One of the perks of writing StyleBlueprint is interviewing someone as compelling and funny as Julia Reed, the newly appointed creative director for Taigan. You may know her name from the 20 years she spent at Vogue. Talk about passion: it runs through her blood. Her job is to keep Taigan members interested and coming back for more — can’t think of a better job for Julia.
Taigan is an online, high-end site for boutique shopping. The stores on Taigan do not necessarily have websites, nor do they offer shopping online, except via in. All are unique in their categories and all have SIMPLY GORGEOUS merchandise. To buy from Taigan, you must be a member, and that costs $15 per month, or $165 a year. What? Pay to shop online?. Hey, there are a lot of experiments going on to find revenue models in the e-commerce world, and this one just might work as the benefits to shopping on Taigan are quite good. No, they are INCREDIBLE!
When asked to become involved with Taigan, what compelled you to join the company?
“It was funny because I had decided to quit Vogue after working there for 20 years, not because I was booted, by the way, but I could read the tea leaves that the “fun” era of magazines was about to end. Working at Vogue WAS fun, covering high fashion, presidential campaigns, and everything in between. The magazine had great budgets for travel and entertainment, but that would soon fade away. My gut was right: Conde Nast has closed Dominos, House and Garden, and Gourmet in the last year. One of my favorites, Southern Accents, no longer exists as a print magazine. These magazines did not close because of lack of subscribers, but rather a diminishing advertising dollar due to the recession. So my instincts were right.
“When asked to join on with Taigan, I envisioned, perhaps, a “consultant” job. I was in the middle of a book tour (Reed’s new book is My House of First Street) and life was good. I currently write for the blog WOWOWOW, but never considered that a big deal, just a bunch of women talking to each other.” (Yeah right – women like Liz Smith, Whoopi Goldberg, Candice Bergen, Lily Tomlin and Peggy Noonan.)
“The more I understood Taigan, the more I saw it as an incredible opportunity. Fetch, Taigan’s magazine, gives me a great creative outlet, and it gives all those lost readers a great outlet for content on fashion, shopping and trends. Because it is online, Fetch is topical and relevant to the reader. I think Fetch fills a niche with the void left by the demise of so many great magazines. Also, true to my reputation, I am a voracious shopper. My Father calls me the ultimate consumer; he’s right. Taigan and I make a great fit.”
As creative director of Taigan, what are some of your responsibilities?
“I grew up in Greenville, Mississippi and worked at one of the most sophisticated department stores in the South – or the country for that matter. So many of these classic stores have gone by the wayside, but there are still some left, and that’s what Taigan is looking for. Most of the stores are owned by shop keepers with great stories to tell and fabulous life experiences. In Fetch, we paint a picture of the stores, their owners, and why they are great. We are adding videos everyday to the site which will add another dimension altogether.”
I have heard Taigan is positioned to be as much of an entertainment venue as it is a shopping venue. Is that accurate? How do you, in your role of creative director, plan to keep members of Taigan coming back on a regular basis?
“I don’t think of Taigan as an entertainment venue; it is a shopping venue. With that said, Fetch changes every week and will feature guest columnists like Bunny Williams, a well known decorator with a new furniture line, or Annette Tapert, an author of two books on glamor and style. But, not all columns will be merchandise driven. For example, I love Tony Duquette and would have written about him anyway, but when Hollyhocks is offering his book for under $100, it is a natural inclusion in Fetch. Because we are adding and updating our merchants daily, shoppers know there is always something new to see.”
Will you always weave the merchants’ products into your column?
“Not necessarily. For example, people love lists so I asked Jay McInerney and Jon Meacham to give me their top 10 books for the decade. No products mentioned. But when the chef of Blackberry Farms comes out with a new cookbook, I may decide to cook one of the entrees, photograph it on a set of china from a Taigan merchant and feature it on Fetch. If it makes sense, I will include a merchant, but not always.”
Talk about the “elusive fact,” “elusive find” and “elusive file.”
“It’s best if I give some examples. An elusive find might be that Derek Lamb made ONLY eight gorgeous, rich, Russian gray squirrel scarves and one of them is available at Forty-Five-Ten in Dallas. Or an elusive fact might be that caviar is best served in horn spoons, not silver. And, Taigan’s own The Mercantile, in Atlanta, has exquisite mother-of- pearl caviar spoons for under $25, a gorgeous gift at anytime. An elusive file might be Joel Dondis, of Sucre, with his hassle-free holiday entertaining tips. Great information in a quick bite.”
It seems most online sites are offering deep discounts for high quality merchandise. Is discounted merchandise being offered on Taigan?
“Just as you have a relationship with your favorite local stores, you will have one with the Taigan merchants. They will offer exclusive private sales to Taigan members and personal customer service. We want you to be able to call them and or vice-versa when you have a need, or they find something you are looking for.”
My understanding is each retailer is visited by a member of the Taigan sales team, which is a huge commitment to excellence. How many retailers do you currently have and how many are you adding a month?
“That is correct and a huge part of Taigan. One of us vets each Taigan merchant. We are looking for shops with impeccable customer service and unusual merchandise. Our slogan says it all: Uncovering the exlusive. We plan to add about 10 merchants a month. However, we would be amiss if we did not say “no” more than “yes.” Inquiries come in every day with legions of women out there saying, “Take a look at this.” I am heading to California this week to look at gourmet food stores, one of my specialties.”
What are some of your favorite things that are available to buy on Taigan right now?
“That is tough. Who would have known one of the best jewelers and antique stores is located in Chattanooga? I love the taxidermy bird diorama from Revival and the to-die-for, mega-jeweled cuff by Amanda Pinson. Hollyhock, in West Hollywood, has a set of painted English Pasteware with Adam Buck Transfer that is stunning. I do like to shop; my Father was right.”
I love reading the NY Times review of your new book “The House of First Street” and plan to read it. What book are you currently reading?
“The author of Damage, Josephine Hart (Irish), wrote a book The Truth about Love. It’s wonderful. Also, Inside a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz.”
What are three things you can’t live without (excluding family, friends and pets)?
- Books– I could even go to jail if I had books to read.
- Great soaps, like Lily of the Valley from Marianella, available from The Mercantile in Atlanta.
- Something else, let’s see, it’s either food or booze… I should say something sophisticated like a great bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape. But I’ll say Scotch. Dewars will do.”
(Disclaimer note: Julia talks fast, REALLY fast, so the concepts I know are accurate; I can’t vouch for the actual words.)
To read more about Taigan, see this month’s Nashville NFocus featuring an interview with CEO Elizabeth Nichols.
Missed a previous StyleBlueprint interview?:
- Kay West
- Bridgit Fitzgerald of Neiman Marcus
- Elizabeth James, event coordinator
- Judith Bright, jeweler
- Lizbeth King, co-founder Claridge + King
- Caye Sturtridge of Jalan Jalan
- Kayce Hughes, Pear + Bears
- Joe Smith of Ilex Flowers
- Lori Turk, makeup artist extrodinaire
- Nashville Artist Ursula Norris