Photo provided by Oxygen Media
Maybe it’s because we’re sisters and we work together that we felt an instant connection to the stars of the new docudrama Jersey Couture. After all, the people who own and operate Diane & Co. boutique in Freehold, New Jersey are family.
Mother, Diane Scali, started the go-to life-changing event dress shop 32 years ago. Her daughters, Kim and Chrissy Gimbale, help her run the showroom. Her son, Anthony, is a party DJ who also helps out around the place. And Dad, Sal, chips in to deal with customer support.
The store has become the go-to place for any girl looking for a sweet 16 dress, bride-to-be shopping for her gown, or frustrated fashionista searching for the perfect party dress for a special occasion.
Their formula for success is simple – they deal honestly and lovingly with every customer. No one gets out with an unflattering fit and everyone leaves laughing.
At the recent NBC Universal Summer press event, Diane and company answered questions about what defines New Jersey style, what makes the boutique a success, and what gets them through their 80-hour work weeks.
After the jump, read what Diane, Kim, and Chrissy had to say about Jersey Couture – which airs on Tuesdays at 10:00 PM on Oxygen.
Q: So what makes New Jersey so fashionable and haute couture and fabulous that there seems to be a train of reality TV coming out of the state?
KIM: For us, I can't speak to all the trends out there. I can just tell you about us. We are a family that works. We have a family. There's five of us that are always in the store 80 hours a week that run a multimillion-dollar business by being lucky enough and fortunate enough to work doing something that we are passionate about. You can see… the joy that we get, like the success that we feel is not the monetary. It's when the customers are dancing around in their dresses.
Our whole thing is you could bring this show to Virginia, Ohio, Connecticut, California, it's us. We are the show. It's how we basically give that ah-ha moment to our customers, bring out that inner diva to them. New Jersey is larger than life. We're larger-than-life people. We're real. We just love life.
CHRISSY: We love making other people happy, and if we didn't, we wouldn't be there six days a week, 80 hours, all of us at the same time. If one of us is missing, it's like the seesaw is going up or down. But the show just happens to be named "Jersey Couture."
KIM: And we live in Jersey.
CHRISSY: And we live in Jersey, but we sell $200 dresses and $10,000 dresses. We design dresses, so it's just about the couture dresses and what we sell. We sell the Hollywood dresses to the couture.
KIM: Everybody’s putting a stigmata on New Jersey – they are going to wear leopard and cheetah. A) leopard and cheetah are very in this year.
KIM: But people are going to buy that same dress whether they live in New Jersey, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina. It's not just sold in the Northeast.
Q: What is the quintessential New Jersey look that's hot and fashionable?
CHRISSY: There isn't one.
Q: There isn't?
CHRISSY: There isn't, because New Jersey is New Jersey. There's all different types of people that live in New Jersey. We dress all different types of cultures, all different types of personalities.
What we do is, yes, you might like the style. You figure a prom girl, 17-year-old girl who is very artsy and likes the Stefani dress with the big fish on it. And you know, it might not be beautiful to us. It might not be beautiful to you, but who are we to judge that it's not beautiful for them?
Our job is make sure that the fit is perfect, that you're not leaving with back fat or something's hanging out or anything else. If the fit is perfect -- and then, who are you to judge and who are you to judge?
KIM: We don't judge.
CHRISSY: I mean, have you looked into the Seventeen prom magazines? It's all different styles for everyone. Everybody has a different personality.
Q: Dallas has a definitive look, and California girls have a look. We just didn't know if you could pinpoint a classic East Coast type.
KIM: I come to L.A. and I get inspired. I was looking around at the hotel. There were girls from California, and I'm like, "I like that. Oh, I like that." Doesn't mean I'm going to go get it and I'm going to wear it in New Jersey.
You have Bohemian chic. You have red carpet elegance. You have funky, artsy. We do Goth girls. The challenge for us is we do it all. There's nothing we can't handle.
Q: You say you don't judge and yet in that clip, you referred to the girl, "You look like a hooker."
KIM: She did.
Q: You are that blunt with her that you don't want her to walk out the door looking like a hooker.
KIM: My sister followed up and said we judge on the fit. And could come in and say you know you could be a zero or a 20, and you have some girls who are a zero and they have no confidence. Then you have a woman who walks in and she goes, "Baby, dress that body so my husband's eyeballs pop out." We sell the confidence aspect of it. I'm going to tell you if you don't look good. Her boobs were all wiggling and jiggling on the side. It wasn't appropriate.
