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Retail Profile: Bambola

Q&A with Kristin Bear, Owner

Ted Vayos, BODY: How many years have you been in this industry? 

Kristin Bear, Bambola: I have been in the amazing lingerie industry for more than 16 years.  I started as an assistant designer, worked my way up to Design Director/Head of Design over the years and then took the leap to start my own company (Kilo Brava) after becoming a mother. I feel so lucky to have found this industry and my true passion- I get to create everyday!

Ted:  How did you get started in this industry? 

Kristin:  I graduated from FIT in New York City, and while working as a designer at a ready-to-wear company there, a recruiter found my portfolio and thought I’d be a great fit for intimate apparel design. I interviewed and was hired at Ariela-Alpha International, primarily to start their private label Material Girl line for Madonna and her daughter Lourdes. From there, I became senior designer for many other private label brands at the company and learned how to do fittings on many sizes and shapes. This first position in the industry was so inspiring and I quickly became very passionate about it.

Ted:  When will you open this retail business?  

Kristin: It should be open any day now! We built it out from scratch, as the space was a shell with no floors, electric, or plumbing when we found it.  It has been many months in the making and we couldn’t be more excited. We are waiting on final inspections and now pray to open in April. Originally, when we moved our family back to Florida, we were just looking for a warehouse with an office for Kilo Brava. Then, when we started really visiting locations, we found that because of the recent growth in the area, commercial spaces were few and far between and we had to be open to different types of spaces. We saw a few with a retail storefront which put the idea into my head and then after 4 months of seeing available locations, we found a spot where we could build out as we need as it was already gutted- with the Kilo Brava warehouse and design office in the back and Bambola upfront- where we sell our brand but also other great brands that merchandise well together. 

Ted:  Where is this store located?

Kristin: Our location is on Tamiami Trail which is a very very busy road- not exactly for foot traffic, but for cars. There’s always lots of traffic here, which is great because the town has really noticed our signs go up and seems ready to shop once we are able to open. The storefront portion is 800 sq ft and is dark, moody, and intimate. There’s lots of black with chandeliers and hits of metallics. Lots of the furniture and fixtures have been sourced from vintage shops or marketplace. Florida has some amazing finds from the 70’s and 80’s, these pieces help our store to have a very special vibe that feels really unique. I also designed the shopping bags and tissue papers for the shop so that every customer can walk out with a beautiful “gift”.

Ted:  What other retail businesses and services are in your immediate area?

Kristin: Trader Joe’s (my other favorite store), Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Macy’s, The Vitamin Shoppe, La Fitness and many restaurants.

Ted:  Do any other local businesses send customers to your store?

Kristin:  Not yet, but hopefully when we open! We plan to spread the word with bridal shops in the area and more.

Ted:  Do you have any competition in the area?

Kristin: There is not too much. There are two sex shops down the road, but the brands/product we sell do not overlap at all.  There is also one other independently owned lingerie store in town but it is not very close to us and specializes in mostly cup sized product, which is not our focus.  There is not much (if any) overlap in our brand and product offerings.

Ted:  Do you have an internet website?

Kristin: Yes!

Ted:  What makes your store special?

Kristin: Our store is special because it is a destination. I designed it from the ground up, and it is inspired by Art Deco, the 70’s, and mixing in glam coastal elements. The result is a strong and feminine space with a luxuriously sexy vibe that I hope makes every woman feel inspired and beautiful. We will do some events, private appointments, serve prosecco occasionally.  I want it to feel like an elevated girls club that women can come to for bridal shower gifts, post baby pajamas for the hospital, date nights for impressing someone special,  shopping for the first beach day after a long cold winter, and all the special times we have in our lives. We carry lingerie, but also beach totes handmade in Morrocco embroidered with “Sarasota’ on them, the retro Vacation brand sunscreens and perfumes, designer swimsuits, loungewear, sleepwear, seashell adorned trinket boxes, big vintage-inspired gold jewelry that you can wear in the water, and more. There are vintage books about women, travel, and culture around the store to stay and peruse. We are also working on a candle collaboration with an amazing local candle company called West Clay that has a vibrant wholesale business as well. The scent will be tropical and sexy and really captures the mood of the store so that you can bring it home. It’s an experience. Personally- if I’m taking time out of my day going to shop in person, I can only hope I leave with something beautiful and feel happy and inspired. I hope Bambola makes people feel that way.

