Just 22, John Piermarini turned his nose for fashion into a family business with his cozy, eponymous Snider Plaza boutique
J. DENTON BRICKER | Contributing Writer
“While I was doing the dress, I was also working with my mentor [local designer Abi Ferrin] to help produce one of her runway shows in Miami,” Piermarini recalls. “I got to help with model casting, designing, pattern making, merchandising, and with that I was able to see a lot of the industry and know that it was where I wanted to go.”
Confident enough to pass on college, John instead started Piermarini Boutique in a small house in Uptown after graduating from high school in November 2010. (He’s now 22.) Although the space was tiny and the product severely limited, the boutique’s success grew big enough to necessitate a move.
“The Uptown location was just to get our feet on the ground, see how well it worked and really limit the quantity. People responded rather well to it as we decided to expand,” he says.
He scoured the city and beyond for possible locations before finally settling in at Snider Plaza in what used to be a popcorn factory.
“I felt like Snider Plaza had this easy, laid-back feel, a little bit more casual than West Village or Preston Center, and it’s easy to get to,” he says. “In Uptown, we had clients from South Dallas, Plano, Fort Worth and East Dallas, so I wanted another location that was accessible and centrally located.”
Upon entering the men’s and women’s boutique, 80 feet of exposed original brick immediately draws the eye along the southern wall, offset by racks and displays of sharp clothing and accessories.
“I wanted to bring an old boutique feel to Dallas, where you come in, get to know the people there, see new designers, and find long lasting, classic pieces with a little bit of an edge that also work with other items in your closet,” Piermarini says.
Although the customer service might be old-boutique, the designs are current, chic and reasonably priced (everything falls below a $500 price point). Having customers from all walks of life, it is important that items are bought to last beyond a season and offer versatility, as shoppers will not find trendy items here.
“We’re not a trend-based store,” he says.” Just because red pants are in, it doesn’t mean we have them. There’s nothing wrong with trends, but our motto is to keep it simple, basic and transitional along with some cool items.”
Featured products are constantly changing as sizes of each design are limited because of Piermarini’s own experiences of showing up to events and discovering a clone of the same garment.
“We keep it exclusive with one size of everything: One small, one medium, one large. And when those sell out, they sell out. Sometimes people are initially annoyed but they learn to love it,” says Piermarini.
The young, gay entrepreneur discovers his designers through word of mouth, building his brand’s reputation through networking and scouting trips to New York. He features designers from Sweden, Brazil, Denmark, China, South Korea and Dallas to name a few. For example, he recently met with Project Runway veteran and fellow Greenhill alum Mila Hermanovski.
“Her stuff is insane. She has some of the best leggings in women’s wear. It’s off the charts. She hasn’t been in any stores in Dallas and she is from the area,” he says.
Sometimes he evens helps to shape creations.
“Most of the brands I buy from I know the designers, which is really nice, because a lot of people and companies don’t have the opportunity to get to know them, especially smaller designers. I know where they are coming from, who their customer is and who my customer is. I am that voice in between what clients want and what the designer is trying to produce,” he says.
His experimentations with different lines have resulted in some designers being picked up by Neiman Marcus the following season and yet others have gone out of business.
At the heart of the store is an antique couch from Massachusetts that belonged to his grandmother, Ruthie, who also supplied his last name and the name of his store. Piermarini’s colorfully entertaining mother, Tina, also sometimes works at the store, involving three generations of the Italian family within the business.
“The store has lots of random furniture but that’s me, I’m random,” he laughs.
The comfortable sitting area between racks also adds to the intimate feel of the store, almost as if you were shopping in your best friend’s extravagant closet. His close friend Brooke works alongside him in the store and also joins him out at fashionable events. The cute, dapper brunette and tall, gorgeous blonde are like a platonic Ken and Barbie.
“We don’t have rules here. We’re not here to judge people but help them embrace who they are and learn to understand their individual style. Life is too short to be focused on you can’t wear denim with denim,” he says.
The boutique also hosts private and public events after hours, including birthday parties, girls/guys nights out and a recent derby party benefiting Lee Park.
What could be a better charitable fundraiser than champagne and shopping with a girl friend, gay friend and his mom?
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 24, 2013.