Sam’s job at Amsale is manyfold. She is officially the Operations Manager, but that title encompasses many things which are not traditionally a part of operations. She is a pinch hitter for bridal appointments on busy days or when there are unexpected walk-ins, and is fitting manager and merchandise manager as well. I have a particular appreciation for her other role–as drinks coordinator for the Amsale Girls, as her taste in the finer things is unparalleled. She always seems to know where the best happy hour is to be had, and who has the best wine selection. With an uncanny knack for finding deals and always having a coupon on hand to take advantage of those deals, Sam is a mixed bag of extravagance and practicality. She is often the voice of reason when things get stirred up at the salon, and is the steadfast Sancho Panza to Debbye’s whimsical Don Quixote. When Debbye volunteers Kori to work at 39th Street for market on an especially busy weekend at the salon, guess who is the one that picks up the slack? Debbye herself gets to leave the salon that weekend and watch the shows as a “buyer” of the new collection. Sam will have to be the concierge that weekend and deal with whatever else comes up. There is no other backup.
Luckily there’s a lot of love between them, and Debbye will always be forgiven for putting more on Sam’s capable shoulders. Hopefully Debbye knows what she has in Sam, and while she is off getting the glory, she is thanking Sam for taking care of the guts of the business. A “thank you” is always appreciated…
I moved to NY when I landed a dream job at Vera Wang. It was a fantastic learning experience but fast forward 3 years, and it felt like I was spinning my wheels. An evil manager was making life miserable, a relationship was ending, I felt stuck between bridal and ready to wear, and had become frustrated with life in NY. I felt like I had proven to myself that I could make it in NY –I had been there 3 years– but didn’t know what should happen next… move overseas, maybe? But then I met someone new–at a pub Trivia night at the Matchless Bar in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Kyle and I geeked it up together, first as friends then gradually progressing to more. We sweetly refer to ourselves as a “bar success story” since statistically speaking, our relationship shouldn’t have worked out. Soon after, I did a little soul-searching in Japan and returned to begin a new job at Amsale. It turned out to be a major turning point in my life. Kyle and I got married in September of 2008. I dare you to guess what my wedding gown looked like… (Hint–it was a Kenneth Pool, but an atypical one.) Things were humming along with life’s usual ups and downs but to our newly-wedded selves, these were the salad days. I couldn’t believe that marriage was so fun. Was I surprised? Definitely! Guess I wasn’t meant to be a career bachelorette after all. And although I didn’t know what the future looked like, at least I knew who I would be spending it with. And the best part? Now that we’d joined forces, all of the dreams that we had abandoned or neglected began to feel possible. We brainstormed weekly, thinking about where we should open up a coffee shop/art gallery, take tango lessons, open a bar, write a novel… until everything we were working towards came to a screeching halt when my husband Kyle lost his job. I have to confess, it’s much easier to write about my co-workers than about myself. I could probably write a long-winded novel about my life, but it probably won’t make it into your book club any time soon, and it certainly wouldn’t tell you anything about how to pick the perfect wedding gown. Thank you, Emily Leu, for swooping in and giving your two cents about what I’m like at work. I’m probably not that cool, but Emily’s known me for a while now so here it is…
Meet Linda — the Emily Version
Linda notices everything but says nothing. She can size you up in a matter of minutes and is usually spot on in her assessment of people but accepts everyone with a complete lack of judgment. She knows that good or bad, everyone has their moments and she is truly fascinated by what makes people tick.
In the salon, Linda is our calm, grounding voice of reason. She has become a sounding board for us girls and whenever anyone has a problem she usually finds herself the chosen shoulder to lean on. Partially because she has a knack for offering up a morsel of wisdom in just a few words that changes your perspective and literally makes any situation seem clear. Mostly, however, it’s because Linda will always be on your side, no matter what. Talking to her makes you feel like you’re wrapped in a warm blanket with a cup of hot cocoa and suddenly the world doesn’t seem so bad.
Similarly, Linda exudes the same quiet strength in the workplace. She is the most diligent worker in the salon. Never one to let her reports or paperwork slip, always the first to tackle a project or initiative. Linda does her absolute best and gives 200% and holds out hope that one day she will be recognized for it. If not, she doesn’t sweat it. She wants to do the best job she can for the good of the salon, not for the praise. This is in stark contrast to both Lauren and myself. Both of us have a tendency to do one thing right and run down the hall screaming “Look what I did!!!”
