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Splash—The Sun-Times' weekly publication—dishes on celebrities, parties, and all things Chicago lifestyle. Editor-in-chief Susanna Negovan is big into local designers, and she recently channeled her passion into SplashShops. The online marketplace—the first of its kind in the city—features goods from Chicago-based designers, and lets customers pick up everything from fuzzy beanies to sleek perfumes. Inspired to start something new in 2014? Read on to learn about Negovan's process for developing the splashy new initiative.
What inspired you to start SplashShops? Does this fill a hole you noticed in the Chicago marketplace?
I've always been a big supporter of Chicago designers, but it's a fragmented scene and many of them don't have e-commerce platforms. So a lot of shoppers who would like to buy locally find it difficult. That's where we come in: We have substantial web traffic and I thought this would be a great way to bring the best local brands into one easy-to-navigate place.
How do you select merchandise for the Shops?
We've had years of experience with many of the designers, so we began with the ones where we had a comfort level that our readers would be happy with the quality of the products.
Are there any new designers or stores that you've discovered during the process of selecting merchandise?
Yes, we're finding new brands all the time. One of our favorites is M2F Brand Denims —a local line of the softest, coziest jeans. Many of the designers included in the SplashShops are relatively new lines that have achieved success quickly, such Azeeza Khan's Atelier Azza—which now is a store in The 900 Shops—and a blazer line by Marie Whitney called Two Penny Blue. We want to continue leading the way in the discovery of Chicago's most talented designers.
What's your overall goal with this project?
This is a new age in print media, and several national publications are experimenting with similar concepts. Bazaar magazine has shopbazaar.com, and Conde Nast just announced an initiative that will launch this fall. The New York Times also has an online store. Though we're the first to do it locally, it's obvious that the industry is moving in this direction. What I like about our platform is that the SplashShops function as a mall: Once vendors are approved, they are free to upload their own items, set their own prices and terms, and fulfill orders—Splash keeps no inventory. That makes our model unique.
Which items have been particularly popular among readers?
Our readers love work-to-party dresses by Shalini, a former executive who began designing two years ago. We also recently added a local costume jewelry line called T + J that has cool, affordable pieces that our readers are snapping up. And a perfume subscription service called Olfactif has proven quite popular.
What's your vision for SplashShops in 2014?
The same as my vision for Splash—I want to be the ultimate resource for everyone in Chicago, whether they're looking for a good story to read, a cool restaurant to try, or a great dress made by a local designer.
· Splash [Official Site]
· Splash Launches SplashShop, Hosts Festive Soiree [Racked Chicago]