Kirna Zabête Opens Uptown
Downtown retail maven Beth Buccini is opening a new Steven Gambrel-designed boutique on Madison Avenue.
Beth Buccini is a New York success story. Kirna Zabête, the specialty retail and online clothing store which she opened in 1999, was popular almost from its inception. And while Buccini now lives with her husband, Rob, and three of her four teenage children on a 170-acre dairy farm outside of Philadelphia, Buccini has the drive, energy, and dynamism which, when fused together, create the kind of megahits only possible in New York.
And those of us who like shopping in this town are thrilled, because Buccini’s boutique stores, Kirna Zabête, have a selection of high-end, ready-to-wear clothes thoughtfully edited with a specific client’s needs in mind. (The name was inspired by a trip to Paris: Zabête is Beth in French. “Kirna” is the nickname of her former partner and friend from University of Virginia, Sarah Easley, whom she bought out of the business in 2015.) Buccini worked as an editor at (now-defunct) Mirabella and New York Magazine before seeing an opportunity for retail in Soho’s artsy neighborhood.
Fast forward 20 years, and there are seven Kirna Zabête stores, dotted around the East Coast, as well as a thriving e-commerce business. Her latest venture at 943 Madison (designed by Steven Gambrel) is open now—later this year there are plans to open in Nashville and Miami’s Design District. The store has a curated selection from brands like Valentino, Saint Laurent, Dries Van Noten, Alejandra Alsonso Rojas, Khaite and Ulla Johnson. It will also house Buccini’s own line of elevated basics, called Kirna Zabête, a range of shirts, dresses, cashmere, and a few tailored items—something she started designing during Covid when her stores were forced shut.
Fans of the brand include celebrities Jessica Seinfeld and Gwyenth Paltrow, as well as old friend and Pennsylvania neighbor, Hallie Biden.
Despite having made a name for herself downtown, Buccini, originally from Norfolk, Virginia, had quietly moved to the Upper East Side in 2002 where she had her four children in five years. But she found that the Upper East Side suited her perfectly. “It’s very neighborhoody. I really wanted [the store] to be above 72nd. The foot traffic is amazing, the locals are in there all the time, constantly coming back. Everyone says, ‘I’m so glad you opened up here. I never go downtown.’”
As always, Buccini uses her intuition to create an individualized experience for each client. When she a chooses a brand like Khaite, for example, she is thinking of which pieces the Madison Avenue woman will wear v.s. the Hamptons woman v.s. the downtown Khaite girl, and so on. She knows that customers vary how they dress according to different locations.
“In Soho you’ll wear the cool sexy dress, on Madison Avenue you’ll wear the more covered chicer dress, in the Hamptons, jeans.”
Buccini notes they have a broad selection in every store but, she says, “No one loves a white beautiful silk blouse more than a Palm Beach customer.”
Her success comes partly from trusting her instincts and having the confidence to act on them. Buccini is very assured of her ability to make the right decision. “I have a self-made entrepreneurial father and I definitely get it from him. I am really passionate about what I do and I’ve always loved it. It doesn’t feel like work when you like what you do.”