WHAT CAN LOCAL LUXURY BOUTIQUES TELL US ABOUT THE FUTURE OF RETAIL?

The lights dim and guests take their seats — the Proenza Schouler show is about to start. We’re not in New York City, or even at fashion week, but in Charleston, South Carolina, and seated next to a smattering of the editors you might expect is a row of women dressed head-to-toe in the New York label . They’re not celebrities, influencers or merchandisers, but actual shoppers, getting an up-and-close look at the brand’s latest in large part thanks to Stacy Smallwood, the founder of Hampden Clothing, who gathered a group of clients and friends to celebrate the store’s 15-year anniversary through a runway experience that many of her regulars have never had the chance to take part in before.
The models for Proenza Schouler's Charleston show with Hampden Clothing, with designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez.
After two years of closures, mask mandates and disrupted shopping cycles that have hit small businesses particularly hard, local but impactful fashion boutiques like Hampden — that sell luxury fashion through a regional lens and bring a level of personalized attention to interested shoppers that would otherwise be relegated to purchasing online — are hitting a new stride.
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“We can’t avoid bad things happening in life. It’s about how we approach it,” says Smallwood. “If we sit in fear, we can’t move forward. One of the biggest things that allowed us to grow in such a huge way after Covid is that we took action by staying in touch with our clients, because we do care about them as a person, first and foremost.”
Inside Charleston's Hampden Clothing.