By Michal Goldfein
As I continue on my journey, meeting and talking with women in the fashion industry, I have come to realize the power of conversation and communication. Time and again, I find myself bonding with people I never met before, from all walks of life. This past week was no different, when I was privileged to meet with the owner of David’s Den in Cedarhurst, and her team of dedicated managers and stylists.
The owner, Judi Kalatsky, spoke with me openly and with such warmth. She shared her love of fashion and her desire to make her customers feel good and look good. Lucy Rosenthal, the manager of David’s Den, gave me insight on her process. Moreover, her views on fashion were reinvigorating. Wendy Thomas and Judy Cohen, dedicated and driven sales stylists, shared their love for their customers and demonstrated that each stylist can have their own voice and aesthetic. All in all, I left feeling refreshed, and had a renewed sense that women can lean on each other and uplift each other in a business environment. Even if women disagree at times, sometimes having an opinion is truly the best form of flattery. So, cheers to the David’s Den team for giving me a renewed sense of female empowerment, and showing that in fashion and in life, teamwork makes the dream work. You can find David’s Den on Instagram @davids.den. They are located at 530 Central Avenue.
MG: Can you tell me more about David’s Den?
Judi Kalatsky: We are located in Cedarhurst, New York, and carry ready-to-wear clothing. We have been at our current location for 20 years and have recently undergone a renovation. Our apparel is perfect for Shabbos and yom tov. We have special-occasion outfits and dresses. We also specialize in clothing that can be worn to events as well. We carry sizes 0–20 in our store and make custom pieces in any size. In the back of our store, we have gowns that can be purchased as-is, as well as customizable designs.
MG: What inspired you to start your business?
Judi Kalatsky: I grew up in Kew Gardens Hills, and early on my father, who worked in the fashion industry, inspired my love of fashion. He was a production manager and designer for a frum manufacturing house. He was also a Holocaust survivor with a lot of drive and passion. He always wanted to have a store and was very talented in that he could look at you and tell you the exact style and silhouette that suited you. He worked for Renee Portier, a frum manufacturing house, and they were the trailblazers of modest clothing. So I decided to open up the first basement clothing store in my house with my father. The amazing thing was that I didn’t have a middleman, so I was able to keep the clothing at discounted prices. I was the original discounter, with no overhead, and really no competition for a good number of years. People didn’t really buy dresses back then, but over time I began expanding to dresses and coats.
I would say we had sportswear that was frum with a twist. I carried designs by Albert Nipon and I became known for that. The other amazing aspect of my business was that everything was made in America. After having my store there for seven years, I had outgrown my basement and was looking for a new place. We moved to Cedarhurst and, thankfully, because of the community and the way my team and I strive to fill the needs of an ever-changing fashion climate, have had longevity.
MG: What was it like when you first came to Cedarhurst?
JK: There were chain stores and many stores were open on Shabbos. As more frum people moved into the neighborhood, no one was shopping on Saturday, and this affected those businesses. Thankfully, we have been able to roll with the punches and adapt, offering our customers what they need, and I am proud of that.
MG: What’s your position at the store?
Lucy Rosenthal: I am the manager and joined the store to help the owner bridge the age gap and fill a need, by bringing more contemporary styles that have a modern edge. I look for well-cut, well-priced pieces that are fashion-forward. Mostly I tend to seek sophisticated silhouettes.
MG: Where do you gain inspiration from?
LR: I gain inspiration from all over including pop culture, nature, and even from interior design. Many times I will be out for a walk, and I’ll pass some beautiful flowers and that will be a springboard for my imagination. When designing the window display, I try to represent three different types of women. Perhaps the women are from different age groups or are attending different events.
MG: Who do you gain inspiration from?
LR: Kate Middleton is someone who inspires me. Classy fashion that is fresh is the image that we are trying to promote.
MG: What changes do you see happening now in the fashion industry?
JK: Most women, today, feel that they don’t need to show a lot of skin to feel beautiful and empowered. This is happening on a global level, and I see it in the looks for spring 2020.
MG: What would you like to see change in the modest fashion industry?
JK: I’d like to see dressier clothing that’s modest. Luckily, this season is good for us and winter is always easier in terms of tznius clothing.
MG: What designers do you bring into your store?
Wendy Thomas: We carry M Missoni, DVF, Tara Jarmon, Marella, Pinko, and Sfizio, to name a few. Many times we will rework a designer dress to make it more modest for our customers. For example, we might add fabric to a cutout in the back of a dress. We might line a see-through part of the dress, knowing what will appeal to our customers. We work with the brands we sell to get extra fabric, so we have it on hand. There are seamstresses we know and trust that we recommend to assist with tailoring. Our ultimate goal is to make the pieces we carry wearable for our customers without compromising the integrity of the dress. If a customer needs longer sleeves or length, we try to do so in a way that looks organic. We want our customers to have clothes that don’t need shells and that are beautiful and effortless.