Ted: What do you look for in a brand?

Kristin: I look for brands that merchandise well with Kilo Brava that have great quality at good price points. It’s also important to me to find brands and collections that serve the community here in Sarasota. What do they need in a new brick and mortar that’s not already here? We have lots of Brides, people on vacation, boudoir photographers, and of course the locals. I want the store to be an experience and the brands are ones that I know can round out that experience.

Ted:  List some of the key brands that are important to your store. 

Kristin: Kilo Brava, Hanky Panky, Clo Intimo, Yummie, Natori, Scarlett Blue, Riot Swim, Nood, Midnight Bakery, In Bloom, Monique Morin, Playful Promises, Cette, Lunya, Empress Mimi and We Are HAH.

Ted:  Do you private label any products under your own store name?

Kristin:  Yes! Well sort of, but I design it all. I design the entire KILO BRAVA line which is sold here at Bambola, and I also have a small panty brand just for the store called “La Bambola” There’s a variety of styles and fabrics offered from microfiber to lace and seamless/raw cut. 

Ted:  Do you sell lingerie?   

Kristin: Yes! Most of the store is lingerie. We will see what the best sellers are after opening. We will also sell swim- from Kilo Brava’s new swim collection and a few other brands as well. Lots of mix/match styles, complete with coordinating coverups.

Ted:  Do you sell bras?

Kristin:  We won’t be selling many cup sized bras. We have Natori and Scarlett Blue. Other than that, mostly bralettes!

Ted:  Do you sell sleepwear?  

Kristin:  Yes! All Kilo Brava sleepwear and a few pieces from Midnight Bakery, In Bloom, Lunya. I may bring in a few other sleepwear brands soon, but for now KB has lots of offerings and enough to start here.

Ted: Do you sell shapewear? 

Kristin: Just Yummie! I love the light support the brand offers and good price points. I don’t want to do too much shapewear here, but if someone needs a high waisted compression panty to suck in the waist for that new date night dress, we have it!

Ted:  Do you sell hosiery?

Kristin:  Yes! Cette. It’s a heritage brand, started in 1958, made in Italy, eco friendly, and has great price points. Sign me up!

Ted:  Do you sell bridal?

Kristin:  Yesss! We have lots of beautiful bridal options- Kilo Brava, We Are Hah, In Bloom, Clo Intimo. We are covered with Lace, satin, embroidery, and lots of in between. We also have some really cute Kilo Brava white swim for the bridal beach babes!

Ted: Do you sell intimate apparel accessories?

Kristin:  Yes! We have some accessories from NOOD, Playful Promises, and Empress Mimi. Cute and playful little paddles, harnesses, pasties, headbands, gloves. I want our customers to find what they need to feel sexy,  playful, and cute for whatever their occasion may be. 

Ted: Where do you like to shop for your merchandise?

Kristin:  I would love to shop at the tradeshows, but for now it’s all online as I know many of the brands I was interested in from being in the industry, and we have 3 little ones so we skipped Curve last time. I’m not sure how I will go to market to shop and have my Kilo Brava appointments and shop as well- but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. Lookbooks over email can be fine for a now...for the most part- I really know what I’m looking at.

Ted: Have you brought any new products or brands into your store recently?

Kristin:   It’s all new baby!

Ted: Describe your price points and size ranges.

Kristin: The price points are $10-$250. The sizes we carry currently are S-3X.

Ted: What have you done to draw attention to your business? 

Kristin:  So far, we have put up a big sign as well as a branded awning. They have lots of visibility and have been getting lots of attention. Other than that, we are working with some local magazines to help spready the word, making connections with influential people in the area, and will do some local social media ads as well. We will have a grand opening party when we are ready.  We can’t wait!

Ted: Who are your favorite sales representatives in the business?

Kristin: Vicky Montana with In bloom/Midnight Bakery and Saliann Giglio with Natori/Scarlett Blue.


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