Young businessman proves his skills in the fashion industry

September 30, 2011  

BEYOND THE BUBBLE

By Shelby Foster
slfoster@smu.edu

John Piermarini outside his boutique in Uptown. (Photo by Shelby Foster)

Many twenty-year-olds spend their days sitting in class, studying for exams, attending meetings, going out on the weekends, repeat. The cycle goes on for four years with the promise of a diploma at the end.

But John Piermarini doesn’t waste time going to class. He doesn’t study for exams, either.
In fact, this twenty-year-old doesn’t even go to college. Nor does he plan to.

“John is a hands-on self-learner,” said his mother, Tina Piermarini. “Going to school would have diluted his talent.”

So instead of schlepping off to a university, Piermarini jumped feet first into his dream job: working and designing in the fashion industry. Piermarini Boutique, his namesake business, opened in Uptown in November 2010, just a few months after he graduated from Greenhill School in Addison.

But Piermarini is more than just a shop owner. This summer, he tried his hand at design with a collaborative collection of slips and tanks with Dallas designer Abi Ferrin. Piermarini studied under her for years in high school.

“John is wise beyond his years,” said Ferrin. “His point of view and sense of self are so clearly defined which is not the case for most 20-year-olds or most people, for that matter.”

Piermarini Boutique sits on a quiet street in the State Thomas Neighborhood, surrounded by residential homes. Only a small sign posted near the sidewalk gives a hint at what lies inside the 1900s house: a well-edited collection of clothing and accessories, and one very savvy young man.

Before entering, the customer is welcomed to ring the doorbell by twisting a small handle – one of the several quirks of the old house. All of the interior fixtures are original, including the short doorframes and old-fashioned ventilation.

Earrings in Piermarini's Boutique. (Photo by Shelby Foster)


There is not a single trace of the control found in so many corporate retail stores. The only thing that has changed in the past year is the clothing. There are no floor sets, and no predetermined color palettes.

“I want it to be like walking into a friend’s wardrobe to find clothes,” said Piermarini.

The limited availability creates major competition among his clients, leading some to chase down the delivery truck every time a shipment comes in. But, on the flip side, many clients appreciate the exclusivity.

“I love that you won’t find the merchandise he carries in any other store in the Dallas area,” said longtime client Kirsten Abney.

Twice a year, Piermarini heads to New York City’s international market to hand-select his merchandise.

While he lets his eye guide him, there are a few requirements that clothing has to meet before he will buy. He seeks out start-up designers and brands that have not made it to Texas yet, giving them the chance to be exposed to a new market.

Neiman Marcus recently picked up one brand that John found a few months ago. But once a brand gains department-store notoriety, John is on to the next.

Another one of his requirements is price: nothing in the store is over $500. And he only carries one of each size – that’s one small, one medium, and one large of every dress, sweater, top, and pair of pants.

Tops in Piermarini's Boutique. (Photo by Shelby Foster)


Sami Schwendeman, who has been friends with Piermarini since they were in middle school, has attended market with him a few times.

“When John is buying he’s no muss, no fuss – he knows what kind of look he’s going for and he knows his market to a tee,” said Schwendeman, who just graduated from New York University.

His market is the prime reason why Piermarini loves being in Dallas, a city that allows his client base to range from high school students to older, established women. But no matter their age, he works to create looks that match their personality.

“I want my customers to walk out of here feeling like the best versions of themselves,” said Piermarini.

And every great ensemble needs a proper foundation, which is why Piermarini designed a line of basic slips and tanks called Abi & John.

“So many of the dresses these days are sheer, and girls come to me all the time wearing them,” said Piermarini. “But they need something under it, and what twenty-year-old wants Spanx hanging in their closet?”

So he took the girdle-like garments and reinvented them for a younger buyer.
Abi & John has sold out twice, and Piermarini, who designed his first dress at 15 years old, plans to keep designing in the future.

But for now, he’s focusing on the boutique. Piermarini is there everyday, acting as manager, sales clerk, buyer, designer, and merchandiser. The boutique now runs like a well-oiled machine, but it wasn’t always that way.

Piermarini said he had to learn how to start a business from the ground up, without any formal background.

“I definitely do not recommend not going to college,” said Piermarini. “You have no idea how much there is to learn about licensing, taxes, employees, and insurance. The red tape of business is ridiculous.”

The decision to avoid the normal course of education was not an easy one; many of Piermarini’s classmates doubted his plan to start a business. But now, their opinions have changed.

“My friends come back from college and see the boutique, and they’re so impressed that I’m actually making it happen,” said Piermarini.

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