Here I am at 49 and I started a new career almost one year ago this month. After a lifetime of working for and with retailers, I channeled everything I’ve learned and started my own women's clothing boutique – robin b.
I often get asked, “Why on earth, in this economy and the age of e-commerce, would you choose to open a brick and mortar store?” This week, I’m diving deeper and opening up a bit more than usual, to fill you in on my journey towards robin b.
Let me back peddle a bit. I have been living and breathing fashion my entire life. I went to school for fashion and business management, determined to forge myself a career in the industry. Once I graduated, I started from the ground up, putting in my dues and gaining valuable insight along the way.
I began in retail management, then became a buyer, then a merchandiser, and, eventually, I turned towards the tech side of fashion, working alongside retailers to weave in the software solutions that were right for their business. I had a great career; it was exciting, I was successful and I enjoyed it. As I traveled from state to state and country to country, I would find myself gravitating towards local boutiques. In my down time, I’d always scope out these small businesses, on the hunt for a hidden gem piece to take home with me as a souvenir of my trip.
I came to realize that browsing these stores was more to me than just shopping. While I sorted through racks and scanned over shelves, my eyes were peeled for something truly unique. I wanted that piece that would make me stand out, align with my style, and that no one else would be wearing. Sifting through, I would ask about the origin of the pieces. I enjoyed hearing the stories behind each designer and feeling that connection often compelled me to purchase. When someone complimented my treasured piece, I loved being able to re-tell the story and share all that went into the item.
When I would return from my trips, I’d visit local stores looking to replicate those personable shopping experiences. The thing is, I couldn’t find it! I’d walk into a shop and see familiar pieces that my friends were already wearing or a similar selection to the boutique next door. Nothing called to me and I certainly didn’t feel connected.
I would find fair trade but it wouldn’t fit my style. I would discover a high-quality piece but there was no mention of where or by whom it was made. Store after store, it was all the same.
Having worked in the fashion industry my entire life, you may be thinking I just had exceptionally high expectations. But, as I began to discuss with friends, I realized that I wasn’t alone. I heard the same complaints; they wanted to look unique but couldn’t find those pieces that stand out at our local shopping spots. They wanted to feel good about what went into their clothing but the information wasn’t accessible. We didn’t want to look like everyone else and we wanted to be able to ethically back our purchases. We each have our own style and values and we wanted to expand on that, not someone else’s.
It was evident that I wasn’t the only one who wanted more from their clothing. There were other women out there who took pride in purchasing high-quality designs that were ethically-made, fair trade, and unique enough to meet the needs of the modern, fashion-forward woman. It became clear to me that the only way I was going to find the shopping experience I was after was if I actually created it myself. Cue the beginnings of robin b.
Robin b. has definitely evolved in the past year. We launched our brick and mortar store and online platform all at once (what was I thinking?!), rebranded the website, and we’re now working on a social media facelift. Woo! What a year!
Despite my years of industry experience, this new role as retailer has not been what I expected. I learned that I need help! I’m not a “jack of all trades” and I quickly realized that, in order to stay sane and see the boutique grow, I needed to create a team that could help me fill in the gaps. Together, the team and I are working behind the scenes to propel robin b. forward and begin the next chapter.
More than anything, I want to change the face of fashion. I want to support smaller vendors who produce in small batches and deliver those unique pieces you can fall in love with. I want the clothing we carry to tell a story and align with our morals. I want to introduce my own line of clothing that consists of high quality basics to help you build a timeless foundation for your wardrobe. Lastly, I want to expand! That may mean turning robin b. into a small chain of stores throughout New England or expanding my online presence (or both!) – ultimately, I want to deliver that mindful, ethical shopping experience I’m passionate about to more stylish women.
When you are deeply passionate about something, you have no choice but to go for it. And for that reason, in short, is exactly why I brought you robin b.
Love and Karma,