Opening their first boutique in Bucktown in 2002, the three minds behind Akiraon boutiques have just opened their fifth location, a 6,000-square-foot women’s store on Diversey Parkway just west of Clark Street. Jon Cotay, Eric Hseuh, and Erikka Wang were just recent U of I graduates when they started their successful business, so how did they have the prescience to navigate the fickle retail industry?
According to WWD, "They fused fast fashions à la H&M (before H&M came to town)
with the personalized service of a boutique, made quick decisions, and
were at the right place at the right time." With their Bucktown start, they catered to the young, single set, whose expendable income was tip money from local clubs, bars and restaurants. The trio doubled as designers, and then and now they use the house line, Akira, to introduce trendy and inexpensive fashions, such as bubble dresses and metallic leggings in recent seasons. They’ve also managed to lure designers of bigger and bigger names, and higher and higher prices. "Today, top-selling lines at Akira, aside from its private label, include French Connection, BCBG and Salvage," and they also feature Seven for All Mankind, Rock & Republic, and Wax denim, and more expensive designer brands like Vera Wang.
With locations from Lincoln Park to Water Tower Place— the crown jewel of the Akira mini-empire– adaptability seems to be one of the key ingredients of the chain’s success: "They let each manager dictate the vibe and look of each store, meaning
no two locations are alike, outside of various snapshots of clients and
events lining walls, columns and dressing rooms in each store. They
tailor their inventory to each neighborhood, constantly moving pieces
around individual stores and into other stores if need be."
We think their success might come from where their store’s origins; according to the founders, "We started off as a party store where people would find something to go out in." People are always looking for something to wear at the last minute! As Chicago is becoming more of a night-out-on-the-town kind of city, disposable fashion was a safe bet for the retailer. This Evanston resident wants to know, when’s the North Shore location opening?!
Check out more of Akira online here.
– Hayley Wells
Source: WWDSee the Top Ten Summer 2016 Trends for Women Over 40