12 Questions for Fab’s New Creative Director in Residence Emily Holt

Last week Emily Holt joined us at Fab (which PCH acquired in March) as its first creative director in residence, a position that will guide the curation of Fab’s product assortment, merchandising, style and tone. Emily is an entrepreneur and journalist specializing in fashion, lifestyle and culture. She was most recently at Vogue as the magazine’s fashion news editor, covering ready-to-wear collections in New York, London, Milan and Paris. After 12 years in New York City, Emily is now back in her hometown of San Francisco, where in addition to her role at Fab, she’ll be pursuing her own retail initiative, Hero Shop, which will feature a mix of established designers and emerging West Coast brands.

We caught up with Emily to ask her a few quick questions about what she hopes to accomplish at Fab, what the future of retail looks like, and what designers inspire her today. (We also asked her for a list of her favorite things on Fab right now, which we’ve included throughout the post.)

Why did you want to work with Fab?

Fab is at an exciting point right now, due in large part to its association with PCH, to become a thoughtfully-curated resource for well-designed and innovative products that also carry a lot of warmth. I don’t know of another company out there occupying this space successfully, and I think Fab has the potential to do so. We have a ways to go to curate and create the full collection while also telling the stories behind the products. This endeavor takes time, and there’s a lot of work to do. But that excites me. I like to dig in and see results.

Balloon Bank Gold by Interior Illusions, Fab.com

An increasing number of consumers want rich details about the products they’re buying and about a product’s origins. Why do consumers want more transparency into what they buy nowadays?

There is just so much stuff in the market. Too much stuff. And nobody needs more stuff. So if you’re going to ask me to buy your stuff, you have to tell me a story about why this particular stuff is important. You have to make me feel connected to it and compelled by it. Also, because there’s so much opportunity to buy stuff that has an origin story, if your stuff doesn’t have it, I’ll go shop from a resource that does. Also, transparency is just the right thing to do, full stop.

Related, how do you want to tell the stories behind the products you curate? How will you create connections between buyers and what they buy?

It’s about telling those stories, which Fab already has started doing — and does quite successfully — through content features like Designer Crushes. It’s also about putting the products into context, whether that’s through a strong editorial lifestyle shoot or narrative feature on the Journal.

Birch Coasters Arcade Grid by Post Studio, Fab.com

How does this approach compare to other ecommerce platforms that focus on maximizing the funnel? Do you think it’s possible to both optimize an ecommerce site and still tell a good story?

We’ll find out. But yes, we’re betting on it.

Beyond just ecommerce, what are your thoughts on the future of retail?

Retail is a funny thing. I mean, you see so many online businesses now building brick-and-mortar stores, making everything about the experiential and, again, putting products into a context. As an innately analog person, that excites me. On that note, Fab will have a pop-in in December in NYC. The idea is to let people touch and interact with the products.

How do you predict design trends that buyers will love? What’s your creative process for this?

Well, I think part of it is intuition and the other part is paying attention. Paying attention to what’s on the runways and, almost as importantly, on the street. And then seeing how you can translate those ideas into realistic, accessible products and merchandise for your customer.

How do you decide what belongs on Fab?

The items in the assortment need to hit a few key marks. First of all, they must be accessible (whether in price or aesthetic approach), unexpected (something you don’t see everywhere else and that feels special), made of quality materials, and warm (something that brings you joy or makes you smile). Within that framework, items need to meet Fab’s criteria for modern aesthetics.

Who is your Fab buyer? What do you think they are looking for?

It’s someone who cares about design and lives, or aspires to live, a well-curated life. It’s someone looking for things that they don’t see coming and going, and someone who is aware of value.

How are you translating your apparel experience to Fab?

I wouldn’t categorize my experience as only apparel. Covering the fashion industry means covering all aspects — from design (most houses now include multiple categories including ready-to-wear, accessories, and home) to branding and marketing to VIP relations to collaborations to business development. At the end of the day it’s an industry built on aesthetics and a point of view. I’d say the same about the approach to Fab.

You recently moved back to San Francisco after 12 years in NYC. What key differences (if any) are you seeing between West Coast and East Coast designers?

Well there’s simply fewer of them on the West Coast, at least when it comes to ready to wear and accessories. There seem to be a lot of makers here — people working in home or art — and I don’t really know why there is that difference. I will say I’ve seen local SF designers across all categories, including ready to wear, who are as deserving of the national if not global spotlight as the emerging designers on the East Coast. It’s just that they don’t have the same access to the fashion media that a NY brand has.

What design item (jewelry or fashion piece, artwork, gadget, etc) are you currently obsessed with?

Honestly, because I’m traveling so much, it’s my cableknit cashmere travel blanket, pillow and sleep mask.

Which designers are inspiring you the most right now?

I think what’s most interesting is that, in the ready to wear space at least, the designers generating the most excitement are the ones creating collections and producing shows that are unexpected and totally left of center. It may not always be something people on the street would wear, but because the designer is taking a risk in exhibiting their singular, strong point of view, it becomes exciting and stands out from the rest of the landscape which, frankly, can start to feel homogenous or derivative.