Dreams on Air Partners with the Accessories Council

Building Brands with Dreams on Air’s Retail, PR and Consulting Platform 

For luxury indie designers who’ve visualized a retail space in Soho, a multi-hyphenate model is making their dreams come true

By Lauren Parker

Dreams on Air co-founders Sai Kong and Alise Trautmane

Dreams on Air co-founders Sai Kong and Alise Trautmane

For participating ready to wear and accessories designers, Dreams on Air is one part Soho retail store, one part fashion consulting platform. For consumers, it’s a way to experience emerging and independent designers nearby the world’s most prestigious international labels.

The space- and services-sharing membership concept was born from Latvian fashion designer Alise Trautmane (her Narciss label earned her a designer of the year by the Baltic Fashion Federation) and branding expert Sai Kong (who received a Silmo Palm d'or winner for best new sunglasses). If their extensive industry experience has taught the co-founders anything, it’s that design talent isn’t enough for brand success in today’s competitive and ever-changing landscape. Dreams on Air fills in the blanks for what each brand—emerging or otherwise—is lacking, be it product advice, PR, social media or marketing support, digital content, line sheet photography or wholesale prep.

Most of all, Dreams on Air provides a sleek Soho space where brands can sell their designs at the 2,400-square-foot retail space upstairs, and share the expenses of rent and staffing, plus back-of-house services that often break the bank. The downstairs PR space lets editors, bloggers and stylists pull samples from current or the upcoming season. 

“It was my background as an independent and emerging fashion designer that contributed to the idea of a shared business model,” says Trautmane. “Having launched my own label with a store in London, showrooms in Moscow and London, plus very expensive PR firm, I almost went bankrupt. I wouldn’t advise any new brand to take that journey.”

But before providing rack, shelf, caseline or online selling space, Dreams on Air enlists a “mini brand audit” for new designers to determine their specific needs. Brands then select from the suite of services to get up to speed. “Brands have finite budgets and we make our offerings flexible per their needs,” says Kong, who did creative direction for brands such as Nike and The Jones Group. “In a sense we are an incubator, building brands and offering the best value for the dollars they spend.” 

The sleek Dreams on Air interior is grouped by brand

The sleek Dreams on Air interior is grouped by brand

Shop Local

In a sense, Dreams on Air is helping Soho return to its original roots of local and emerging designers/artisans, and driving consumers’ quest for discovery. To keep things fresh for shoppers, the store features frequent events and collaborations. That said, Dreams on Air is not a pop up, but rather a permanent solution with a rotating mix. Brands buy a membership for a whole season or two. And while Dreams on Air heavily curates the mix—from the brands themselves to the items sold—they don’t buy the merchandise outright as a traditional retailer would. The brands own the merchandise and the retail profits, minus fees.

 To add local flavor, Dreams on Air features about 60% percent New York designers, with the rest international. A second location planned in London will feature a similar proportion of local designers.

 “It used to be fun to shop local designers when you travel, but now you see the same brands on the main streets,” says Trautmane. “There’s a lot lost in that discovery in the shopping experience compared to 15 years ago. If you look at this area of Soho, there aren’t indie brands anymore, but not all shoppers want to go shop the stalls in Brookyn to find them. They want to discover in a prime location.” Dreams on Air’s location nearby Issey Miyake, Chanel and Balmain give it that clout.

Accessories and Ready to Wear

Overall, there are about 70 brands in the store, with Dreams on Air’s digital presence offering a deeper range.

Poshead handbags utilize old eyewear fronts

Poshead handbags utilize old eyewear fronts

Accessories comprise about 30 to 35% of the mix, which skews higher than the industry average. That commitment is seen with wall shelves of handbags ($300 to $1,000 with exotics reaching $3,000), free-standing cases of fashion ($100 to $500) and fine jewelry ($2,000 to $3,000), as well as shelves of eyewear ($300 $400 up to $1500 for horn) and even shoes.

 On the wholesale side, Dreams on Air takes select brands to Paris Fashion Week, setting them up in their showroom at Tranoi, and exposing them to international buyers. “It’s a shared showroom that’s more curated than the store,” says Trautmane.

 Back at the store, member brands can use the space to cultivate their retail presence, meet customers with Meet the Designer events, Friends and Family events or trunk shows.

 There are also opportunities for special collaborations. On May 15-19, 2019, the Accessories Council will bring a select group of member designers to Dreams on Air for a special pop-up. The launch event will be Wednesday, March 8th, 5 p.m to 8 p.m.

 A Soho event space at your disposal? Now that’s a dream come true.

 Dreams on Air is located at 120 Wooster Street between Prince and Spring Streets.

Noor Nanda