Glitterati Prom and Pageant Superstore owner Katherina Mena has worked tirelessly to establish herself in the business world, while maintaining a solid reputation in the fashion industry - all before the age 30.
With Glitterati in Danvers opening this week downtown, Mena's sister store to the Salem location has brought full service, upscale, high-end fashion to Danvers' younger set - just in time for the prom.
The Danvers Glitterati already has exciting news to share. Disney is launching the Disney Forever Enchanted Prom 2013 Dress Line, an inspired collection sprung from the nostalgia of the beloved animated classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Mena was hand picked to debut the collection in an exclusive trunk show that will run this weekend, Jan. 12-13, in the Danvers store.
Glitterati in Danvers will be first and only shop in the country to provide customers with access to dozens of Disney Prom dresses in modern colors and styles inspired by the Disney Princess, Snow White.
The location for Glitterati is in the most fitting place imaginable, according to Mena. When Lorrainne Roy Fine Apparel moved across town to merge with Bella Sera Bridal, the move left the square without a link to high-end fashion for the first time in nearly four decades.
Mena moved quickly to secure the space, explaining how she had long admired the fashions showcased in the windows of Lorrainne Roy, and been acutely aware of the importance and history of the shop for as long as she could recall.
How many people can say that their stylist was a second grader?
When Katherina Mena was just 5-years-old, Mena's Dominican born mother, Lisandra Ones, after years of selling fine clothing out of her home-based shop became the first Latino woman to open her own business in Salem. The year was 1987, and the business, Katherina's Fashions, was a Latin dress boutique aimed at outfitting ladies in The Point neighborhood with formal and special occasion-wear.
Ones established a great deal of trust through her charitable work with the local Latin community, earning her recognition by the mayor and loyalty from the community at large. She was given many awards by the city for her work with charities, and people came to relying her giving nature.
Young Mena got a hands-on education in fashion as she helped her mother style the ladies who frequented the boutique, and by the tender age of seven, had developed a serious following. The young fashion ingenue dreamed she would someday run the little shop that was her namesake.
In 1998, the shop incurred thousands of dollars in water damage which forced it to close. Down, but not out, she returned to in-home fashion sales, while Katherina continued learning everything she could about the industry. Katherina had been working constantly, when at just 18, she was hired as a buyer by CEO's and celebrities, as her reputation spread by word of mouth. Later she went into advertising.
Family friend of 15 years Christopher Wood explained, "Even though she is largely self taught, because of her upbringing and experience scouring the corners of the New York Fashion world, on buying trips and attending shows with her mother, flying all over the country to meet the designers first-hand; her fashion knowledge surpasses those who've studied their entire lives."
He continued,"Katherina was a true prodigy, and a standout. In school, she was always very sharply dressed. She was the girl with the colored contacts, big dresses and a geisha fan."
He described watching how other buyers seemed to wait to see her selections before choosing their own.
"Because her opinion matters, they want to see what interests her," he said.
"She's had to have someone guarding the rack, because people will be taking her selections from the rack."
About five years ago, after attending North Shore Community College and taking extension classes in communications at Harvard, Mena stumbled upon the old building where Katherina's Fashions once flourished. The decrepit building had been abandoned and was once again an eyesore in The Point neighborhood. And it was available for rent.
She had always dreamed she would own her own boutique someday, and seeing the old building presented a challenge. She just thought, "I can do it."
After much deliberation, and with the support of her mother and grandmother who are in place to help manage, Mena moved forward.
She contacted the owners, rehabilitated the building, and opened Glitterati to the delight of the mayor and community at large who hailed her for brightening up the area.
Specializing in young women's formal occasion gowns, the award winning Glitterati was featured on the popular Made program on MTV. Mena explained, "Last November, MTV stylists scouted and chose us to be featured on their MTV Made program. They loved the designers that we carry and our window displays and that we took our business seriously. They helped give us the credentials to get us to the next level with other states."
On the heels of the MTV exposure, Glitterati had huge success with last year's prom season, bringing customers from near and far in search of the perfect gown.
"We had people coming down from Maine, getting hotel rooms and making a weekend of it after their daughters searched online for the dresses on MTV," said Mena. They quickly began to outgrow their space, when the news of a Bella Sera- Lorraine Roy merger came to light. She moved quickly to secure the location to expand Glitterati into Danvers, without missing a beat with the upcoming prom season.
Being in fashion, Mena was accutely aware of the presence and importance of Lorraine Roy in the industry.
"I always drove by the windows; she was famous for her windows, and people in Danvers have grown up driving by and seeing the beautiful window displays; they were sad not to see them there for the last few months. We are happy to keep the tradition going that Lorraine Roy has had for over 40 years, and take it to the next level, and Danvers has been so welcoming, this is like a dream come true," she said, before adding, "I'm very excited, and feeling fortunate that the space has so much history and respect in the fashion industry," said Mena.
The elegant space needed little by the way of construction, except cost efficient lighting, and storage underneath the front windows.
"We also upgraded the mannequins...but wanted to keep the same look with the windows," explained Woods. Curran's Florist handled all the flowers in the window just as they always have, after a suggestion by Lorrainne Roy owner Jeanne Hennessey, to maintain the appearance and continue the history of a great working relationship with local vendors.
"We have Pins & Needles Tailoring right in the building, and she worked for Lorraine Roy for many years. Its great for our business to have a seamstress with a keen eye, right here. She'll come right down here for a fitting, in real time, all I have to do is call her," said Wood.
Specializing in a wide selection of prom, pageant and formal occasion dresses, Glitterati will ensure their clients are "runway ready," no matter the occasion. With 15 large dressing rooms, young ladies have their own space and feel pampered, according to Wood.
"The prom is the biggest experience in a young girls life, and the most expensive dress a girl will have outside of her wedding is her prom dress. You don't want a situation where everyone looks the same. We treat her right, with respect and dignity. We have plenty of fitting rooms, so each girl gets her own and there's no waiting. We even have a man-pole: no men or boys beyond this point, so the girls feel comfortable, and it's a good experience," he said.
Aside from the new Disney Collection, fashions include hand beaded prom and pageant dresses from designers Jovani, MacDuggal, La Femme, Sherri Hill and Terani Couture, among others many, many others.
Woods continued, "Wedding dress shops add prom dresses as a sideline, and young girls are treated as a nuisance....dresses are ordered in one large size, and clipped onto their frame to be ordered in the smaller size. We don't do that here. Size, silhouette, and color all matter - we've got enough inventory that we have the silhouette or the dress, here. For prom dress boutiques, this is one of the highest-end prom stores in the country. "
"Because of her ability to style her clients, Katherina is a master and she's got a following. I wish there were two of her. But she will have a presence in both the Salem and the Danvers stores," he said. "She has a gift for visualizing what would look good...and she develops relationships with her customers on a more personal level, she's not just selling dresses; maybe because of her Latin heritage, but she builds relationships and will recall these girls years later, and because of that, her customers come back year after year."