Beth Buccini Takes Her Business to the Hamptons

Monday, August 1, 2016

On July 16, the Hamptons elite descended upon Kirna Zabête, the newest addition to East Hampton’s rockstar line-up of shops. Gwyneth Paltrow, Olivia Chantecaille, Kelly Klein, Alina Cho, Lisa Airan and more browsed the racks while sipping Aperol spritzers and Whispering Angel rosé.

Yet the star was Kirna Zabête’s owner, Beth Buccini.

“Beth is my most effervescent friend,” says Jessica Seinfeld. “She has a smile as bright as 1,000 suns, and she makes a room fizz as soon as she enters.”

That smile was on full display as she greeted guests with the warmth and infectious enthusiasm of an old friend, wearing a black Thakoon romper, Gianvito Rossi heels and shoulder-sweeping red earrings from Ranjana Khan.

Celebrating the growth of her fashion empire is only one of the many things Buccini has to smile about.

Although she is now a full-fledged member of the New York (and Hamptons) fashion elite, Beth grew up in Virginia Beach surrounded by a big Southern family. Her most recent family reunion had 84 people there—and that’s just her mother’s side of the family.

Style came innately to her. She was named best dressed in high school, and, after studying art history and French literature at the University of Virginia, she moved to New York for an unpaid internship at Mirabella.

Beth made such an impression that she was hired after only two weeks. By the age of 26, she rose to the role of fashion editor at New York magazine, where she learned the landscape of New York retail inside and out,, because, in the pre-internet era, each item photographed had to be attributed to a New York store.

SoHo was not yet the shopping destination it is today, and the credits were full of midtown stores. She asked herself “Why is there no place downtown that has great, cool stuff?”

Beth teamed up with Sarah Easley, her best friend and Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority sister from the University of Virginia. who had worked in wholesale for Christian Lacroix and Dior. They quit their jobs in November 1998, and Kirna Zabête opened on Greene Street in SoHo the following September.

From the beginning, the store’s directive was featuring “the most important designers of today and tomorrow.” Their early buys included then unknown up-and-coming designers like Nicolas Ghesquière for Balenciaga and Rick Owens, and the duo quickly earned a reputation for talent-spotting. Later discoveries included Thakoon and Veronica Beard.

“When we had the idea for our line, jackets with interchangeable dickies, we went to Beth and Sarah to see if they thought it could be a business,” says Veronica Miele Beard. “We gave them samples to wear a buying trip to Paris and they were rock stars. They came home and said, ‘We got so many compliments on this thing. You have to start a business and we want to carry these jackets.’ They became our first store.”

“Having our collection, our first season at Kirna Zabête, was the biggest bragging rights ever,” adds Beard.

Discovering new designers is one of Beth’s favorite parts of the job, whether it’s by combing through emails or via word of mouth from friends and fashion editors. She even scouts lines on Instagram, recently picking up Ukrainian caftan designer Yuliya Magdych.

Beyond their expert eye for spotting talent, Kirna Zabête became known for its bold buys geared toward “women with great personalities who want to take risks and show how cool they are to the world.”

“All you have to do is walk into the store and right away you feel like you’re in this wonderland,” says Alina Cho, editor at large for Ballantine Bantam Dell and host of the Atelier with Alina Cho, an interview series at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Beth always says ‘I don’t buy the things that people need, I buy the things that people can’t live without.’ The boutique is this great mix of things you won’t find anywhere, else that are so special and unique you really do feel as a shopper that you can’t live without them. I’ve fallen prey to that many times over the years.”

As a result, Kirna Zabête has been a wildly influential force in New York retail and a favorite haunt of the city’s boldest and most stylish women since inception.

Following the store’s opening, Beth’s personal life blossomed as well. Although she had sworn off dating after a string of bad dates, a girlfriend absolutely insisted she had the perfect guy for her. Beth hung up the phone on her twice before agreeing to meet him.

Her friend was right. Beth married real estate investor Robert

Edward Buccini in Capri, wearing a simple Richard Tyler strapless, corseted silk chiffon gown topped with a scalloped lace coat with long sleeves and a long train that she could take off at the party and dance late into the night.

In the 15 years that followed, she became a mother of four—Josephine,13, Virginia, 11, Balthazar, 9 and Shepherd, 7.

“Robert and I always knew we wanted four kids. My mother says that even at a young age I always liked to have a lot going on and that really sums it up,” Beth says with a laugh.

