If you’ve ever dreamed about owning your own boutique, this week’s Stripe Talk is for you! Stacy Smallwood is one of the best in the biz and her boutique, Hampden Clothing, has been recognized by both Vogue + Marie Claire as one of the top boutiques in the country. The shop stocks all of my favorite designers… Helmut Lang, Rag & Bone, Carven… on Charleston’s historic King Street. Read on for an inspiring interview… and learn what it really takes to have your own store!
Can I just gush to you guys about how excited I am about today’s Stripe Talk? (I know… I’m always really excited about these interviews.) I met Stacy during our trip to Charleston last weekend and just loved her. I had popped into Hampden Clothing during our block of free time. I instantly fell in love with the store (and everything in it) and was blown away by how warm and friendly Stacy is. She hugged me! I got to spend more time with her over the weekend and besides being incredibly warm and down to earth, she’s also smart, savvy, hilarious and incredibly hard working.
Grace: Tell me a little bit about how you got your start in the industry. What was your first job?
Stacy: After attending Vanderbilt University, I was lucky enough to go straight into the Neiman Marcus buying program. It was the perfect beginning into learning the reality of retail and how mathematical and pragmatic buying can be. I was an assistant buyer for some of the most respected women in the business, and I wouldn’t be where I am today had I not worked for them. They taught me a lesson that I live by today…”never ask someone to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself.” Neiman’s opened me up to see the bigger picture of the fashion world, and I am grateful for the experience.
Grace: Coming from Dallas, where Neiman Marcus’ HQ is, what made you pick Charleston for a location?
Stacy: Growing up in Greenville, SC, we would spend our summers at my family’s home on Isle of Palms and my favorite thing to do was walk King Street as a child. It still unimaginable to think that I know come to King Street every day to open the doors of my own shop. Charleston has such an eclectic community of people who have moved here from all over the world. Plus, with 4 million visitors a year, you never know who is going to walk through the door…the managing editor of vogue.com to Grace Atwood! (ha!)
Grace: Where does the name Hampden Clothing come from?
Stacy: My Great Great Grandfather was named James Hampden Small and settled in Charleston from Scotland. Hence the names of both of my stores…James, my accessories store and Hampden my Clothing store.
Grace: Yes! Tell me about your accessory store, James!
Stacy: Since opening Hampden in 2007, I have seen several of my favorite brands expand into designing their own accessories such as Rag & Bone, Alexander Wang, & 3.1 Phillip Lim and I felt that it was a natural progression for me as well to grow and expand my own presence on King Street. In December 2012, I opened James so that we can complete a woman’s look in one stop because both stores connect!
Grace: Describe your typical day.
Stacy: I typically wake up at 8am, roll over & check my phone for emails before I even leave the bed. Instagram is next and then of course stripesandsequins.com for new blog posts! Then, it is off to grab an iced starbucks non-fat one sweet-n-low latte, and yes I go everyday and yes I still use the pink stuff (sweet-n-low). HA.
Next, it is off to the store to respond to the over 200 emails I get a day, help clients who happen to be visiting from all over the US, send out a couple of approval packages with personally chosen items for some of our best clients that live from TX to NY, grab a sandwich down the street and eat at my desk, go over Profit & Loss statements with my accountant, map out email blasts for the week with my website manager, verify order confirmations from our over 50 designers we work with, post on instagram our new arrivals from Helmut Lang to Simone Rocha, and end the day at the store with a team meeting to discuss what is ahead for tomorrow.
I don’t cook so my husband of 10 years often meets me out for a bite and then it is back on the laptop from 9pm to 11pm to answer more emails, update clients on new arrivals that I think would look great on them, respond to designer requests, and check over our website for new stock posts and lookbooks. I watch an hour of bad television and hit the bed about 12am every night. Whew…lets do it again!
Grace: I know I always dreamed of opening up my own boutique… what advice do you have for S&S readers who might have that same dream?
Stacy: Get ready to work like you never have before because being an owner means you never turn it off…you are always thinking of work! You just can’t help it. The biggest misconception is that you need to go to design school or major in fashion in order to be to go down this career path but at the heart of everything is business. It is more important to understand an Excel Sheet and Profit & Loss Statement than it is to know how to hem a skirt.
Grace: What trends for Fall are you most excited about?
Stacy: Cropped culottes are so new and fresh and look great back to a boxy sweater because bigger is better this season and next. Plus, we will see a ton of the culottes for Spring 15. Long cardigans and Chunky knits paired back to a silky skirt or dress. Playing with different textures can be so fun. And, statement shoes from the colorful Alexander Wang heels to the Rag & Bone Wyatt in Leopard. Accessories are such a fun way to change your look and show off your sense of style.
Grace: And what are your best sellers right now?
Stacy: We always do well with Rag & Bone as we have been carrying the collection since the day we opened in Feb. 2007. We have their jeans, shoes, handbags, hats, scarves, and of course RTW. We also have been doing really well with 10 Crosby by Derek Lam as the fit is truly impeccable and the styles can fit a woman in her 20s to a woman in her 60s. Finally, Carven is a huge collection for us and truly embodies our style of classic with a twist. Carven was one of my most favorite collections for Fall 2014.
Grace: Who are your favorite designers?
Stacy: I am in awe of Simone Rocha right now as I feel her pieces are truly works of art. I attended her Runway Show in London for Spring 15 and it was simply moving sitting in the audience. I am also a huge fan of Acne because their designs are so simple yet have an unexpected edge. And Thakoon knows how to make the perfect dress to fit a woman’s body. His show in NY is always one of my favorites!
Grace: And what about local faves? Who are your favorite local Charleston designers right now?
Stacy: I love the jewelry that Theodosia is designing because her pieces are the perfect finishing touch you need to complete your outfit. We can’t keep her horn pendants in stock! And, the Charleston Rice Beads by Candy Shop Vintage are becoming the must grab item when visiting Charleston.
Grace: Let’s talk about beauty… tell me about your beauty routine and the products you use.
Stacy: I have very dry skin and therefore I am obsessed with moisturizers and the one from Skinceuticals is my new favorite for the face and the M61 eye cream is my new savior for my puff eyes. I am also queen of the red lip, and the Nars lip crayon in Dragon Girl…fitting name…is my signature!
Grace: And tell me life in Charleston. What are your favorite local spots (aka, where should I go when I visit Charleston next?)
Stacy: Because I never cook, my mom calls Red Drum in Mount Pleasant my “kitchen”. We can be seen there for a quick bite at the bar or for their great brunch on a Sunday. FIG is a must visit while in Charleston and consistently one of the best restaurants in Charleston. With their every changing fresh menu, I could literally eat their every night if my budget would allow.
Grace: Tell me about your personal style. How does living in the South influence your style… and what are your essentials?
Stacy: I am always wearing a blazer & booties! I throw one over everything…a dress, a tee and jeans, or even shorts and a top. I think that I have a masculine edge that I incorporate subconsciously into all of my outfits…lets just say I love a stripe and a sequin but I will probably pair it back to a menswear loafer.
Grace: Who are your style icons?
Stacy: I don’t know if I truly have style icons but instead am constantly inspired by people I see on the street in all of my travels. If anything, I idolize the designers who create the pieces of art more than the people who wear them.
A huge, huge thank you to Stacy for participating in this series. (Read last week’s Stripe Talk here!)