MG: Do you have an in-house designer?
WT: We have a designer, named Lilly, who works with us to make custom-made dresses for any size and shape. She works with us to replicate a garment that we have in our inventory in any color, size, or length. You can order a dress designed by Lilly as well.
MG: How do you decide what designers and fashion lines to bring into your store?
LR: I look at the collections, while keeping in mind our clientele and our demographic. Not only do I look for garments that women can wear to simchas but for clothes that can be worn to luncheons, board meetings, and charity events, among others.
MG: Do you have to travel to shows?
LR: Thankfully, I get to stay within the New York area, and travel to trade shows and showrooms. This occurs about 2–4 times a year.
MG: What trends are you excited about for fall?
LR: I’m very excited about velvet and winter florals.
MG: I know that separates and suiting are making a comeback; how do you think your clientele will react to this trend?
JK: People like dresses, which are always much easier to wear and feel put together. Whenever I buy skirts, I try to buy a coordinating sweater. We also do dresses in suiting fabrics.
WT: I love a little menswear vibe and the contrast between hard and soft! For example, the juxtaposition of masculine fabric in a feminine style.
MG: Are there some common fit issues, due to different body types, that clients bring to your attention, and how do you address them?
Judy Cohen: Luckily my colleagues and I have a lot experience in retail. We are sensitive to different body types and try to steer our customers in the right direction. Many times, we even offer two looks that are made with same fabric, but the silhouette is cut with two different body types in mind. We care a lot about our customers and want them to feel good. If they feel good and feel happy with what they bought, they are more likely to come back to us because they trust us.
MG: What do you suggest to clients when they want something flattering to address a larger midsection?
JC: A-line silhouettes and shift dresses in pretty fabrics are flattering, and good undergarments are key!
MG: What exciting things are happening in your store right now?
LR: We are bringing in new brands which will be exclusive to us and that have been seen on many celebrities. We are working on a collaboration with some younger designers as well, which will be exclusive to us.
MG: What is important to you when it comes to design and how can designers improve?
WT: I’d love to see even better, high-quality fabric and patterns used. The way the seams lay is also very important.
MG: So Lucy, what’s your personal style?
LC: I love modest contemporary styles. I like to mix high street brands with luxury items.
MG: How do you help women who want to step out of their comfort zone?
JC: A lot of times, a client wants to be a little more edgy but doesn’t know how. I will show them a deep purple or a dark green, and give them a slightly edgier version of what they’re used to. They come back saying, “I love what I bought.”
MG: What’s your favorite part of working in the store?
LR: I love my colleagues and the camaraderie that is felt in our store. I also love the buying, and the excitement that goes along with that.
WT: I love making our clients feel great, and helping them find the clothes that give them the most confidence.
JC: That’s my satisfaction as well. Also, in our store we get to partake in the joyous celebratory parts of people’s lives. We really develop connections with our customers and they feel like family to us.
JK: As a team we take pride in our work. Together we take our time and everyone gives their opinion in order to give the customer options. We all have different tastes but at the end of the day it’s a collective sale.
MG: I can tell that it really is a group effort!
WT: Yes, we strive to always be honest and I have the mantra that there are so many choices, you don’t need to persuade a customer to buy a specific piece. Better yet, we help the customers see, through a mix of options, what they feel best in and they see it with their own eyes. There are times when we don’t all agree, and ultimately it’s about being honest.
JK: To us it’s about giving our customers real clothes, for real bodies, for real women.
MG: Where do you see the future of fashion heading?
JK: There is a very big resurgence of modest dressing that doesn’t have to do with religion. Women are feeling more confident and they don’t feel the need to expose themselves to get noticed or make a statement. They don’t have to compromise their values.
MG: How has your store maintained its popularity throughout the years?
JK: Because we are a specialty store, we have withstood the test of time and have had longevity. There will always be simchas and events within the community, and therefore we continue to serve our community’s needs. Additionally, clients are able to come in and refresh their wardrobe in our store, and the price points are a bit more modest. They get quality pieces that are timeless.
Michal Goldfein is a fashion influencer and content creator on Instagram and posts daily modest fashion inspiration @TheFashionDetour. You can listen to her modest fashion podcast on Apple podcast and on Jtriberadio.com. Email your fashion questions to Michal at Thefashiondetour@gmail.com.