She left with a dress. She left with a smoking, like, tight mermaid style. She looked very elegant, and I said, "You don't have to be sexy having everything all hanging out." To me the silhouette of the body is the sexiest thing. You know, the trend now is the high neck and the short skirt. That's, like, very in. You could do low-bearing cleavage, but do a full-bottom skirt. You try to do the balance of sexy.
We call people out all day long. You're going to see that. "What do you have, a magic mirror? That doesn't look good. Let's go." But it's our job to find you the better garment. It's our job to say, "This might not look good. It might be what you want. But let's use what you want and find the best fit for you."
DIANE: I make the final decision.
Q: And for mom, you taught your girls to be very open, very forward, blunt. Are you glad you did?
DIANE: In this business, yes, because people come in, and they'll look in a magazine and they'll see a dress, or on the website, they'll say, "I want this dress." The model is 6 foot, 5' 11', 90 pounds soaking wet, no boobs, and they want a dress that they can't wear. My daughter would want to wear. She can't.
So somebody has to be there to tell her that this is not appropriate for you, but yet we will make you feel glamorous. We do it together. It's a bond that we form with them together. We make them look glamorous because they don't know. When they walk in, they don't know how it's going to look on them. They just see it there.
KIM: I ask everyone in the room, how many times have you gone to a store and you put this on and you're like, "Oh, my God." And then the salesperson comes over, "You look fabulous." And you are like, "Okay. Good." Take it off.
Wouldn't you want, "No, that's not good. But try this." That's what we do – as long as I keep going. It's a lazy salesperson that keeps telling you that everything looks good. We'll find you that right prom dress. It might not be this one, but I have over 5,000 gowns in this store. There's something in here for you. You're going to leave with a dress.
DIANE: And at the end of the day, I don't care if we made that sale. You know why? They'll be back at the end of the week to buy something because when they go to my competition, they see the difference and they say, "You know what? I like the way they treated me. They took me by the hand and they led me."
KIM: It's not a malicious attack.
DIANE: No. Not at all. We make everything fun. Being with women 80 hours a week and dealing with the husbands, the kids, the friend that doesn't like what we picked out, this one doesn't like it, they come back 100 times. But you know what? We make it fun. And when they leave, it's a friend for life, and we grow not only by our expertise but by our customers.
KIM: They go and tell and tell and they tell and they tell.
DIANE: Then the prom girls are my biggest advertisement. That's how we're here today. One of our prom girls told our producer's mother, "Go to that store." 17-year-old prom girl telling a 50-something-year-old mother to go to the store. Might have been a little nervous coming in, but when she walked through that door --
We do one-on-one. You come in. You sign in. A sales associate will come over to you.
KIM: We treat every customer like a bride.
CHRISSY: We treat every customer like they're the only one. When they come in and their dresses have arrived and I'm at the front desk, "Do you have your receipt?" "Oh, Diane knows me. It's okay." We have thousands of customers. I know every single one by name. Don't ask me how, but we do it.
Q: What are your tips for getting a dress for us women?
KIM: I think, one, don't follow any trends. Follow what makes you feel good. We said it, and you're going to see on our show is, you're going to see women who are a 2 or a 22.
I had a funny story. I had a customer walk in. She walked in the door. She was a very large woman. I looked at her, and I wanted to just hug her. She was so cute. She walks in and I go, "Okay. What are we looking for?" And she said, "I'm going to a wedding." And I said, "All right. Let's go. Get naked. Let's do it. Come on in the back."
And she looked at me and she goes, "I'm not going to try on today," so I pulled out a few things and said, "Well, when you're ready and want to try, come back. We'll find you something."
About a week later, she walks in. I go, "Chris, how are you?" She goes, "You remember me?" I said, "Of course. You needed a dress. You look great." She goes, "You're the only person who looked at me and said, "What am I going to do with this?" And I got like goose bumps because I remembered her and she looked at me like "You remembered me." That's our thing.
Like, you might say, "They have dark hair and they have tight shirts, and they were all wearing Christian Louboutin." But for us, we're giving fashion advice. That's the best, but at the bottom line is I could find every woman in this place something that's going to make you smile, something that's going to make you think you're the hottest woman in this room right now, and something that's going to make your husband fall back in love with you. And that's what we want.
It's all about making you feel good. For me, when I go home and I put on a dress, I want my husband to look at me and say, "You look beautiful." And that's what it's all about.
I want the girl's prom date to say, "You're the prettiest girl in the room." I want the little Bar Mitzvah boy to look at his mom that day and say "Mommy, you look gorgeous." That's what we do. We sell that Cinderella experience. We're fortunate enough to play dress-up for our career.