Store aesthetic, fashion trends influence local boutiques’ offerings

A+rack+of+clothes+displayed+at+the+bluebird+boutique.+The+local+business+obtains+clothes+through+wholesale+markets+with+the+included+bonus+of+meeting+and+learning+from+other+vendors.+

Photo courtesy of bluebird boutique

A rack of clothes displayed at the bluebird boutique. The local business obtains clothes through wholesale markets with the included bonus of meeting and learning from other vendors.

By Olivia Vamos, Contributing Writer

Champaign-Urbana is home not only to the University, but also to multiple boutiques that offer niche clothing not typically found in malls and chain stores. For three local boutiques, choosing what clothes to sell depends on the shop’s aesthetic, trends and what’s available at clothing markets. 

bluebird boutique 

Angie Armstrong is the owner of bluebird boutique. She said she gets clothes for her boutique at wholesale markets. To shop at these markets, buyers must be registered as wholesale buyers. These markets are in a lot of big cities and typically have many different vendors. Armstrong typically purchases clothes at the market in Chicago. 

“It’s thousands of square feet filled with vendors,” she said. “And the vendors all set up for the show, and it’s a show that we go to and it lasts days. I can walk around all three days and not see the same vendor. And I walk around and I try to find things that I feel like will sell in my store.”

Armstrong said there are different spots for various clothing items at these markets.

“That’s also where we learn (about) new vendors and we meet new vendors that want to get their stuff out there,” she said. “So then we’ll sit down and talk to them, they’ll show us their product, and if we feel like it’s something that would sell in our store, then we would buy a pack. Everything comes in packs.”

Armstrong explained that at these markets, buyers cannot just buy a single item — like a single shirt — but must buy multiple shirts. She said she keeps in mind what her customers like and what she likes when she goes to the markets.

“It’s a guessing game really,” Armstrong said. “I shop typically for things that I like, and then I’ve got customers that are regulars that I know what their style is, and so I think of them when I’m shopping as well.”

For example, Armstrong said many of her customers like graphic tees, so she’ll keep that in mind when looking for items. 

Armstrong said she will try to follow trends when finding clothes for her boutiques. However, instead of following specific aesthetics, she tries to look for clothes that she thinks will sell.

She said when looking for an item — such as shackets, known as lightweight shirts — for her boutique, she will try to think about finding specific colors. Since bluebird boutique is near campus, she might look for a shacket with orange and blue colors in it. If a holiday like Christmas is coming up, she would look for shackets that have red and green in them and display the shacket with a graphic tee.

Armstrong said she uses social media and the clothing market to stay aware of trends. She derives her boutique inspiration in many different ways based on what she thinks is best for the store. 

“I’ve always loved fashion and just have always been a fashion-forward person in my style,” Armstrong said. “I look at magazines, I look online, the vendors that I buy from, a lot of them are constantly emailing me, or they want to show me something or they’ll do a Zoom meeting, so I’m always getting things sent to me via email of new styles, of new things that are coming out.” 

Bohemia Boutique

Milea Hayes is the owner of Bohemia Boutique. Like Armstrong, Hayes typically goes to markets in Chicago to find clothes for her boutique. She has gotten to know certain sales representatives, so she might go to their shows or order from them online.

Hayes said she goes to these markets with a certain style in mind when looking for clothes for her boutique. Although she goes to the markets with an idea of what she wants, she said she can find new ideas there as well and then choose what she likes. 

Although Bohemia Boutique follows a bohemian aesthetic, Hayes said she also tries to incorporate other styles of clothing that she likes. She said the bohemian style is inspired by the ’60s and ’70s fashion in California, and the clothing is vintage inspired. 

“We have wide-leg pants, we have flowy clothing, brighter colors, bold patterns, nothing that’s necessarily trendy. No labels,” Hayes said. 

Some examples of the bohemian style are comfortable clothing, flowy dresses and bell-sleeve shirts.

Hayes said she finds her inspiration for her boutique at the clothing markets. She also tries to find things made in the U.S. She considers the type of material and fabrics when looking for clothes.

“We’ll look at the fabric, like what the patterns are,” Hayes said. “I love anything cotton. We have a lot of rayon blend clothing, a lot of linen, kind of more natural fibers.”

Checkered Moon Boutique

Paula Charter is the manager and buyer of Checkered Moon Boutique. She said she will go to different markets several times a year when finding clothes for the boutique, mostly frequenting markets in Chicago and Atlanta. Also, sometimes representatives bring clothing or jewelry lines to Checkered Moon to show Charter.

Like Bohemia, she said she finds trends by paying attention to the market. Charter said the boutique buys items based on trends and colors for the season. The boutique also consider its customers.

“We’ve gotten to know our customer, and we usually buy what our customer has either asked for, or we’ve had a history and we know what works and what doesn’t,” Charter said. “But we also buy according to trends and in terms of what the market is showing.”

The boutique offers items like maxi dresses, jean jackets and tops.

Charter said Checkered Moon tries to have items that tell a story.

“When I say a story, I mean (that) when we buy items, we don’t just buy a handful of assorted things,” Charter said. “We make sure that there’s a story that can be presented in the shop, whether it be a color scheme, or that the items all complement each other in some form or another. We’re pretty careful about that.”

Charter said the overall look of Checkered Moon is on-trend. However, there is not one specific look.

“We do a lot of European styles, when I say that I specifically mean like Denmark and Norway,” Charter said. “We have particular designers from there, so their looks are a little bit more European, but we also have plenty of designers from the U.S., and we probably serve customers anywhere from (ages) 16 to 85, so there’s a huge market in there for each of the looks that we present.”

 

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