Stefani Greenfield, founder of the Scoop boutique chain, is attending the spring 2005 fashion collections this week, but she’s not making a big production of it. “I’ll go to a lot of them,” she said without apparent enthusiasm the other day, modeling a brightly colored caftan over gym togs and gray Saucony running sneakers at Tracy Feith in East Hampton. “I don’t really think about what I’m going to wear,” she said of her Fashion Week attire, “and I don’t really care.”
Well, join the club, sister. For most New York women, the big gaudy spectacle unfolding under the tents has nothing to do with our actual wardrobes-it’s a drama completely abstracted from our actual relationship with getting dressed. For it is no longer the fashion show that informs what we wear now, but specialty boutiques like Scoop, which first opened on the corner of Broadway and Spring in 1996 and has expanded to an empire of seven, offering countless versions of a sort of “Scoop Girl” silhouette: flirty top and stiletto heels.
Jenna Bush, strutting nonchalantly out for her speech at the Republican convention in white James Jeans (sold-out at Scoop) and an Oscar de la Renta top was pure “Scoop Girl.” So too is Seinfeld ex and designer Shoshanna Lonstein Gruss (whose line is sold there; “a dear, dear friend of mine,” said Ms. Greenfield), pop star Jessica Simpson and everyone from the curators of the last Whitney Biennial to the female cast of The O.C . Even the Gap has been Scooped: In their new fall ad campaign, Sarah Jessica Parker pairs shellacked-on dungarees with yellow satin high heels.
It’s a casual, California look favored by the 37-year-old owner herself-”a little Stevie Nicks, a little Gucci,” she said. From the casual Michael Kors suede Wallabees and tunic-like C&C California Tees, to Jimmy Choo slingbacks and shrunken Miu Miu blazers, there’s a “Scoop outfit” for every moment of the day.
Ms. Greenfield has helped shift the emphasis from fashion (following the whims of certain designers) to shopping (figuring out a combination of items). It’s similar to the difference between Vogue , which fashionistas still read but few actually use , and current Condé Nast juggernaut Lucky , and it helps her pull in $1,500 to $2,000 per square foot’s worth of business. There is a store opening for babies (there’s already several for men); outposts are in Miami, and another will open soon in Vegas.
“I think she has single-handedly changed the way people dress more than any magazine, any editor,” said the socialite- cum -psychiatrist Samantha Boardman, calling from the car. “It’s mix and match, it’s not so label-focused, it’s more look -focused. I think she’s kind of been the mother of that. She’s kind of doing the homework for you. She’s out there doing the shopping for you. I don’t have time to go and shop around, or to read magazines. You can kind of not really be paying attention.”
“To me it is a specific genre of items which is high-end casual and in some ways that is the hardest thing to find,” said the fashionable dermatologist Lisa Airan, phoning in on the way home from her Napa Valley vacation. “The availability in one place of those items has made it easier for women to embrace the concept of high-end casual. There is a design to it. It’s not just a sweatshirt. It’s a Juicy Couture sweatshirt that’s cashmere and has a lot of design to it.”
Self-portraitist and party gal Anh Duong is also an enthusiast, though for her, Scoop does have its limits. “I mean, I wouldn’t shop there before a black-tie event,” she said. “It’s for a very specific thing like a pair of open-shoed sandals, for example, to go to the beach.” (She shops at the one in the meatpacking district, where a new women’s store will open in November.)
“It’s a great one-stop shop,” said Ms. Boardman. “It’s the 7-11 of fashion, somehow, she’s done that, and I think we’re all eternally grateful.”
‘I Never Really Wanted to Be in the Fashion Industry’
Heading toward the Scoop women’s store on Newtown Lane, Ms. Greenfield’s vision was on parade: lots of women in thumbtack-sized sparkling diamond studs, with smooth, tanned skin, Scoop-ified for the day in Petit Bateau T-shirts, Adriano Goldschmeid jeans and pailletted Marc Jacobs flip-flops. A satin-cheeked ingenue in a Creamsicle colored polo shirt held the door for Ms. Greenfield.
“Hi, Nicole,” Ms. Greenfield chirped.
“It’s Caroline ,” the young girl responded, moving past.
