Fashion is a family affair for close-knit Gold Coast consigners

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Gabrielle Fumai swears she was a tomboy growing up, but her third-grade yearbook picture suggests otherwise.

“I remember sitting with my teacher, and she was just begging me to come up with what I wanted to be when I grew up,” she said. Each student’s photo was captioned with his or her dream future job.

“She ended up having to call my mom, and my teacher told her, ‘She wants to do what you do,’” Fumai said. Her mother told the teacher she was an accountant, but she knew her daughter was actually referring to her fascination with fashion.

Sorelle

Fumai, 28, a lifelong Oyster Bay resident, eventually charted a career in the fashion industry. She worked as a buyer right out of college for brands like Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren and Club Monaco. But her 10 years in New York City were tiring. “I missed the water and the trees,” she said, her eyes drawn to the sunlight pouring through the wide, white windows of her month-old shop, Sorelle.

Last month, she returned to her beloved hamlet to open the store, which specializes in curated merchandise with a focus on luxury fashion and consignment. Her inspiration, she said, was her family’s ties to two close-knit consigners, Nancy Berlangero, of Glen Cove, and Marian Lippiello, of Glen Head, who have made their living in the business for decades.

The pair met in 1978, when Berlangero, Fumai’s aunt, started working at Matchbox Boutique in Locust Valley, which Lippiello had opened six years earlier, when she was just 18.

Déjà Vu and Trois Jour

After 40 years in retail, Lippiello, 64, has a passion for consignment — a trading arrangement in which an item is placed in the care of a consignee until purchased by a buyer. “I found it interesting, the wide variety of things people bring in,” she said. “It’s so different from being in a retail environment. It’s more exciting.”

Berlangero and Lippiello are now the co-owners of Déjà Vu in Sea Cliff, which opened last year. “We were tired of the corporate world,” said the 64-year-old Berlangero, who spent most of her professional career as a saleswoman. “We wanted to be our own boss and share our love of fashion. It just evolved from that.”

Lippiello recently moved her Locust Valley store, Trois Jour, onto Sea Cliff Avenue in the village. Aside from clothing, the shop carries handbags, jewelry, furniture, bric-a-brac and home goods. “Because we’ve been in fashion for so long, we have a keen eye for display,” Lippiello said, “and that’s one thing that we hear from a lot of people.”

Positive practice

“There’s a reputation of trust there,” Berlangero said of her partner. “Nobody’s leaving here unless they look good.” For the two fashionistas — as they so lovingly call themselves — making people look good and feel good is paramount. “It’s not just about a sale,” Berlangero added.

That notion has been passed down over the generations. Fumai also values personal relations over profit. “I’m not a salesperson,” she said. “I like to talk to people about their life, and what brought them [to the store], and what they’re looking for.”

The greatest pleasure of her work, she said, is customers’ supreme satisfaction when they find items that fits seamlessly into their style. “You find something, you put it on, it fits you perfectly, and now you have to have it,” Fumai said. “That’s a Cinderella story, and it’s been a pleasure to witness it.”

The interactions she sees in her store remind Fumai of her childhood, growing up in a fashion-obsessed family. “Nancy and her sisters gifted each other the best clothes and the best pieces of jewelry,” she said. “They always came dressed to the nines for any party or event — dripping in gorgeous jewelry, leopard print, always looking the part. It gave me a huge sense of appreciation for the profession.”