School Glam From Bari Lynn
Little puffs of fluff, crystal-studded everything and shimmering,
spiked and shredded backpacks make
Bari Lynn Accessories too cool for back-to-school.
Bari Erber’s mother-in-law put forth a challenge.
“She told me, ‘If you make $10,000 in your first year of this business, I’ll walk to the bank naked.’
It didn’t take long to surpass that number.
“Ten years later, she hasn’t lived up to her promise yet,” Erber says. “But every Rosh Hashanah, I tell her this is the year I’m going to make her do it.”
Erber, owner of super-hot Bari Lynn Accessories, might be able to add a few figures to the number her mother-in-law threw out. The company Erber founded — and her husband, Daniel, now helps her run — has soared to success since launching in 2007, offering highly coveted accessories for girls, and often their moms, with a sophisticated fashion palate. Since that first year, Erber has each year reached her goal of beating the previous year by 10 percent, while the staff has grown to 30. “We’ve been very lucky,” she says.
The Orthodox mother of four — with one on the way — was born-and-bred in Manhattan. Now 37, Erber graduated with a master’s degree in Jewish education from Yeshiva University in New York City and had begun work on her doctorate. While marrying and having her first child, she taught in an early-childhood classroom and worked in curriculum development at Manhattan’s JCC.
“I started making barrettes for my oldest daughter, who was 3 at the time,” Erber says. “I saw things I liked in stores and thought, ‘I could make that so much better’ — so I went to Michael’s and started buying stuff.”
Barrettes turned into headbands, jewelry and more — and orders came pouring in.
“I was teaching and working on Bari Lynn at the same time,” she says. “When I had my third child, I decided it was just too hard. Something had to go — so I chose the option that would give me the most flexibility with my own children.
“My mother-in-law said, ‘This is what you’re giving up teaching for?’”
Starting out with three clients — Dimples, Tip Top Shoes and Lester’s, all in New York and all still clients — Erber began pounding the pavement, barrettes in tow.
“Every time we went on vacation, with the kids, we’d go store to store — all over the country,” she says. And the stores ate it up.
Today, Bari Lynn Accessories has showrooms in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Dallas, and the brand is sold in 6,000 boutiques across the country plus a number of high-end department stores, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Harrod’s, Bergdorf Goodman and more.
“Every single buyer has my personal cell phone number,” Erber says. “We have very good relationships with our buyers, thank God. We offer a lot of flexibility — if they want an item in a different color or a different shape, we listen and together we come up with a collection curated for each individual store.”
What Erber offers is a luscious assortment of furry, blingy confections that girls go wild over: the most fashion-forward back-to-school backpacks the hallways have ever seen, headbands with rhinestone-studded emojis, fox-fur pom-poms, Swarovski-covered clutches in metallics and shockingly delicious neons — and, of course, the blinged-out barrettes that started it all.
“When we started out, we were trending in the ages 6-and-under crowd,” Erber says. “Now, we go up to 18 — and beyond.
“A lot of our market is mini-moms,” she says. “And lots of moms buy our bags, too. Right now, whatever mom is wearing, kids wear, too. We try to diversify so both mom and kid can wear our pieces and neither looks silly. I have a 13-year-old daughter, and half the stuff she wears, I want to wear.”
Erber has a pristine eye for what’s up-and-coming, for materials and what’s going to excite her clients. But she says that she never thought of herself as creative.
“The success that we’ve had was purely from God,” Erber says. “I’m not an artistic person. I’m very regimented — I had no idea it would be this successful.
“But now I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with an idea. I’ll scour high-end women’s fashion, look for trends in colors, and try to incorporate what I find and what clients tell me they want. We keep trying to come up with innovative ideas and concepts while staying true to who we are as designers.
“Bags, for example, are really popular with kids now — tri-color glitter backpacks and clutches with chain shoulder straps. But we try to make a good price point for parents so that kids can have a lot of fun with the options.”
Besides customer service, Erber says her most important rule is constant development and continually taking risks.
“I really like bringing different elements together — crystals, fox fur, sequins, satin peau de soie, suede, glitter. Anything with fur, I love,” Erber says. “You could be wearing anything in your closet, but with good accessories, you feel great.
Bari Lynn Accessories can be found in Metro Detroit at Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and boutiques Guys N Gals, Perfect Trading and Lil Rascals. Barilynn.com.