Out of earshot from the shopper, Ms. Greenfield didn’t miss a beat. “She looked like a Nicole,” she said. “I know I shouldn’t have said it unless I knew it. Damn, and I said it with such confidence.”
In her store, the 5-foot-3 proprietor was toeing the line between in-house eccentric and fashion mascot. She flitted around the narrow boutique, her long dark hair looking very “après-treadmill,” as she put it, fresh from the East Hampton Gym in a hoodie, bike shorts and sneakers. She picked up a spare ped, folded sweaters and tried to help some browsers, most of whom recoiled into their shells.
“It’s so funny-I walk around looking like this all day, all the time, and I say, ‘Can I help you?’, and people look at me and I’m like, ‘I really can help you.’” Ms. Greenfield said. “They’ll be like, ‘You work here?’ And I’ll be like, ‘I work here.’ I feel like the Snapple lady. I’m very unkempt.”
“She comes in in her gym clothes,” said Julie Ross, 30, an account executive at Hugo Boss men’s division who was shopping that day at Scoop for jeans with some friends. “You don’t really know who she is, unless you know who she is.”
Ms. Greenfield grew up in Bayside, Queens; her mother has run a methadone clinic in the South Bronx for 25 years, and her dad, now retired, was in public relations. She attended public schools, including Stuyvesant, and the conservative synagogue at the Bay Terrace Jewish Centre (the accent still lingers). When she talks about her inspirations, she’ll mention Ron Herman of Fred Segal and Barbara Weiser of Charivari, among others.
She also fondly remembers American High, a store in Soho where she worked during her high-school years. “It was basically like the Scoop of its day, American High,” Ms. Greenfield said.
“I was always, like, not into clothes,” she said. “I mean, you know, if you’re a woman you like clothes, but I was more like I would cut pillowcases, literally like make skirts. Most people were like, ‘You can’t drink you, can’t smoke.’ My mother was like, ‘You’re off limits to the scissors.’ I was always, like, making stuff: beading, fringing, cutting. Everybody always said, ‘You should be in the fashion industry; you should be in the fashion industry.’ I was very funky. One day my hair could have a purple streak, one day my hair could have a red streak. I was very downtown, you know.”
Like most Manhattan adolescents, she roundly rejected cheerleader chic. “Stuyvesant was not about looking polished; it was all about being funky cool,” Ms. Greenfield said. “I was like Cyndi Lauper met Madonna-you know, when she was in the ‘Borderline’ video or the ‘Lucky Star’ video. I mean, she was literally starting out. I mean, we all like knew her from Danceteria. The bottom line is I never really wanted to be in the fashion industry, it never interested me. I was like, ‘I want to be a writer,’ basically, like a copywriter more than writing novels or writing books.”
Finances were tight. “It was about like rummaging through my grandmother’s closet and like putting on four of her beaded necklaces and buying a $5 dress at Cheap Jack’s or Andy’s Chee-Pees and throwing on my grandfather’s old trench coat and bringing it to the tailor and making it mine,” Ms. Greenfield said. “New York was different then. It wasn’t about spending a lot of money. We would save all our allowance and buy Maud Frizon shoes. That was the thing back in the day. You always wanted those few things-but it wasn’t about who had money, buying expensive clothes. It was about having your own quirky style.
“I was in high school 20 years ago, doll,” she said. “The world has changed. It’s so celebrity-driven …. They look at Paris Hilton.”
She majored in mass communications, “whatever that is,” at Tulane, and moved back home after graduation, taking a job in production at Calvin Klein Jeans, which involved schlepping up to New Bedford, Mass., every few weeks to count the inventory.
“I was like, ‘This is some great job ,’” she said, now in the office above her men’s store, feet on the desk. Then a friend invited her to be an assistant at the new bridge line Donna Karan was starting, DKNY. Ms. Greenfield stayed with the company for five years, eventually rising to lead the jeans division.
It was a heady period, she said, describing the thrill of taking “retail math” at Parsons as only a calculus geek turned fashion hound can. “We were like so into it,” she gushed. “It wasn’t like, ‘What time we’re going home?’ It was like, ‘You go home when you pass out.’”
At Esprit, where she worked next, neither party was feeling the love. Ms. Greenfield said that when she left after a year, the ax was on its way toward her neck. (“They weren’t looking for someone to turn the place upside down,” she said.) She fielded offers from other designers, like Pepe Jeans, but couldn’t commit.
