Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

Paint It Black with Bluefly’s CEO

June 23, 2010

PaynerMelissa Payner, the chief executive of online clothing retailer Bluefly, visited the Reuters Consumer and Retail Summit on Wednesday to talk some shop. I was more interested in talking about her predilection for wearing, despite the azure tint of her company’s name, nothing but black clothes. Here’s what she said about that.

Everything in my closet is black. Every single thing. They’re organized by shades of black. There are many shades of black. People sort of kid about that all the time, but no one more than my husband, who can’t understand whenever I buy something new.

His comment? “I think you have that,” she said.

My question: What happens when you get invited to a summery event that encourages wearing lighter, more summery colors. What happens if she gets invited to be the bridesmaid in a wedding and everyone’s wearing, say, lilac?

I probably either couldn’t go, or I’d have to wear black. I have not been in a situation where anyone has asked me.

I guess that makes weekends easier to plan.

Later in the interview, I asked her when she started wearing black. “Probably around 18,” she said. “I was an athlete… What I’d wear would be leotards every day. That’s what I did through college. As soon as I got out of college, I instantly felt more comfortable wearing black. It was odd for my family.” Payner grew up in Elyria, Ohio, not far from Cleveland, Oberlin and Lake Erie. It’s not exactly wear-black-all-the-time country unless you’re 15 and have just discovered your parents’ old Joy Division albums.

The all-black ensemble comes in handy for some vampire-style advertising, which Payner has some experience with, but she’s not “into” vampires, she said — outside her trip through the old “Dark Shadows” TV series.

As for her children, who along with her husband wore black for many years, rebellion by necessity had to take a different color — one closer in spirit to Tom Wolfe than Johnny Cash:

My older son, when he was 16, came in one morning and he was wearing cream from head to toe. I said, “What happened?” He said, “I’m rebelling.” I said I must be the luckiest mother in the world if this is the way you’re going to rebel.

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