The CultureMap Interview
Fashion wunderkind John Piermarini talks exclusivity and classic with a twist
John Piermarini is not your ordinary 21-year-old guy. He went to Westwood Montessori and Greenhill. He comes from an Italian family — and always offers treats when guests arrive — so he's naturally sweet.
But we're most impressed with Piermarini's success in the fashion industry at such a young age. He's celebrating the second anniversary of his store, Piermarini, which has new digs in Snider Plaza. We chatted with him to see how he worked his way to the top.
CultureMap: When did you decide you wanted to work in the fashion industry?
John Piermarini: I was in high school when taught myself how to sew. I was 15, and I made a wedding dress for the daughter of one of my teachers. I worked with Abi Ferrin and learned all aspects of the industry — from fabric design to resourcing. That's when I decided that I wanted to work on the customer side. I figured that if I want to continue designing later, I will.
"I decided to forgo college," Piermarini says. "This is my education, which is a very Montessori thing to do."
CM: What about college?
JP: When I sat down with my mom to look at colleges, I didn't find one that fit me. So I decided to forgo college. This is my education, which is a very Montessori thing to do.
CM: So when did you decide to open up a store?
JP: During my senior year, I decided to open up a boutique. And the November after graduation, we opened the store Uptown, in a little house. We moved to Snider Plaza this August. I love the central location, exposed brick and the perfect size.
CM: What's the inspiration behind your store?
JP: I wanted it to be the kind of store I'd want to shop in. I'll go to New York City and shop 'til I drop, so I wanted it to be a store where I can buy in bulk.
Really, though, I wanted it to be an old-time boutique concept — with good, quality clothing and pieces that will last a long time. I know all of the designers, vendors and most of the customers personally. I buy all of the clothing we carry, and I open all of the boxes when shipments arrive. I call it classic with a twist, and I love the idea of that.
CM: Why do you carry one size of each style?
JP: I like the exclusivity of it. When someone wears a piece from Piermarini, he or she knows no one else will have it — more than likely. And it's not super expensive: Nothing we carry is more than $500.
CM: Where do you find the labels you carry?
"When someone wears a piece from Piermarini, he or she knows no one else will have it — more than likely," Piermarini says. "And it's not super expensive."
JP: A lot of scouting is involved. I find designers — from all over the world — who aren't in every department store. Some of the names we have carried in the past were picked up by Neiman Marcus, so I let them go. I love the idea that they start off here and branch out. Certain labels we'll always carry, but I'm constantly looking for new designs.
CM: What's it like working with your mother?
JP: I call her my "momager." When I knew I was going to open up a store, I wanted her to be my business partner. We work extremely well together. I am very blessed.
CM: What can customers look forward to at Piermarini?
JP: In the spring, we will have dresses for days and women's shoes.
CM: What should every man and woman have in their wardrobes?
JP: I'd say for men — a neutral sweater, perfect black tee and a blazer. And for women — a black dress (with a twist) and the great sweater. But, overall, you need to be you.
You've just got to go with what works for your needs. That's why we don't carry trends like purple plants, if that's what is 'in.' Customers should be able to find a piece that is just right for them.