“I just had this vision of myself being really successful, in a corner office, in a navy suit at 45 years old-no husband, no babies, no nothing,” she said. I said, ‘You know what, I’ve got to write the epilogue now. I’m going to get old really fast and I’m going to look at my life and say I’m only about what I’ve done, not who I am.’ As much as I’m a businesswomen, I’m 100 percent a women and 500 percent a girl. I’m as girly as they come. I am a girly girly girly girl.
“I just didn’t want to get hard ,” she said.
‘You’re Not Going to See Me in Manolos’
In 1995, over dinner at Raoul’s with Uzi Ben-Abraham, the owner of a street-clothes emporium called Atrium on Broadway, she pitched an idea: mixing labels together on the same rack, linked by color or style-velvet-trimmed Nanette Lepore blouse, wide-wale corduroy Theory blazer, Rebecca Taylor peach pants. “Everything in department stores was about like, ‘Here’s my Donna Karan little sign. Here’s my Levis little sign.’ I was about mixing it all together by color classification, trend-you know, really creating a store that was like my closet,” said Ms. Greenfield. “Everyone thought I was crazy.”
But Mr. Ben-Abraham found her quite sane. After working under him for six months at Atrium, he turned one of his holdings, a former leather store called Concepts, into Scoop. They remain business partners to this day.
The “partner in life,” meanwhile-her husband of four years-is Mitchell Silverman, 39, a Syosset-born trader who runs a firm on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange whom she met on a blind date.
Waiting with them on line together outside an Italian restaurant in East Hampton, Ms. Greenfield noodled him gently. “Can you tell them it’s Stefani, honey? If we could sit outside that would be great …. Honey, did you ask them? … Did you tell them we would prefer to sit outside? … Why don’t you just ask , honey? … (My husband is the nicest guy, he doesn’t ask anybody for anything.) … Or in the back? … (They don’t come nicer than my husband. The nicest man, most polite, doesn’t ask for anything.) … Can you tell them Stefani, honey? If we could sit outside that would be great.”
Outside table secured, Ms. Greenfield pulled off her sweatshirt and sat in a Jogbra. Mr. Silverman sat quietly beside her, his mirrored, rimless sunglasses a placid surface registering her frenetic mien.
He remembered when his wife was studying for her learner’s-permit test and would elbow him in the middle of the night. “She studied for two straight days,” Mr. Silverman said. “She was like, ‘Ask me these questions.’”
Ms. Greenfield, who always carries a rod of string cheese in her purse, decided on a Caesar salad and poked at speck and prosciutto paninis her husband wanted to try. “We would eat cheeseburgers,” she said, but “we never had blatant treyf in the house.” (Mr. Ben-Abraham is Israeli and the partners post mezzuzot at the entrance of every store-”If it brings everybody a little blessing when they walk in the store, march on,” Ms. Greenfield said-and close for Yom Kippur.).
“Our mantra is we treat people who walk into our store as if they’re walking into our home,” she said. “We don’t have attitude. Some people are intimidated and they say that. It makes me not want to get out of bed in the morning. It makes me sick .”
At times, Ms. Greenfield appears not quite at home with the fashionable people of Manhattan-or, for that matter, Manhattan itself. “As much as I’m such a New Yorker, I don’t have that desire to be in such a small environment, to be around people, on top of them all the time,” she said. “Give me, you know, that L.A. vibe. It’s big and you can wander and there’s great vintage shopping, I love it there. I’m such an L.A. girl. I’m there literally like 70 or 80 days a year. It’s really groovy out there. And for me it’s totally my head. You’re not going to see me in Manolos.”
Walking back to the store after lunch, she ran into some friends, including one with a bar-mitzvah-age son which got her thinking about the up-and-coming wave of Scoop-ettes.
“The girls are in Diane von Furstenberg dresses,” Ms. Greenfield said with some wonderment. “The guys are dressed like totally cool and chill and the girls are like little Paris Hiltons. They’re all like bedecked . I see them and-you know I was pretty advanced at 13, but I was wearing little thrift-shop dresses. My mother wasn’t buying me Diane von Furstenberg. But you have to. That’s what they wear.”