Vogue, Marie Claire, Lucky, and Elle have all sang its praises. Even Today Show’s Kathy Lee and Hoda looked to its owner for tips while filming in our beautiful city this past Spring. Nestled in the storybook historic shopping district of King Street in Charleston, SC sits one of the country’s most celebrated boutiques, Hampden Clothing. Now on year six, owner Stacy Smallwood has expanded her celebrated shop into two high-end store fronts, most recently adding JAMES, a perfectly styled neighbor to the already known and loved Hampden Clothing. JAMES offers designer shoes, handbags, and accessories to accompany the thoughtfully selected pieces that Hampden is known for. With a total of 5,000 square feet of designer clothing and accessories and a list of designer labels that include Rag & Bone, Elizabeth & James, Helmut Lang, Tibi, Thakoon, Derek Lam, Hampden Clothing makes a big impact on Southern style by turning the city’s cobble stone streets into glimpses of New York runways. And it doesn’t stop there; Hampden Clothing’s online shop allows people from all over the World to get a piece of the action too. Now that’s what you call “Southern hospitality”.
Read on to hear more from the woman in charge about how she does her magic.
Q: Hampden Clothing has really grown over the years, moving locations on King and now including JAMES too. Did you have this vision when you started years ago?
A: I would have to say YES! I come from a family of entrepreneurs and I am not the type to sit still, so I always wanted to keep taking risks. In fashion you have to continue to push yourself and take risks in order to stay relevant.
Q: What made you decide to open JAMES?
A: Fashion is all about change and you have to stay ahead of the game. Handbags and shoes have become a big part of the retail landscape and many of my current RTW designers were also making accessories collections that I wanted to wear myself. Plus, everything is about timing. The space next door came available at a time when I saw the growth in those categories and therefore it only made sense to create a separate space that would allow the customers a separate shopping experience.
Q: What has been the biggest sellers / most popular with your Charleston clientele?
A: Rag & Bone is a huge brand for us. They have evolved as designers and built a brand that appeals to so many different people. David and Marcus, the designers, have been great partners as well over the past six and a half years and even re-created their Spring 2012 Runway Show in Charleston in honor of our big five year anniversary.
Q: What is the difference between your online shoppers and in-store shoppers with what they like?
A: Our in-store customers have come to trust us and rely on us for our styling advice. As of now, many of our online shoppers find us because they are searching for a particular item online, discover our incredible assortment, and are hooked. There is nothing more exciting than getting an online order and finding out not only what they chose but also where they live. I love it. They come from all over the world, Australia to Texas, and tend to take a risk on items from Alexander Wang handbags to Theyskens Theory crop tops.
Q: How do you choose looks each season? Do you have a certain woman in mind when doing so?
Our entire team flies to New York to visit the designers and showrooms and personally selects items with particular people in mind. If we get to know your style, then we always are on the look out for something special we think you might love. We also compile comments and feedback from the previous season and ask ourselves: were people looking for more casual or more dressy, does that item fit into their lifestyle, where are they going in that piece? A lot of thought goes into every single piece that we buy!
Q: Who’s hot for spring and summer 2013?
A: Pastel colors are definitely new and fresh. Think mint green, blush pink, or lilac. I love the colors from Alexander Wang’s Spring Collection. Also, don’t forget to do tonal: white on white, blush pink on blush pink, or print on print. Have fun.
Q: What is the biggest trend you see for Fall 2013?
A: Leather sleeve jackets, colors: camel and cobalt blue, and mad for plaid
Q: What do you want your boutique to be known for?
A: A unique assortment, always evolving, and great service
Q: If you could add any lines to the already amazing ones you carry, which labels would they be?
Stella McCartney and Isabel Murant Collection
Q: What makes Hampden Clothing different?
You may find many of these lines in other places, but you won’t see our selections. People say all the time, “I shop everywhere but I have never seen these items by Rag & Bone.” I think we do a good job of balancing both trend pieces and what you are actually going to wear.