Stylish people hang out on Instagram.
That’s part of Alexis Nido-Russo’s strategy for Local Eclectic, her website that sells jewelry, clothing and accessories from like-minded local designers in different cities.
Nido-Russo has used Instagram to find many of the designers, but she also uses it to promote her store and its lifestyle message. Picture chic shots of Nido-Russo sitting by a pool, artwork with a fashion bent at Art Basel in Miami Beach, and women at dinner wearing jewelry featured on Local Eclectic.
Nido-Russo, of Ukrainian Village, launched the website in November. She uses publishing platform Squarespace, which she says enabled her to build an e-commerce site on a shoestring budget.
“I wanted to create a platform for designers that’s easy to view and that’s clean, simple and aesthetically beautiful — the goal is to connect local designers from across the country with potential customers,” she says.
Creations on Local Eclectic include necklaces made of bullet-shell casings, oversized shibori-dyed scarves, and vintage sequin and pony hair earrings. Prices start at $28, with the majority of items from $50 to $200.
The site has garnered attention on Racked, DailyCandy, PureWow and StyleList. That’s no accident: Nido-Russo, who’s also community partnerships manager at the Chicago Artists Coalition, earned her publicity chops setting up market-launch and other events for Gilt City and setting up parties and events for Miley Cyrus’ “Best of Both Worlds” tour in 2007-08.
The tour proved to Nido-Russo that she needed excitement, a fast pace and a constantly changing environment in her dream job.
Her website reflects those traits: It features designers for three months before rotating them out gradually, resulting in two new designers being featured each week. The site features 15 designers in total, and Nido-Russo takes a cut of the sales.
The designers are just as picky about their exposure.
Chicago designer Meghan Lorenz joined Local Eclectic because it fit her demographic target — women in their early 20s to mid-30s — and she liked the other designers on the site.
“I appreciate [Nido-Russo] wanting to represent emerging designers,” Lorenz says. “She has good taste.”
Lorenz sells her Cities in Dust jewelry at independent boutiques nationwide, including at Eskell, Fleur, Dovetail and Penelope’s in Chicago, and online at Etsy, Emerging Thoughts and Urban Outfitters.
Her best-seller is a $56 dagger cuff bracelet featuring dagger-shaped turquoise beads on the ends of a vintage brass tube on a brass cuff.
Avneet Basi, a Brooklyn-based jewelry designer, says she accepted Nido-Russo’s invitation to launch at Local Eclectic on Jan. 20 because she, too, loves everything from tassels and pom poms to vintage fashions and flowy bohemian dresses.
“Being selective in where I want to be featured is important,” says Basi, who splits her business, Krysos + Chandi, between retail and wholesale clients. “My goal is to be featured in stores I respect and sites whose aesthetic I respect.”
Her best-seller is a $48 tassel bracelet, the Nima, that’s made of cotton rope and three tassels in a variety of colors.
Local Eclectic reflects a trend among entrepreneurs leveraging Instagram to help generate revenue.
Brian Difeo, a co-founder of the Mobile Media Lab, a New York-based company that’s made more than $1 million and garnered more than 1 million followers by helping brands find photographers and boost their social media presence, says anyone wanting to use Instagram to build a business should find a voice or style, stick with it, and develop it.
It’s important to stay lean to be profitable, Difeo says. Many Instagrammers work from their smartphones to keep overhead low as they “put themselves out there” to get known.
ABOVE: Local Eclectic owner Alexis Nido-Russo (second from right) at the Thompson Chicago with friends and fellow businesswomen Jamie York, Erin Kehoe, designer Meghan Lorenz, Julie Ghatan and Laura Watson Kujawa. RIGHT: The Nima tassel bracelet by Krysos + Chandi.