Pop-up shopping experience at Garden State Plaza

The Gathering Shops is a brand-new pop-up at the Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus, New Jersey. The collection of small designers is getting exposure to more than 18 million shoppers a year in one of the top malls in the country.

Co-founder Sal Martorano says the beauty of the Gathering Shops is that it takes the designers and puts them someplace they really can't be. Emerging designers all have a need for distribution, co-founder Brandt Mandia says, but the problem is that they don't have the capital to have a brick-and-mortar store or do their own marketing.

The Gathering Shops offers designers both. On the flip side, shoppers get to check out fresh and even local brands they've never seen before.

Director of talent acquisition Anna Maria Sandegren Boujnah hand-picks the brands, including Andreeva, a designer Anna Wintour singled out at the Paris fashion shows. Andreeva is from Ukraine but is based in New York.

Kinderkind Kids is a children's clothing brand designed in New Jersey.

For the men, the brand Digmi has the motto "Live, Dream, Be." Former Long Island Ducks baseball player Ray "Digmi" Navarrete is the designer.

You'll also find jewelry and home goods. And new brands are regularly introduced. Brandt says they plan to rotate three to five new designers into the Gathering Shops each month to keep things fresh and new and to keep consumers coming back.

Brandt and Sal met 30 years ago working on the same Wall Street trading desk. They came up with the idea for the Gathering Shops a year ago. They say the mall signed on to their pitch right away. Brandt says they were 30 seconds into their talk and a gentleman from the mall's team stopped and said he got it immediately.

The mall was struggling to attract millennials, who generally shop online. The mall also couldn't attract smaller designers who can't afford the retail space and aren't big enough to get an order from one of the bigger department stores.

The Gathering Shops was offering the mall a platform to bring in both the smaller designers and the younger shoppers. And it's not just about shopping—it's also about the experience. Sal says they plan to bring in DJs and have meet-and-greets with the designers to create a really personal and fun shopping experience.

Sal and Brandt started the Gathering Shops in New Jersey but hope to bring the concept to malls around the country.

They're also looking for up-and-coming designers. If you've got a unique brand and a great story to tell, go to www.thegatheringshops.com.

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