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Unlike department stores, which assemble their offerings piecemeal, the Standard boasts more than 150 lines in-house and an online depth that would allow a pack of desperate housewives to fill auxiliary closets. Jana Rangel, chief U.S. sales representative for True Religion jeans, which supplies denim to the Standard, says nobody else has had the audacity to sell such an array of designers in Kansas City. "Everyone kept pussing out and saying 'I can't do it at that price point,'" Rangel says. "And they were like, 'Game on.'"
Flumiani and the Baldwins also see themselves setting trends from their Kansas headquarters by striking deals with stars. The Standard provided rocker Ryan Cabrera's wardrobe for his MTV dating series. The partners also have outfitted big names for their local shows: Usher, Britney Spears, J.C. Chasez and Justin Timberlake. Two summers ago, when Jessica Simpson wore a pair of jeans onstage at Verizon Amphitheater that came from the Standard, the store sold 45 pairs the next day at more than 200 bucks a pop, Matt Baldwin says.
Before the Blonde fashion show, the Standard's executives gather at their headquarters. Matt's father, Ron Baldwin, who retired from his job as chief operating officer of Intrust Bank and now mentors the company, emphasizes how much the company has riding on the show. "It's showtime for us," the former banker says. "We spent a whole lot of money on projecting what customers want."
Now all they can do is hope that Flumiani's last-minute tailoring translates into sales.
Image is based on appearances, and, with one minute to showtime, the inside of Blonde looks pretty enough for Sex and the City. No one knows about the chaos backstage as Flumiani wields his scissors. People mingle beneath faux skylights, and mirrors glow with the store's signature mint color. The Baldwins woo the audience with gift bags and a preshow raffle backed by designers True Religion, Morphine Generation, Initium and Juicy Couture chic suppliers betting on Midwestern selling potential.
The raffle buys Flumiani a few extra minutes. Having finished making his capris look worn, he rummages in a bag for something to match them. He finds a pair of black knee socks with white stripes by Juicy to go with a pair of rustic-looking brown cowboy boots by Frye.
He's out of time. He lines the models in their stage order and walks past each person with a crew of stylists in tow. He can hear Matt and Emily Baldwin onstage, about to cue the music. While the stylists check each ensemble, he does what he considers most important, giving each one of his models a pep talk.
As Kanye West's "Gold Digger" hits the speakers, a thin blonde struts the stage wearing aviator sunglasses, a schoolmarm sweater and tight jeans. She's followed by a brunette in oversized sunglasses, white pants and a wide-lapel sport coat. People lean over the railing on the balcony level, and revelers bathe the stage in the glare of camera flashes. The crowd cheers for a guy sporting the country-club version of a pimp suit; all white warm-ups, shades and iPod ear buds. When a brunette slides past in Flumiani's last-minute creation the capris, boots and knee socks the hooting validates his work in the stairwell. It also proves his point about sexy: What makes clothing edgy isn't what it reveals.