The Art of the Fashion Investment

For Beth Buccini and Sarah Easley, co-owners of New York City's Kirna Zabête—a colorful boutique with an aesthetic one might describe as "high-fashion candy store"—overflowing wardrobes are a job hazard. "That's just a reality of my life: I save everything," said Ms. Buccini, who refers to one of her closets as "the archive." Later this month, the pair will have even more wardrobe-busting temptations with which to contend. Ms. Buccini and Ms. Easley will relocate their business to a 10,000-square-foot space at 477 Broome St., a block away from their current location on Greene St., which they opened in 1999. The décor of the store, by interior designer Steven Gambrel, will prominently feature Kirna Zabête's trademark colors—bright pink and red—along with new elements like a black-and-white striped floor. They've also created a large eveningwear section, and added 30 new labels including Mary Katrantzou, Nina Ricci, Sacai, Roland Mouret and Valentino.

Even with constant access to the newest clothes and accessories, both women still keep and regularly wear items from past seasons. In this capricious era of fast-fashion and short-lived trends, finding pieces that endure, both in terms of workmanship and style, has become a challenge. However, Ms. Buccini and Ms. Easley, both 41, agree that it's not impossible.

URL: The Art of the Fashion Investment

"If you're going to collect clothes, you should definitely pick special, interesting pieces that can last forever," said Ms. Buccini. Their own wardrobe winners tick both of those boxes.

One star of Ms. Buccini's closet is a bohemian printed chiffon dress from Balenciaga purchased eight years ago when she was pregnant. The dress, which she has since tailored down to a nonmaternity size, is one she pulls out again and again. Its power lies in its versatility. "I've worn it every way you could possibly wear it: black-tie, office, beach," she said. Another top contender—a puff-sleeved hot pink leopard top by Lanvin, bought four years ago—has also logged many miles for very different occasions. Ms. Buccini even wore it to her high school reunion, paired with jeans. "I never met a leopard print I didn't like," she cracked.

Jewelry and accessories make good keepers since they're free from the constraints of fluctuating body size. Ms. Easley particularly adores a pair of elegant cuffs by French jewelry designer Aurélie Bidermann made of lace that has been dipped in silver. "You can wear one, or you can wear both. They look really cool over a long sleeve too. They're seasonless," she said.

Ms. Buccini, meanwhile, expects to hold on to a pair of bright, toylike sandals with translucent heels, made by designer Nicholas Kirkwood in collaboration with Peter Pilotto. "I'm crazy about the color," she said of the pair, which she bought last spring. The clincher: "They're comfortable."

Both women agree that outerwear is worth investing in for the long run. One of Ms. Easley's oldest pieces is a skinny leather jacket from Rick Owens, bought in 1999. "He distressed it himself," she said. "The leather jacket is one of those classics that will always find itself back into the cycle of whatever you're wearing." Another smart choice was her mink-collared trench coat from Lanvin, bought in 2004, as a "closer piece."

"You can be wearing a simple T-shirt and leggings, and put this on and it transforms you completely," she said.

"And you will wear this when you're 80," added Ms. Buccini. "You could buy three trendy, tossable pieces, or you could invest that in one perfect trench coat that you'll have for a lifetime. That's where women get in trouble."

Indeed, while high fashion often comes with a matching price tag, both women prefer to run that lofty number through a formula that calculates the long-term cost-per-wear ratio. "I think of it as amortization," said Ms. Easley.

Still, she and Ms. Buccini are aware of the sliding scale of what's considered affordable. Their boutique carries a range of goods, from bright, woven Venessa Arizaga friendship bracelets for $55 to a Céline python bag for $5,200. There are also crystal-studded T-strap sandals from Ms. Easley and Ms. Buccini's current collaboration with Nine West, for $79.

Reflecting on how their personal lives have changed since they first went into business, both women agree that life experiences have informed their buying choices. "We remember what it was like to be 25. But now we know what it's like to be 41, and those life challenges equal outfit challenges," said Ms. Easley.

"It's made us more well-rounded women," added Ms. Buccini. "We know what a celebrity needs to wear on the red carpet, but we also know what someone needs to wear at a weekend soccer game."

When it comes to buying high-ticket items, Ms. Buccini's primary rule is to follow your heart: "When you're spending this much money on clothes, you need to have an emotional attachment."

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