Band of Martians Showroom Profile
“Breaking away from the sea-of-sameness.”
Showrooms are amazing spaces. The best showrooms expose brands to retailers by creating an experience not just an appointment. Those experiences are hard to come by, so we were excited at the news from NOE Undergarments‘ founders Bonnie Rae and Shelah Jean that they partnered with Band of Martians showroom in California. Bonnie described Band of Martians as a “fabulous little collective of eclectic brands”. As we learned more about this showroom, we realized that Band of Martians was onto something very special.
The founders, Jenna Woodhull and Ally Lopez describe their space as a platform specializing in exposing new talent and brands to lifestyle, specialty retailers, and premium boutiques. “We are a multi-faceted agency with a focus on brand development, sales, and breaking away from the sea-of-sameness,” add Jenna and Ally. Wanting to learn more, we sat down with them for this intimate Q&A:
Q&A with Jenna Woodhull and Ally Lopez
Above: Band of Martians founders Jenna Woodhull and Ally Lopez.
“We started the [Band of Martians] because we saw a need for a platform to help emerging brands, or established more innovative labels build their business in the US market.”
We’re thrilled that Bonnie of NOE Undergarments put us in touch and we love her description of Band of Martians as a “fabulous little collective of eclectic brands”. Would you say that’s a pretty accurate description of your showroom?
I would say so. We like to think of ourselves as a family of funky, curated brands that so unexpectedly compliment each other.
How and when did Band of Martians get its start? Could you both tell us a little bit about your backgrounds and experience?
The Band got together late last year. The dreams started long before then, but we finally left our old jobs, and were both now living in California, so the timing seemed perfect. We have pretty diverse backgrounds and can utilize all of our past experience with the showroom. We both worked in retail, and then Ally moved in media in advertising sales, then became an independent sales rep for an apparel line. She also co-owns an online retail and editorial site; Bikini Bird.
And Jenna, well she started off as a buyer which led her to sales rep, then national sales manager, then Director of Sales Marketing, and later she ventured into heading up a design and merchandising team for a large clothing company.
Like all great partnerships, our strengths are the others weakness and visa versa. We have been close friends for 15 years, and although mixing business with pleasure is never recommended, we wouldn’t have it any other way. We spend a lot of time with each other, and at this point in our lives, we both want to surround ourselves with people we love. All of the brands we work with we have close personal friendships with that go beyond business and that is what drives us to work so hard.
“Our hope was to carefully curate a family of brands that could excite buyers in a new, fresh way.”
Although the Lingerie Journal team hasn’t visited you in person, the photos your showroom look amazing, could you tell us a bit about the space itself?
Why of course! The show room is a 5 minute walk from the ocean so a lot of the vibe comes from a day on the beach, smell of sunscreen on your face and citronella candles. Summer never really ends in Southern California so the windows are always open and the space has a very opened – white wall feel. We really wanted the brands to do the talking so we stripped down this cute 1920’s bungalow and made it less of a house and more of a blank canvas for each brand to tell their story.
Above: Band of Martians’ NOE Undergarments section.
Each room feels slightly different and is truly a representation of the product it showcases. We have two sectors: premium and lifestyle with a variety of categories ranging from swim, lingerie, apparel, and hardwoods. The lifestyle brands have a separate bungalow in the backyard with wood floors made from an old boat. The premium brands are in the main house with more of a feminine vintage meets modern feel, fur rugs, white everything, and a lot of fresh flowers. NOE Undergarments has their own room that has more of a sexy feel. A high-gloss round tulip table and Kartell Ghost Chairs, with a vintage oversized lightbulb chandelier. We take great care to ensure that the environment enhances the collections we represent.
“We feel like the environment induces creative thinking and that is something that is so important to us.”
Some brands might think of showrooms as a pretty static place — a room with some hanging garments and not much else. But this isn’t what Band of Martians is about, is it? You describe the showroom as a platform. Could you expand on what this concept means and how it works for you and your brands?
We hope that Band of Martians is far from static! This place isn’t just a showroom but it’ a place where the community can get together and enjoy the existence of other like-minded creative individuals. The showroom is a platform in a sense that there is only room for each brand to grow and get more exposure. We have the ability to take something we believe in and really show it in a new light.
We want the buyers to be comfortable and enjoy spending their days with us. It feels more like a home that is welcoming and open than a place of business. We feel like the environment induces creative thinking and that is something that is so important to us. Our imaginations constantly run wild, and our dreams are big so there is always a next chapter…. We are currently working with some friends to start a food aspect as well, where the community can stop by to get their juice, coffee, or avocado toast in the morning. There will be a flower stand as well that will be open to the public.
