Liz Korn, also known as Lizzie Pure, has always loved luxury fashion and had dreams of working in the industry since she can remember. In fact, she’s worked in retail her entire adult life, having landed her first job folding tee shirts on the sales floor at the Gap at 16 years old. “I worked my way up through almost every retail position possible in major corporate retailers,” Korn tells MR. “When I finished my master’s degree in 2007, I took a risk and started Pure, and the rest is history.”
Now considered a self-made entrepreneur, Liz is dominating the retail market with revenues reaching multiple eight-figures during a time when a lot of brick-and-mortar stores in the USA are not even reaching less than half of their profit margins.
Not only is she spearheading the pro-woman entrepreneurial movement, but she’s also shining a bright light on hip-hop culture, as her store, Pure Atlanta, has grown exponentially in recent years. Liz is a proud believer that hip-hop has grown to dominate today’s pop culture and aims to showcase these musicians and the influence they have on fashion. This has led to huge clients such as Young Thug, Gunna, DaBaby, Lil Baby, Dwight Howard, and Marshawn Lynch that now have also become close personal friends to her.
Since opening her first store 15 years ago, Pure now has four locations in the U.S. (Atlanta, Miami, Houston, and Charlotte) with the Atlanta location being the largest. Pure features some of the top luxury brands available today such as Versace, Moschino, Balmain, Dsquared2, Giuseppe Zanotti, Bally, Fendi kids, and Gucci eyewear to name a few.
Here, we catch up with Korn to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on her business, her celebrity following, and what’s next.
Q: How was your business affected by COVID-19?
A: Initially Coronavirus was very problematic as all of the malls shut down and there were a lot of unknowns. In luxury fashion, it presented many challenges as a buyer because we buy a full season ahead, so when we made our orders for the season COVID-19 hit, we had no idea the business would be entirely shut down which created an excess of inventory. Additionally, just because the malls close doesn’t mean the bills stop. So, you have revenue out with no revenue in, it’s a concerning situation to have bills amounting, and inventory stagnant and devaluing daily.
However, once the malls opened in April, our business is like nothing I have ever seen in my 25-year retail career. Even now, almost a year later we are not seeing the unbelievable volume of the initial reopening numbers but we are still producing double-digit comps in all cities.
The pandemic, in my opinion, gave people time to reassess. I feel that reassessment came with a desire for authenticity and a sense of normalcy. Brick-and-mortar retail spaces have an opportunity to create both of those. Our strategy during the reopening was to create safe, healthy spaces where our team ultimately created a sense of “normalcy”, and love. We did this by mindful communication. Speaking to people on a real level, not about what they came to buy but about how they were. It was cathartic for everyone. That’s why we call our team and our clients the Pure Family, the love is real. In addition to creating a culture of positive energy in a very strange time, we produced the biggest numbers of the company’s history, and not one of my employees contracted COVID-19 from working in the store.
Q: Why do you think you have such a large celebrity clientele? What attracts them?
A: On PureAtlanta.com you can see a celebrity wall with over 4,000 different amazing tastemakers. Celebrities shopping at Pure is my greatest feeling of accomplishment because with resources comes options. Celebrities, actors, and professional athletes among the myriad of tastemakers that shop at Pure can choose to shop anywhere. They have traveled the world and seen the best, yet they still choose to shop at Pure. It’s a major compliment. I attribute their loyalty to the culture of the organization, Pure is first to new designers, Pure is authentic in our energy, and Pure gives a high-level customer service experience every time. We pamper our family, we cater to them. I have very strong relationships with both designers and celebrities so if an artist needs or wants something I can often work with designers to create custom pieces and bridge those relationship gaps to create unbelievable fashion moments. If a performer is hopping off a jet running to do a show, we’ll meet them at the arena. If they need a last-minute gift for a child’s birthday we’ll pick it out and bring it to the party. High-level tastemakers can sense the difference between authentic and inauthentic, they have an awareness of brand-mix and product assortment, they know we bring the hottest designers first, and most of all they love the culture. Not only do they shop at Pure but they post on their social media accounts from Pure which drives traffic to PureAtlanta.com from their following, the entire world.
Everything is led by the culture and the celebrity factor is no different. You cannot create authenticity, you cannot create culture and clients feel the authentic energy of our organization which is based on the values of love, diversity, and welcoming.
Q: Do you think a celebrity following helps your business and attract new customers?
A: Yes, when I was in corporate retail I would see big companies paying for celebrities to do an advertisement for them in a magazine and it seemed so corny to me. Everyone could see how fake it is to just use someone’s face. I believe in editorial advertising, almost camouflage advertising. I have never paid a celebrity to post on their social media, I have never paid an artist to do the concerts in Pure. Everything we do, from Lil Baby private performances, to Da Baby events, is out of love and there was no money exchanged. Yet, these are the most valuable transactions. Celebrities doing events in Pure, shopping at Pure, and posting from Pure co-signs to the world that Pure is hot. The world follows celebrities and moves off of their direction. The celebrity following is everything.
Q: What has been your biggest lesson along the way?
A: The biggest lesson for me has been to really love and value your team. There is no Pure without the team. The people that comprise an organization really set the culture and I have been lucky enough to cultivate a tribe over the years which has been instrumental to my success. I have some employees that have been with me over a decade and I am grateful for that.
Q: What has been your biggest achievement since starting your business?
A: My biggest achievement to date is my comps. I only compare myself to my own performance so we strive annually to see double-digit growth and so far, so good!
Q: How much of your merchandise mix is men’s vs. women’s?
A: Our mix is 90 percent men’s and 10 percent very luxury high-end kids. I love to work with men, and I love men’s fashion. Specifically, I love my demographic, 24-45, they are exciting they are interesting they are the best!
Q: Any plans for more stores, or are you happy where you are now?
A: Right now, I have several favorable deals on the table and it’s just about picking the correct city. It’s about the energy of a city for me, it’s about the culture of a city. I often get offers in malls that are amazing malls doing big numbers with strong co-tenancy but that doesn’t mean that Pure will do well there; it has to be a match for my specific brand. I also don’t want to make the mistake seen so frequently of a rapid over expansion. I have the luxury to expand at my own pace and pick the malls I feel are the best fit for the brand. Going forward I’m looking for partners in spaces I feel Pure can be most successful, in terms of both designers and centers. It’s a new dawn in retail, and I am ready for what is next!