Oakland clothes retailers take indie fashion online


OAKLAND TRIBUNE: June 11, 2011

In the world of fashion, nothing is more basic than the classic white blouse. Yet, for Oakland businesswoman Dawn Wheeler, it was as elusive as a pair of comfortable stilettos, until she decided to start her own clothing business.

Meet the online indie fashion site BobbePin (www.bobbepin.com), featuring clothing and accessories from independent designers hand-picked by Dawn and co-owner Lisa de la Sol.

“We were going to start with white blouses and basics,” says Wheeler, but the more designers we met, we said, ‘Why limit yourself?’ We added this and that — then shoes, beautiful shoes. Then, through networking we asked our customers what else they wanted to see.”

For Wheeler’s part, she was surrounded by fashion at a very young age, growing up in London.

“I’ve always been interested in fashion. Even as a kid I had an eye for what I liked. I could never afford it, but I had an eye.” Wheeler’s mom made most of her clothes and even knitted her sweaters, something she deeply appreciates today.

“She showed me what you can do with very little. That’s why I love indie fashion — people creating their own style. It doesn’t have to cost you X amount of dollars.”

You might say this is the essence of BobbePin. The site is a showcase for indie designers who create affordable, high quality products that are changing the way we look at fashion. And because it’s online, there isn’t the overhead of a”brick-and-mortar” shop.

“The Internet gives you a level playing field, especially through social networking,” says Wheeler. “It lets you get your story out.”

Since their startup in November, BobbePin has shipped orders to at least nine states, although the Bay Area is their primary market. They run banner ads on local blogs and use Google AdWords, but most of their marketing comes from their website and Facebook, where they post specials and collect customer feedback.

Remarkably, they’ve been able to keep expenses to about $500 a month, even with a 5 percent kickback in sales to local charities.

And the classic white blouse? It’s available on BobbePin for just $50. You’ll have to find the comfortable stilettos on your own.

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