seek out on the vintage circuit?
I’ve never been into a particular era, nor have I been into labels. I have the most spectacular Victorian things, unbelievable ‘50s pieces, and lots from the ‘70s and ‘80s. My favorites are handmade pieces: Sometimes it’s the fabric, sometimes it’s the cut, sometimes it’s the silhouette, but it’s more about the uniqueness factor.

Where are your go-to spots for scouring in NYC?
I still love the flea markets, like The Garage on 25th Street. I shop Brimfield Antique Show every year, plus the Rose Bowl in California when I can get out there. I live in Williamsburg, which is filled with great vintage stores. It’s kind of ridiculous, but when traveling the first thing I ask at the hotel is if there’s a flea market. Antique stores and centers are really interesting, too, because you get a very random mix of stuff. I could shop at antique stores or vintage outlets for days and days non-stop—but I’ll go to a department store and just pass out within 10 minutes. 

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