Photographs by Bob Rozycki and courtesy AprilMarin
There’s a decidedly feminine, sweetly stylish space that’s joined the Armonk business community.
While AprilMarin indeed sells clothing and accessories, its space is not your traditional boutique.
Instead, it’s the headquarters of the company founded by fashion designers and entrepreneurs April Bukofser and Marin Milio.
“We use it more as a showroom-type office,” Bukofser says of the cozy suite the duo opened in May.
A study in pink hues, lace accents, mirrors and yes, racks of clothing, the studio also serves as a tangible sign of the steady success of the AprilMarin line.
What began as almost a whim has turned into something much more.
“It really started as more of a hobby,” Bukofser says, looking back at the time when she and Milio met as students at Pace University.
Soon after earning their degrees, their dreams of combining their business skills with a love of fashion started to come true. Though still working other jobs, they would team up to launch AprilMarin six years ago.
The line of custom couture, sold primarily online, pays tribute to classic lines and a certain easygoing elegance but still has a distinctive flair.
“We just love the classic look,” Bukofser, of Pound Ridge, says. But at AprilMarin, she adds, “It has a modern edge.”
It might be the designers’ way with a ruffle, a collar, a trim or an overall cut that turns the expected into something memorable.
There are the geometric sleeves of the Capri Dress, the flattering neckline of the Chelsea Dress or the flirty ruffles of the bestselling Dylan Ruffle Jacket.
Bukofser and Milio used their marketing skills to create a strategy and decided they could indeed offer something consumers were not already finding online.
“There were just tailored shirts, and they were square and didn’t have a lot of collars, ruffles,” Milio, who lives in Armonk, says.
For AprilMarin custom clothing, clients simply supply their (very detailed) measurements and color choice to receive a dress or jacket that is truly personal.
In the early days, the duo would host parties that served as showcases and helped women with the ordering process.
Today, those measurements are taken so that a custom creation can be made for AprilMarin in Vietnam within three to four weeks.
Milio says that the women who do supply their measurements will find a fit like never before: “It’s a home run.”
The company has continued to offer its dresses, jackets, skirts and suits, many in a polycotton blend that’s stretchy, comfortable and washable.
Knowing what a woman’s needs are helps the company, which continues to connect with an online clientele.
While the pair will see customers in the Armonk space, “I’d say probably 90 percent of our business is online,” Bukofser adds. “We’re having a lot of traction.”
Repeat customers – measurements are kept on file – simply have to get in touch for a new piece.
And those getting in touch are not just your next-door neighbors. Television personalities ranging from talk-show host Wendy Williams to newscasters to reality-show personalities (even a Kardashian cousin) have become AprilMarin clients.
“I think a lot of it was word of mouth,” Milio says of the company’s earliest success. People were responding to the chance to have custom fashions at less than couture prices.
Three years ago, Bukofser and Milio quit their jobs to devote themselves to AprilMarin full time.
The designers, both in their early 30s, like to call themselves “mompreneurs” as they have both had children since the company launched.
“I think the collection also changes with our lifestyles,” Bukofser says.
When she and Milio were younger women working in Manhattan, they were all about the pencil skirts and tailored looks.
Now, as businesswomen who are also mothers, they build in a bit more flow.
Throughout, it’s always been about the fit, they agree.
It’s what has made the Dylan jacket so popular.
“It fits every body,” Bukofser says of the ruffled number.
Three years ago, they added an accessories line – one-sized items such as scarves, shawls, capes and gloves that make ideal gifts.
One key moment in AprilMarin’s history came courtesy of an opportune plug of the City Ruffle Shawl, which was the featured fashion item during the “Today” show on a 2011 morning.
“We ordered 4,000 and kept crossing our fingers, and saying we don’t want to get stuck with them,” Milio says of that event preparation.
Well, those 4,000 sold in the first nine minutes. A total of 16,000 were sold in an eye-opening day.
“That just gave us a whole different perspective,” Bukofser says. “There’s a whole different world out there. They can buy AprilMarin, too.”
It’s been steady progress ever since, with the Armonk showroom giving the designers a designated workspace free of the distractions of home.
And it’s going to prove valuable as things look to get only busier in months ahead.
“We are doing a ready-to-wear line,” Bukofser says of the jump into standard-size offerings. The company will have a spring 2014 show this autumn to highlight the new fashions that may one day be found in a store near you.
That has always been a hope, Milio says.
“I think in the back of my head, I wanted to go to stores.”
To mark all this, AprilMarin will host a Grand Opening Sept. 26 that will also feature a book-signing by Emily Liebert. (See related story.)
The evening will also be a chance for Bukofser and Milio to thank their many loyal customers – the invite list includes several hundred.
One of those is Cat Alessio, who remembers her introduction to the line, when AprilMarin participated in a boutique at the Stamford Jewish Community Center.
“That’s how I met them, and I fell in love with their stuff,” she says.
Today, the Stamford woman not only works with them – when creating vendor events for local organizations – but can often be seen sporting their designs.
“They keep my measurements on hand, and I’ll just order from them,” Alessio says.
For Alessio, AprilMarin pieces in her wardrobe have become standbys.
“It’s not boring, and I love how I could incorporate (AprilMarin) with the pieces I already had existing in my wardrobe,” Alessio says. “I think their stuff can blend in with anyone’s style.”
She loves not only the personal touch (“They’re so hands-on and so involved”) but also how versatile the AprilMarin clothing is.
Alessio notes a particular dress she has that is ideal for a wedding or dinner party. But, she adds, she’ll also pop it on “with tights and boots” to be ready for a night out with her girlfriends.
As she says, “There’s a simplicity to it, but it’s still modern and contemporary.”
And that is what AprilMarin is all about.
For more on AprilMarin, visit aprilmarin.com.