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Caroline Keating couldn't believe the "closets" of her bilingual vintage clothing site Caroline's Closets (www.carolinesclosets.com) were left barren after fashion mags Mademoiselle and Jane reported on its May launch last year. More staggering was what people were buying. "Legwarmers!" says the 27-year-old former model. "It's like, where are they wearing these?"
But it's people like Keating--who, at 8, began assembling her museum of "googly-eyed piggy banks" and other tchotchkes found at flea markets--who end up being "return hitters" to the site. Global fans empty their wallets for one-piece terry cloth short-shorts or jeans with pegged legs from the "Retro" closet; also found on the site are roller skates on the "Polyester" page, Emilio Pucci designs in "Cocktail," and Harley-Davidson T-shirts and Levi's from "Interstate Wear."
Keating, who, after modeling in Japan in high school and college, fell in love with the Japanese language, originally thought sales from her bilingual site would stream predominately from the Far East. She didn't even register Caroline's Closets with search engines. But verbal and electronic chatter of the site's clothes, stuffed Smurf dolls and Rubik's Cubes have transformed Keating's "personal project" into a full-fledged Los Angeles business with about 15 employees. Fellow Keating women--Web developer/sister Margaret Keating and vintage threads scout/mother Mary Keating--have helped Caroline pursue her dream from the get-go and still offer their time when needed. And the Keating patriarch? He's offered his pocketbook ($1,000 for the first batch of inventory) here and there.
Just skimming her personality-packed content, it's clear that writing is where Keating's heart is. Becoming a businesswoman was merely a "surprising and wonderful" side effect of meshing Web development with her adopted language. "Being an e-commerce businesswoman who successfully melds content and commerce to create community--that is what I hope sticks with me," she says. "I colored outside the lines when I was little, and I can't help but want Caroline's Closets to spill past the definition of e-commerce."
Virtual Ink Corp., (877) 696-4646, www.mimio.com