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Truman Says

Buyer's Guide: Stylist and Store Owner Ilaria Urbinati Dishes on Her Fall Favorites and Much More

What is your day-to-day like?
Well my day-to-day doesn't compare to the day-to-day of the average buyer because I have a full styling career in addition to running the store, the staff, doing all of the merchandising, and co-designing collaborations with other designers from time to time.

My day-to-day is really really hectic and is just a juggling game. You have to know when to delegate and when to be a control freak so that things come out the way you want. At the end of the day it's your name on the line. But my average day consists of having a store staff meeting in the mornings--to get them excited for the day and go over new stuff. Then I work on pulls for styling gigs, coordinate fittings, or attend buying appointments. Otherwise, I'm in New York for buying appointments, fittings and photo shoots there.

What makes your store -- and what you offer -- special and different? Who do you see as your customer?
We focus on collaborations, exclusives, and limited edition items as much as possible -- it makes it more special for the customer -- such as the Albert Hammond Jr. for Confederacy line, or the Calvin Klein Clueless dress relaunch we did with Francisco Costa. Also, I think we buy differently from other stores, even if they carry the same lines. Our buy is special and edgy, but more importantly, very classic and all-American. I don't buy for hipsters and I don't worry about trends too much. When I buy for men I think of all-American icons like Paul Newman, James Dean, Steve McQueen and the like. For women, I think of anyone from a Woody Allen heroine to Brigitte Bardot and Sofia Loren.

What trends did you notice for the fall/winter 2010 season? Were there any you were particularly excited about? Are there any that you were less-than-thrilled to see?
I love, love, loved all the camel I saw on the runways -- for both women as well as men. And I loved all the red for men. Other than that, I don't pay much attention to trends so, honestly, I don't even know. I just buy what I want to drop dead over, what I love, what gives me heart palpitations or makes me nostalgic for some sort of place, character or era.

Who are your favorite designers? Why?
I'm drop dead obsessed with Simon Spurr. I can't think of anyone making better-tailored, more beautiful takes on the classics. Michael Bastian because I love that his collections always tell a story. As a writer-turned-buyer, I really appreciate that aspect of his clothing. I also always love Patrik Ervell, Shipley & Halmos, Robert Geller, Band of Outsiders, and Rag & Bone. They're all young, exciting, and they put real care into the fine art of craftsmanship.

For women I'm obsessed with Calvin Klein Collection and I love Proenza Schouler. I buy Calvin's more nineties, minimalist body-con pieces. It's all in the buy. As for Proenza, they're just always making such cool, original clothing. You just wanna be that girl.

Are there any newer or lesser-known brands you discovered this season that you're excited about? Are there any emerging labels you'd recommend we keep an eye out for?
I'm really excited about Native Son. The quality of his clothing is really amazing and the suits are just flawless. You can tell he's just a control freak and perfectionist, which I can appreciate. Its like the darker, tougher brother to Band of Outsiders.

What are your must-haves for this season?
For guys, the Spurr puffy bomber jacket -- it's a tailored version of the old army surplus staple, and is insanely amazing. Any cashmere Michael Bastian puts his hands on is drool-worthy. Geller makes the only men's jewelry I find acceptable, and his hats -- which are his signature -- are the coolest.

For women, Phillip Lim made some really sick shoes this season! I love his use of leopard, it never gets old for me.

How do men shop differently than women?
Men will find an item they like and buy it in ten colors. It's a low maintenance thing. And they love classics they can wear a zillion times. Women don't buy that way. They want the most of-the-moment thing they can find, and it has to be fashion-forward, classic, and have sex appeal all at the same time. Plus, with women, it's all about...not "body type," but their own perception of their body.

What do you, as a buyer, keep in mind when placing orders for your store and your customer?

It's gotten to the point where I have very specific people in mind a lot of the times. For example, I'll think, OK, so-and-so and so-and-so will def buy that, so I need it in these sizes, and -- I swear -- I'm usually right.

Besides that, my one very important rule of thumb is to buy what I would personally spend my hard-earned money on. The clothes that come in that I think, Oh, I hope that doesn't sell so I can buy it, always sell first. The ones that go on sale are the ones where I was thinking, Well, I would never wear that, but somebody else would. Well, that imaginary "somebody else" apparently doesn't shop at my store. As for men, I style so many men now that I hear voices in my head when I'm doing my men's buy. I hear all the little whines about why they don't want to wear something -- because it has a certain stitching, or it's a specific wash, or a weird cut. The thing with men is, I don't buy into the bells and whistles. It's all about sharp, clean, handsome, classic clothes.

Do people shop differently online than they do in person? How has ecommerce shaped the way people shop?
For us, the core of our business is really in the store. We're a real brick and mortar business. We're big on customer service and services like alterations and styling. So the web thing is a little beyond me. What we really sell online is accessories -- things that people don't need to try on -- and our big runway items. Some poor, fashion-loving woman in the middle of Ohio or mid-America somewhere who's reading her Vogue and sees some crazy shoe, bag or dress she must-have but can't get it anywhere? That woman will go online to get it. We also sell a lot of limited-edition items to men through the online store.

Any suggestions for neighborhood places to eat, shop, and check out when they shop at your store?
Umami, which next door, has the best burgers in California -- hands down.

I personally love Cliff's Edge -- and not just because I once saw that silver fox David Lynch there and almost melted -- but also because the place is built around a giant tree. Also Little Dom's for dinner. I'm a big fan of Skylight Books up the street on Vermont. They have an amazing selection, great guest appearances, and the staff has impeccable taste.

-- MAX BERLINGER

Confederacy is located at 4661 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027; 323-913-3040; www.shopconfederacy.com.

All photos courtesy of Eric Ray Davidson.

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