Lisa Weiss of Début Wants Designers to Take More Risks

Who is the next Marc Jacobs? Lisa Weiss is trying to find out. She owns Début, a gallery-like shop on Mulberry Street that specializes in stocking designers you haven’t heard of — yet. She opened this year after seeing so many emerging designers struggle with their financial footing while studying at F.I.T., in order to provide a place where new talent can enter the market. (Quite a refreshing, optimistic outlook in this dreary economy, right?) For fall, Weiss is keeping her eye on the Russian-inspired fairy-tale prints by Vassilisa, flirty cocktail dresses by Lovenia, and prints by Michael Angel. And she’s always on the lookout for new talent. (Young designers, grab your portfolio and go!) We stopped by to find out about what she looks for, the trends she loves, and why she’ll splurge for a pair of Loubs.

What do you look for in designers who want to sell here?
We look for designers who take pride in their work. Sometimes we carry one-of-a-kind pieces or small collections, but we buy with the utmost attention to quality. I think that sometimes with the bigger names, the actual designer becomes less and less involved with their brand, so quality and innovation tend to suffer. New designers take more risks.

What is lacking in the promotion of young designers?
The media generally takes a play-it-safe perspective and focuses on already-established designers. It leads the consumer to buy a name rather than a new creative design. In that sort of environment, it is difficult for a new designer to compete.

Inside the store.Photo: Melissa Hom

If you could describe the woman you dress, who would she be?

Adventurous, confident, and independent. She doesn’t have a certain look or fall into a particular category. She just has to know what she wants and go for it. She has to know how to make a look work for her, not the other way around.

What trends do you personally like for fall?

Ankle boots — they’re more comfortable than knee-length boots. And more flattering. I bought Christian Louboutin ones a couple of weeks ago after seeing them in the window one day. It was my whimsical purchase.

Are there any trends you wish would go away?

Gladiator shoes — they’re unflattering. They hit your leg in the wrong spot. All those straps! It only suits a person with really skinny legs. And for a shoe, they’re kinda aggressive.

Are there any trends you wish would come back?

Honestly, I think we are too immersed with trends. Everything is so mass-merchandised to look the same, and then people follow trends and copy it. I would love to see some fresh ones.

Who are your favorite designers?

Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte for their really well-constructed, colorful, and wearable collections. I love what Thomas Maier does for Bottega Veneta, creating a wearable modern collection that always has great editorial pieces.

What designers or labels do you actually wear the most?

I live in basics from American Apparel, but I have to admit a weakness for Christian Louboutin. I’ll always try them on, even though they’re expensive and don’t fit my foot right.

What’s one thing you really want to buy right now?

I’m pregnant so I’m going to get lots of shoes.

What’s something that every woman should have in her closet?

A label that no one has ever heard of.

Début, 298 Mulberry St., nr. Houston St. (212-343-2717); Tues.–Sat. (12–7), Sun. (12–6), Mon. (closed).

Lisa Weiss of Début Wants Designers to Take More Risks