A Man and A Woman: 10 Questions for Erin Crandall

– By Teresa Greenfeld –

In order to keep ourselves in textbooks and keg cups, many seek out a part time job in college.  And usually, textbooks and keg cups are just about all we get out of it.   But every now and then, there are those one in a million, who parlay this part time job into not just  career, but into something that goes beyond one’s wildest dreams.  Luck? Perhaps.  Right place, right time? Maybe.  It is undoubtably a combination of the two, but without innate talent, no amount of luck or timing will get you very far.
As a sophomore in college, Erin Crandall took a part time job in a trendy boutique in Madison, Wisconsin called Bop.  By her senior year, she was a salaried employee, fearing she would miss graduation because she was in Paris on a buying trip.  I should mention that shortly after she started, Bop launched into e-commerce with their namesake site, ShopBop.com.   Crandall left Wisconsin (and yes, made it to graduation) to travel the world as the site’s head buyer, setting up her own home base in New York and opening Shopbop’s outpost there.
Since then, she has gotten married, parted with Shopbop and opened her NYC clothing store and its recently launched e-commerce site,  A Man and a Woman.  The shop, which offers both mens and women’s wear from labels like Alexander Wang, Chris Benz, and Patrick Ervell, feels comfortable and inspiring at the same time.  You immediately know you’ll find exactly the item you’re looking for, in an atmosphere that makes you long to hang out there all day.  In a recent visit to her west village shop, I chatted with Crandall about style, business, shopping, and the future.
Teresa Greenfeld: Coming from an E-commerce background – and such a successful one at that – what made you decide to open a brick and mortar store front? Being able to see and interact with your clients is probably the biggest difference between e-commerce and a storefront.  Has this changed the way you buy merchandise?
Erin Crandall: Yes and it’s also why I wanted to open a store, I was dying to interact with customers again. I think a lot of companies that start out in e-commerce are actually at a disadvantage because they don’t get to work with their customer, one on one.  I love talking to everyone, getting to know them, seeing what they want and finding out what matters most to them.  It’s changed how I buy a LOT, I’ll see something and think, “oh no this won’t sell, my customers don’t react to ___” whether it’s certain colors, the fit of something, etc.  I have a much better gauge on what my customer is thinking about when she goes shopping.
TG:  What made you decide to include menswear? Did you find buying menswear to be a lot different from womenswear?
EC:  I wanted to have a store where couples can shop together! It was really that simple. Buying menswear is fun, the men’s market is different than the women’s, it’s a little more laid back.
TG:  What do you see as the overarching trends in the fashion industry, both from corporate and creative vantage points?  What can we expect from the influential fashion houses in the coming seasons?
EC:  I think it’s funny, because we are looking to two drastically different types of style icons right now: people that are chic and clean and elegant (which I think can encompass everyone from Olivia to Kate Middleton), and then people that are totally unique and LOUD with their style like Lady Gaga and Anna Dello Russo.  It’s all interesting, and I like seeing all of it – from the most classic to the craziest fashion – looks good right now.  Maybe all of the emphasis on Street Style photography has done this.  We are now able to admire people whose style is inspirational, but still attainable – as opposed to only seeing runway shows and editorial spreads. For true inspiration we are looking to extremes.
TG:  What are the key attributes of brands that you carry for A Man and A Woman? Do you take risks on young designers and if so who are these designers that we should keep an eye out for?
EC:  I look for designers that I think satisfy a few things: that have a clear and well thought out vision, are current in their design, and will fulfill something that my customers are looking for and want.  I do take risks on young designers when I think they stand out, and offer something new and special in the market.  I love NAHM, Cobra Society, and a new denim line I just found called Garter and Derringer.
TG:  What separates AMAW from other e-commerce sites and boutiques in your opinion?
EC:  The selection.  I literally hand pick every single item, and think about how it fits in with everything else on order. We work really hard to have a very welcoming environment; no one will EVER eye a customer up and down in my store!! We are always there to help customers in any way that we can.
TG:  What do you see in the future for AMAW?
EC:  My focus is just to keep getting better! I am always looking for new designers, and the product is what matters most. I want to expand my shoe and accessory collection, as well as our men’s selection. We’re constantly updating the site, and we want it to feel very lifestyle driven, which is how I see the brand.
TG:  How do you prepare for fashion week? How will AMAW be involved in the festivities?
EC:  Hmmm how do I prepare?  Mainly, by going over my calendar very closely and mentally preparing myself and my husband for a few weeks of insanity.  Ha!  With market appointments during and after Fashion Week, I try to conserve my energy by picking the shows I’m most excited about. I look at the style.com app on my iPhone all day long, as they post pictures of the shows and parties. When it comes to preparing what I wear, I just try to focus on a few pieces I’m excited about, and plan on wearing them do death.  AMAW will be out and about following the shows and sharing our thoughts on our Facebook page and on Twitter, of course.  Last year we had a trunk show for one of our designers and a big party – that was great!  We’ll probably do cocktails at the store a few nights to say hello to our customers, and get excited about Spring clothing, as well as what we are seeing on the runway.
TG:  How do you describe your own personal style? Where do you like to shop when not buying for AMAW?
EC:  I like to be simple.  For me, it’s all about having great pieces and building off of them.  If I’m in Paris and someone thinks I live there, that’s the ultimate compliment for me!   I like to look stylish but not trendy, and I always have one thing on that I am completely in love with.  I’d rather have a few things of exceptional quality that I love, than a million pieces that are perhaps less expensive, but are of poor quality.   I really am a believer of investment pieces!  It makes life so much easier; from travel, to getting ready in the morning, even organizing your closet!   I also constantly sort through what I have to make sure I love it – if not, I give it to a friend.  I love to shop.   I think it would be boring if I only wore things from my store!   I love LOVE The Row.  Those jackets are some of my favorite staples.  I have one of their blazers that I’ve worn a million times, and I love their cashmere winter jackets.  I do most of my shopping when I go to Paris on buying trips.  I usually buy a few pieces from my favorite vintage store there, along with something special, like a piece from Lanvin (my “special” dresses), Celine (love their tops and jackets) or the Hermes cuff that I almost drove myself crazy finding last October!
TG:  You’re invited out by someone. You have no clue where it will be – what time of day – who will be there – or what it’s for – what on earth do you decide to wear and why?
EC:  That sounds fun! I love surprises.  Wow, but that’s a lot of unknowns.  I would go with something fairly simple and layer, which I do almost everyday anyways, because I often go straight from the store to dinner.  I’d wear my dark green Current/Elliott leather leggings,  my burgundy and black Isabel Marant booties, a simple but sexy L’Agence tank, a lightweight M. Patmos sweater, and my new Celine blazer!  That way, if it’s casual, I’d wear the sweater with the leggings and take off the blazer. If it’s dinner, I’d just wear the tank with the leggings, and maybe throw on the blazer.  Anytime I have a long, busy day, I like to wear and layer my favorite pieces.  I also tend to carry around a large enough bag, that allows me to throw one piece in to switch up my outfit.  It makes me faster, and it tricks my husband into seeing me as more ‘low maintenance’.  If I don’t have to go home and change, I just reach into my handbag. 
A Man and a Woman
14 Christopher Street
New York, NY 10014
Get everything on your ‘A Man and a Woman’ wish-list; OliviaPalermo.com readers get an exclusive 20%off everything on their site by entering code OLIVIA2o at checkout!  If you happen to be in New York, but too busy to pop in to the store (hey, it is fashion week)?  A Man and a Woman offers free same day delivery for all orders placed before 2pm.


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