Linda does have her fun stirring the pot though. Intentionally protective of herself and her emotions, she lets information out in a slow leak once you really get to know her. For example, when we first started working together, I asked Linda how old she was. I was really (I mean REALLY) more curious than anything. Mostly because Linda has the demeanor of someone who has been seasoned by years of experience but looks like a hot Asian trophy wife. She intentionally kept this from me ONLY because she knew I wanted to know. It was literally years before she would tell me how old she was. She really gets her jollies off of keeping people on their toes. Its part of what makes her so interesting – you’ll never get bored being friends with Linda because she’ll figure out exactly what you want and then skirt around it forever. Just kidding. Sort of. Linda will take it from here…
The Mall to Madison Avenue
Now where were we? Right. Unemployment. Losing a job is hard no matter where you are, but in NY, the fall can come much harder and faster.
That 6 month safety net that you’re supposed to have gets spent much faster in a place like NY where the rents are easily over two thousand dollars. With very little preparation, we found ourselves a single income home. I knew that I had to step it up, and at no other time was I more grateful to have the job that I had, and more frightened by it. I was a luxury salesperson working on commission in post recession NYC.
I never considered myself a salesperson until maybe 2 years ago, when I finally embraced what I did for a living. Never mind that I’ve been doing it for 14 years. I grew up with the same suspicion about people who try to “help” when you’re shopping, as no doubt many customers regarded me all those years throughout my meandering retail career. But 2 things really changed the way I felt. One–and it’s a big one–was getting married myself and going through the process of hunting down a gown.
By the end of it all, it quietly dawned on me what the true significance of the gown is and should be… Sure it varies from bride to bride, but at the end of the day it should be something that you feel psychologically comfortable and beautiful in– something in which you feel ravishing but that doesn’t feel like a costume. It should feel like mutual recognition when you find that dress (you know, if dresses had feelings). It’s that dress by which your beloved recognizes the woman walking towards him down the aisle. The one that makes mom and dad misty eyed because their little girl is leaving them. Or,,, it’s the gown that you just inexplicably love. You, and no one else, has to live with the dress decision, so make it count!
When the millions of photos from your wedding come back to you (yes, millions!) if you loved your gown, you will like what you see. If you didn’t love your wedding gown or were uncomfortable in it, your pictures will be a painful or annoying reminder of this for months, even years to come. Who needs that?
When I thought about what I sell and how I sell it, I realized that I felt really good about it. I wasn’t just selling an article of clothing, but a powerful symbol of matrimony and dream fulfillment. Not too shabby.
I presume a lot when I get to know a bride, but I make the most of every interaction. I try to listen, with all the attention of a rapt lover, to everything the bride is saying and to what she’s not saying. I listen for secret wishes, contradictions, frustrations, insecurities–whatever the bride gives me. I then try to find that dress that feels just right. And if we don’t have that dress here, I will point you in the right direction. Thinking back on it, I kind of wish there had been a me to sell me a wedding gown when I was searching… (Ha!) Sounds strange, perhaps, but since I didn’t have my mom and sisters with me, a clone sounds oddly comforting. I’m sure I would have been gentle…
The second thing that made me embrace selling was watching people who were proud of their work as salespeople. I feel like there’s too little regard for good salesmanship in this world…which is a shame, because when you meet a good one, someone who actually enjoys what they’re doing and does it well, you really get it. And in bridal, salesmanship is also service at its finest. We don’t leave a bride to sift through and figure things out on her own, only reappearing when it’s time to cash out. We literally hold her hand, help her balance, zip her into the dress like a Lady-in-waiting, and give her comprehensive styling tips while fielding questions from MOB’s (Mother of the Bride), MOG’s (Mother of the Groom, natch) and self-appointed bridal coordinators (you know the one–the bridesmaid that wasn’t designated Maid of Honor, but is determined to earn distinction through her extensive knowledge of weddings wrought from the innumerable times she’s been a bridesmaid?). We are temporarily part of the wedding party, and completely vested in the cause of finding you the gown. Emily is one of those salespeople who make all of this look easy. With the confidence of an uber-competent wedding planner, she touches on far-reaching aspects of the wedding while unearthing the look of your wedding dreams. Emily is matter-of-fact in what she puts out there to the bride, but the bride quickly realizes how right she is about everything, and wants to comply. If Emily says it’s a good look, it must be.
I’ve been working with Emily a long time, and perhaps by osmosis or that powerful tide that aligns our periods, (sorry, guys) we are eerily similar in the way we deal with some of the more challenging situations. And though our postmodern approach to selling bridal gowns while thwarting drama give a nice sense of consistency to the salon, we now know that our swanky Yankee establishment needed to get shaken up by a staight talkin’ Southern belle. And shake things up, she did….
