“The big designers are big because they consistently sell,” said Ms. Niederhoffer. “It’s an easy route to stock their clothes and watch them sell. But with smaller, unknown designers, it’s a bit of a gamble. Our customers have faith in that gamble and are excited about seeing something they’ve never seen before.”
Thistle & Clover tends to stock pretty, feminine pieces that can transition from business wear to evening cocktail fashions for their local clientele of 20-something working professionals and 30-something stroller-brigade moms. They feature Abigail Lorick, the model turned designer who has dressed Leighton Meester’s Upper East Side snob Blair Waldorf on Gossip Girl, and Quail, an affordable, smart line from L.A. designer Michelle Nguyen.
Through e-mail blasts about their first open call in late May, they found local line Sunday’s Best, run by two real-life best friends from Brooklyn, Sophia Keleta and Samira Chung. They make friendship bracelets just like the ones you shared with your bestie in fifth grade, only these are bangles made out of sterling silver dipped in gold instead of 99-cent-store thread. They sell for $143. Thistle & Clover also discovered Pluma, another independent line run by two young Manhattan-based women, notable for their flapper-style headbands boasting a fan of pheasant and guinea feathers blooming from the side.
Ms. Davis, the jeweler, was the owners’ 2:30 p.m. appointment at their second open call. Earlier, a fast-talking, gum-smacking woman named Tahanny Chehab, a former Armani sweater designer who runs the T&M boutique in the East Village, click-clacked into the store. Ms. Chehab hung her neutral black and gray dresses and skirts on hangers and complained about the younger, N.Y.U.-going clientele’s takeover of her boutique’s neighborhood. “Do you have people coming in being like, ‘Why is this $250. Like, why?’” she whined. Ms. Gale tried on one of her black coats with corset lacing in the back and long bell sleeves cinched at the wrist. “She was probably the most mainstream designer we’ll have today,” Ms. Gale said after Ms. Chehab left. “This is more for people who aren’t represented in stores, but it’s always good to have a dialogue with another boutique owner.”
After lunch, Kimberly Ann Rosenbauer, a smiley redhead in leopard print heels and a bright orange ruffled top, laid out her delicate jewelry pieces, which included trees and flowers etched into brass. In her slightly Chicagoan accent, she explained that she works as a vocal therapist when she’s not making jewelry out of her apartment in Greenpoint.
Toward the end of the day, Thistle & Clover’s upstairs neighbor, Jacob Gayle, who hand-stitches leather clutches and bags under the name Jacob’s Eye, presented his work. Soul singer Erykah Badu is one of his top clients, but he also sells at local outdoor markets like the Brooklyn Flea. He strolled into the store dressed in a sea blue tunic, cargo shorts and sandals, his arms overflowing with his gorgeous bubble-textured leather bags. The Thistle & Clover girls worried that impulse-buy clutches won’t sell when most of their clients are looking for roomy everyday bags. In a thick Jamaican accent, he said he’d work on a new design with them, which is precisely what these open calls are all about.
“I can do what you need, but it’s not about the money for me. What I do has to come from love, what I make comes from love,” he said, placing both his hands over his heart.