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Flavors of Fashion: Terese Zache Designs

July 16, 2010

This week I’m  showcasing a Madison-based designer and boutique: Terese Zache and her store, Terese Zache Designs, located in Hilldale Mall! ~ Carolyn

I had the wonderful opportunity last Thursday to meet Terese Zache and was given the privilege to roam about Terese Zache Designs (in which I found tons of fabulous finds!), and also to sit down one-on-one with Terese herself, and delve into her fashion and design know-how. My first impression of Terese Zache Designs was a professional and high-quality atmosphere, that caters to a customer looking for unique fashion items. I was impressed with the attention to detail in not only the layout and displays around the store, but in the handpicked care taken in choosing fashionable designs for the Madison woman. Terese educated me on not only her history, but what her goals are for Terese Zache Designs as well. Here’s what she had to say:

Carolyn: What was the career path that led you to owning your own store? Maybe you could start with your schooling at Madison.
Terese Zache:
Right, my major at UW-Madison was fashion design. I decided probably in the middle of high school that that was my path because I have a very artistic background. I was trying to combine that with already working at some of the local stores in the clothing department. Then I went to the Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.) in New York City, and came back here.  And I have basically been working in the design/retail field ever since. I have never really diverted.

CA: Moving on to your store specifically, when did it open? What was your goal with Therese Zache Designs?
The store part opened in 2003, even though I’ve had my own business for some 20 years before that. I started out doing my own designs for private clientele for many, many years. So when my daughters were little I could do it part-time and then as they were school age I started doing it full-time. I got up and worked pretty much every day on people’s projects. I was booked nine months out.

CA: How did people reach you?
TZ: It was really word of mouth. I would say I had a very exclusive clientele base for many years, and I didn’t need to advertise it.

Eventually, I just designed patterns and the actual garment would be made in the Chicago area. That was the last several years, where I had this made-to-order line. I had the patterns and people would come in and go, “Oh, I want it in this fabric!” Then about every week I would send the stuff down to Chicago and three weeks later it would all come back made off my patterns and specs sheets.

After that started and it was working, we started investigating the idea to grow out of my home studio. The made-to-order line was actually what prompted me to go out into a new space. After some personal and professional research, I found that the average person coming into a store didn’t understand the made-to-order concept. When we opened a store in Greenway Station, I had some of those made-to-order pieces in the store. Shortly after we opened came that the realization came, oh my gosh, you have a store and need to keep it full! You may not have time to do the buying, the selling and pattern-making all over there. So for the time being, you just need to make sure there are clothes in your store [laughs]! So, I put the made-to-order on the side and have just been buying and trying to keep the store up ever since; it’s definitely a full-time job.

CA: When did you move over to Hilldale?
In 2005. We’ve been here about five years. We doubled the space and we knew actually when we opened in Greenway that if they were going to revamp the Hilldale area, we thought that that would be a good spot to be. We did well over at Greenway though. It was more of a destination location. People that were coming into the store would say, “We’re just coming here.” They weren’t strolling to all the other stores and just happened to come in, it was more like they know they wanted to come right here [laughs].

CA: What is the demographic Terese Zache Designs buys for?
The demographic is kind of that ‘baby boom’ age group, which is those ages 30 through 60. The items we sell aren’t mass-produced, they are all specially selected items that definitely are above a department store quality.

CA: I read on your website you have some European brands?
Well there are some, but we also carry a lot of U.S. brands that we actually are pumped about because there aren’t as many these days. You would be surprised how many items in here are made in the U.S.A.

CA: What’s a day like in the life of you?
Oh, it’s very varied [laughs]. It’s not too routine. I get hundreds of e-mails every day. I went on vacation once and came back and had 1,100 emails and didn’t even want to open it up! A lot of it is people trying to sell, people trying to connect. So there’s a little bit of that, there’s paperwork. Whenever someone is out to lunch or on break, I am out on the floor to help customers. Saturdays I am on the floor, there are certain days that I am always on the floor. So being on the floor and helping the customers is a big part of some of the days.

CA: Is it just you that chooses the designs?
Yes for now, and I probably go about every other month for buying trips. They are pretty frequent. Most of it I can do through going to Chicago and New York shows and merchandise marts. I feel like we have a little bit of an advantage going to New York because there are a lot of brands that will only show there.

CA: I noticed on your website you do have a trend report. I wanted to know how do you keep up with your trend knowledge?
I read “Women’s Wear Daily.” Our vendors give us trend reports. And I just pay attention to what’s out there. I sit down and read through articles and what not. In fashion, you have to plan so far ahead, so usually the things you see in the magazines have already been chosen to be popular. Someone once said, “Michelle Obama made yellow popular.” I was like, “No, it’s been out there for about a year before for us to buy, and then she wore it.” But you’ve just always got to be aware.

CA: What do you as a designer strive for in your store?
One of the things that people comment on is that everything feels good. We really get into quality in fabrics.

CA: What would you describe as your store’s atmosphere and what do you want the customer to walk away having experienced?
Hopefully when they come in they are greeted, comfortable and helped on a professional level. When they go away we always want them to be sure they have an item of clothing that they are going to get a lot of use out of. We actually have people poke their head in and say, “I just wanted to tell you, that this is one of my favorite things and I where it all the time!” Sometimes they may be paying just a little bit more, but if they love it and wear it, than it makes sense.

Here are a few fun finds from Terese Zache Designs:

Gold plated necklace by Alexis Bitter, $330; Terese Zache Designs

Graphic tank top by Ronen Chen, $105; Terese Zache Designs

“Marion” short by Jag, $59; Terese Zache Designs

White blazer by Iris Setlakwe, $419; Terese Zache Designs
Short-sleeve blouse by Iris Setlakwe, $146; Terese Zache Designs

Cocktail dress by Suzy Chin for Maggie Boutique, $149; Terese Zache Designs

Terese Zache Designs/ 702 North Midvale Blvd., Madison/ (608) 310-4100

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