Lauren isn’t sure of the precise moment she was crowned a Princess. Was it all those years ago, when, for her 16th birthday she insisted on getting her new car (a Mustang!) a day early, thus ruining the surprise that her parent’s had planned? (Surprise! You’re getting your car a day early, even though it’s Daddy’s birthday!)
Or was it not until she moved up North and had to deal with nervy New Yorkers and turbo-charge her moxie? Never mind the wardrobe tantrums during the filming of Amsale Girls… Either way, the crown fits! But lest you think that being a princess is all fluff, let me tell you why Lauren deserves the title. Because she’s not afraid to ask for what she deserves, and she’s not afraid to strive for what she wants. She is refreshingly honest, and doesn’t hide behind niceties, just to keep some small talk going. Yes she’s young and sweet, but she cannot be pushed around. When you ask Lauren a question, you will always get an honest answer. So don’t ask–does this make me look fat? Unless you want the truth!
Lauren loves beauty, luxury and decor. She has the vim and vigor you’d expect from a young, gorgeous Texan, but the music and style sensibilities of an old soul. She is so very specific in what she likes and will chase down the perfect _______ no matter what it takes. Her Christmas list will include color, make, and model of the item of choice and she really doesn’t have time for substitutes.
Lauren was spotted by Amsale reps when she was working at Mia Couture in TX. When she decided to make the move to NY, Lauren was quick to let Amsale & company know how eager she was to work at the Flagship salon. Lauren landed the job with her classic Lauren persistence and was up and running in no time. But crackerjack bridal consultant that she is, Lauren still experienced a rude awakening when she began dealing with the New York bride.
In NYC, a bride is aware of all of her choices and isn’t satisfied until she has sifted through most of them. Naturally, her bridal gown shopping becomes a much more drawn out affair. In the South, most brides embark upon their gown shopping day with a clear objective: to find a dress that day. With their mothers and key players in tow, by end of day the gown is decided upon, and wedding planning then moves to other areas that need attention, such as bridesmaids or invitations. Not so the New York bride. There’s a preliminary viewing to “see what’s out there”, a secondary viewing to compare it to other dresses that have been tried since then, and if you’re lucky, a 3rd appointment where Mom is finally brought in, and the gown is displayed for her approval and a decision is (hopefully) made. If you’re unlucky, or depending on the circumstance, there might be one or 2 more appointments to show the dress to other friends/relatives or to see a dress that wasn’t there at the first appointment. And since I’m just speaking for our salon… who knows how often the cycle gets repeated elsewhere? In other words–it’s not a shopping day, it’s a process. Interesting factoid with no scientific basis for you: Over 50% of the time, the first dress a bride tries on ends up being her favorite.
[How many places should a bride look? Do you think you were a good decision maker? Did you buy the first gown you tried?]
The honeymoon period for Lauren at Amsale came to a crashing end after a good run. Debbye knows that Lauren is not used to the way things are done at Amsale, and was able to overlook things in the first few months because of good sales and general charm. She also understood that Lauren was still getting used to NY and her new work environment. But… now she’s got her eye on her, and it’s not looking so good. Beyond selling gowns and maintaining correspondence with brides, there are many other things that need to get done at the salon. While it’s usually me that merchandises the store–partially because I love doing it, and partially because no one else wants to do it– it needs to be maintained by all of us. Veils, sashes, jewelry and all other accessories must get put back in the accessories closet or everyone will be hunting for them during their next appointment. I want to say that nothing drives me crazier than being in the throes of a good appointment, and not being able to locate that piece de resistance–the perfect veil. The back room is usually a bit of a disaster, but in some ways it can’t be helped. But Lauren isn’t going to touch that back room any time soon. Nor will she take it upon herself to maintain the salon in her downtime, though she can sometimes be cajoled into it. What comes naturally to Emily and I because the salon is our second home, are not things that Lauren generally thinks about. And unfortunately, it’s stuff like this that can hurt an otherwise decent review…
Still, at the end of the day, we are salespeople. What defines us is our ability to sell. The ability to sell the gown and the dream. Amsale knows that Lauren is an amazing salesperson, and isn’t worried about the other stuff. Wise in her ways, she knows that the other aspects of the job can be taught, but that salesmanship is something of a natural gift. It’s always nice when Amsale stops by, but especially nice for Lauren who was feeling a bit unappreciated…