“Breaking away from the sea-of-sameness” This is more than just a tagline for Band of Martians. Could you tell our readers how you expose retailers to new talent and why?
We started the showroom because we saw a need for a platform to help emerging brands, or established more innovative labels build their business in the US market.
We wanted to be able to bring something new to retailers and help them feel confident in investing their floor-space to a new offering of brands. Our hope was to carefully curate a family of brands that could excite buyers in a new, fresh way. We personally feel excited by the brands and product we represent and feel like we are doing a service by helping retailers build their business with these brands.
At the end of the day, it is all about the consumer with this massive appetite for newness. We believe that we share that same appetite and our brands are supplying endless amounts of “new.”
Above: NOE Undergarments Ryan Bustier Bra.
“When showing [NOE Undergarments] to buyers, you feel like you are exposing them to something so new and fresh, and there honestly is nothing that feels better than that when showing a collection.”
Bonnie noted Band of Martians does a great job of exposing brands to a wide spectrum of specialty retailers and premium boutiques. Could you talk about the buyers you work with and how you reach out to them?
Bonnie is the best, isn’t she? Having two sectors in the showroom exposes us to a very broad spectrum of retailers in multiple channels of distribution. We know a lot of the buyers already from years passed, and are loving the process of meeting new retailers. Everyone has truly been so encouraging, and and open to our family of brands. We have definitely met a lot of new friends in just this short amount of time!
Above: NOE Undergarments Alfie Silk PJ.
Speaking of NOE Undergarments, could you tell us a little bit about how you came to work with Bonnie and Shelah? What is about NOE that fits with Band of Martians? How have buyers reacted to NOE?
We have known both Bonnie and Shelah for many years. Bonnie and Jenna worked closely together at a prior job, and Ally and Shelah actually both lived in Kauai and spent a lot of time together.
Seeing Bonnie and Shelah take the jump from corporate jobs and follow their dreams was a huge inspiration for us to do the same. At first we did not intend to have our dreams intertwine, but as we got the showroom up and running, it became so obvious that we were meant to be in eachother’s day to day work life once again.
Above: NOE Undergarments’ Ryan Leather Bustier Bra and Zip Back Corset.
“NOE is known for designing innerwear that is meant to be seen, and we constantly find ourselves picking out looks to wear out on the town.”
NOE breaks down the barriers of “normal” in our opinion. They follow their hearts and let their creative freedom influence their decisions on all levels. This is so refreshing to us, as their collections are always unexpected, and beyond innovative. When showing the line to buyers, you feel like you are exposing them to something so new and fresh, and there honestly is nothing that feels better than that when showing a collection. At the same time, Bonnie and Shelah are business women, and have a healthy balance of creativity and rational long-term decision-making ability.
This balance is what makes them so successful. They are interested in building a brand the right way, and every decision they make is for the long-term. Working with NOE has been nothing less than a dream for us. How lucky would you feel to have a weekly business touch-base and hang up the phone saying, “goodbye, we love you!”
To love the ones you work with is a luxury we will never take for granted.
With the AW14 showings right around the corner, what are you most excited about in the NOE Undergarment collection?
What a hard question…. Bonnie just dropped off the samples last week, and once again we were beyond floored. The color palate is so beautiful, and completely unexpected. They worked with this tone on tone combo that we have never seen before in the lingerie world. There is this silk pajama set that I dream of wearing around my house while listening to Buena Vista Social Club (don’t ask). NOE is known for designing innerwear that is meant to be seen, and we constantly find ourselves picking out looks to wear out on the town. There is something about being feminine and delicate with an edgy undertone in every piece of Noe that just excites me talking about it.
I hear the Band of Martians team will be in NYC soon — could you give us a rundown of when and where you’ll be exhibiting and showing while you’re in New York?
Yes! We are packing up and moving to New York for a couple weeks. We will be showing at the Capsule Women’s show February 22nd-24th. We are so excited to be in 20 degree weather with some of the hottest brands!
Beyond the showroom, Band of Martians also leverages both of your talents (and combined 30 year industry experience) to help brands. Could you tell our readers a little bit about that part of the business?
We have a different relationship with each brand that we represent. There is not a standard formula for what we do, and how involved we are. Some are strictly a sales relationship, and others go beyond. On some of the newer labels we help with product, marketing, and logistics and are able to utilize our past experience beyond just sales.
For any of the brand or buyers reading this and want to learn more about Band of Martians, where should we point them too?