She took her youngest one on a buying trip to Paris with her at only six weeks old.

“We had one dicey moment in the Givenchy showroom but, besides that, it was totally fine. I just said to the French people, ‘Je suis un expert, il est le quatrième enfant’—‘I’m an expert, it’s the fourth kid.’”

On top of everything she recently added a major commute to the mix, moving to “90 acres in the middle of nowhere” outside of Philadelphia.

There’s no trick, Beth insists, other than organization and time management. Color coding is a favorite trick. She maintains a calendar so that she knows exactly what’s happening and where she needs to be at any given moment. Each child has a color, work has a color and personal gets a color. She also keeps “list after list after list” in order to keep herself on task.

It doesn’t hurt that Beth doesn’t watch television, freeing up hours for sleep and Tracy Anderson classes that the rest of us spend bingeing on Keeping up with the Kardashians and Game of Thrones.

“Beth is just one of those rock-solid humans I am thankful to have in my corner,” says Jessica Seinfeld, whose nonprofit, the

Good+ Foundation, Beth has supported for 13 years. “Beth has her priorities straight. Family always comes first, but she must never sleep because she works just as hard at her job running Kirna Zabête. She is one of those people who truly has it together but, thankfully, she is also very real about being frazzled and overwhelmed at times. Being a full-time business owner and a devoted mother of four with a long commute is complicated. But this powerhouse does it all with a gracious smile and a positive, upbeat and elegant manner, and she makes it all look easy.”

After maintaining the status quo for more than a decade, Kirna Zabête started making some big moves. In 2013, they relocated the store to 477 Broome Street, doubling their floor space and decking the space out with hot pink columns, black and white striped floors and neon signs saying things like “Life is short, buy the shoes” and “The best things in life are free, the second best are very expensive.”

Then came capsule collections for Gilt, Nine West and Target. Finally, in January 2016, Beth bought out Sarah, becoming sole owner of Kirna Zabête.

“We had an unbelievable run of 16 years together. I’m ready to take the business to the next level, and she was ready to move on and step out of retail,” Beth says.

“Beth is first and foremost a businesswoman,” says Alina Cho. “She is beautiful. She is chic. She has a great eye. But she’s also a serious businesswoman and she’s very focused. She sets goals and targets, and she not only meets them, but she almost always exceeds them. I have no doubt that Beth is going to build this business into whatever she wants it to be. It’s already a mini empire, and it’s only going to get bigger and better.”

Following massive growth in e-commerce, Beth is now dipping her toe into the Hamptons, testing the waters for a longer term presence.

Beth started coming to the Hamptons in 1993, her first summer living in New York. For years she’s debated whether or not to open a space out east, dabbling with occasional one-day pop-ups. At the last minute, she pressed Go for this summer, snapping up the former Gail Rothwell space at 66 Newtown Lane in East Hampton and pulling the concept together in a single weekend with friend and interior designer Michelle Bergeron for a July 16 opening.

The result is a bright, clean space in shades of white. Every inch is packed to the brim not only with clothes, shoes, bags and accessories but items like coffee-table books and candles—perfect hostess gifts for stylish houseguests.

The store is just a hop, skip and a jump down Montauk Highway from her home in Amagansett, where the family’s idyllic East End lifestyle includes riding horses Let’s Boogie, Monkey and Velvet and surfing at Ditch Plains in Montauk.

“My husband and I always rented in Montauk, but Montauk has changed so much and gotten so wild. Amagansett reminds me of old Virginia Beach. We found this amazing house a block from the beach. My kids can ride their bikes to into town to get ice cream, and I love the old fashionedness and the beach feel of it so much. It really is our happy place,” says Beth.

After 20-plus years in the Hamptons, Beth definitely knows what women in the Hamptons want to wear and how they shop.

“You want something that you can put on in the morning to drop your kid off at camp and to run your errands and you can wear with your flip-flops or at night you could put on with a wedge and go out to dinner,” Beth says. “I think everyone really lets their hair down out there. It’s a time to put away your city black and be a little more colorful and just take a deep breath. The clothes should have an ease to them and a beachy attitude.”

Colorful with attitude and ease, much like Beth herself.

Visit Kirna Zabête at 66 Newtown Lane in East Hampton until September 15 .

Photographed by Georgia Nerheim

Styled by Emily Barnes

Hair and makeup by Bobby Bujisic using Oribe Hair Care and MAC Cosmetics for Judy Casey Inc.

Fashion assistance by Kacey Bennett


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