Thursday, 20 November 2008

SB Hearts Ooh La Luxe Boutique

As every fashionista worth her Manoloes knows nothing beats boutique shopping. It's the thrill of skimming through a beautifully edited collection and revelling in the atmosphere of decadence and luxury.

And someone who knows about that better than most is Kimberly Lawson. A graduate of prestigious design college The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in California she started her online boutique Ooh La Luxe ( at the age of 22 and stocks uber trendy labels such as Voom by Joy Han, Love Quotes and Lauren Conrad. I caught up with the fashion entrepreneur to find out more about what it's like being in the fashion business.

SB: What inspired you to start up Ooh La Luxe boutique?

KL: Fashion is something I loved from a young age. When I was about six, I was making clothes and costumes out of grocery bags and I started designing using Barbie stencils when I was in the 3rd grade, so that love was always there and I knew I would have to work in fashion one way or another. Initially, I intended on being a designer but I realized that I really liked working with a variety of lines and choosing the best pieces from them. So having my own store was something I dreamed about all through college and afterwards. I love helping other women to look their best and find the pieces they want.

SB: How are your items different from what people can buy in malls and the high

KL: Oh gosh, I think there's a huge difference in mall vs. boutique shopping to begin with! When I think of mall shopping I think mass production. You're shopping where everyone else shops and you'll probably spot plenty of people wearing the things you have. But boutiques bring in more unique pieces that will be special to you, I've even had customers tell me this. And this is especially true with because we always spot underexposed brands like Bryce & Bouji, Egoist and Plastic Island before they become huge. And even in the more popular lines like Voom, we usually pick great fitting, great looking pieces that the other boutiques don't have. We also only carry 4 or 5 pieces in each garment, so the changes of spotting anyone else wearing what you have is pretty slim to none.

SB: What do you look for in designers you stock in the boutique?

KL: I like designers who create pieces with a lot of unique details. I want to see them take trends and spin them in their own way so that the customer will look more "chic" and less "faddish" when wearing these fashion forward pieces. And of course, they have to be well made, well tailored, and flattering to a large segment of womens bodies.

SB: As an online shop do you think you're at an advantage or a disadvantage when it comes to competing with bricks and mortar stores?

KL: That's a good question! I think there are equal advantages and disadvantages to shopping online. I'd love to have walk in traffic or for it to be easier for customers to try on merchandise. But at the same time, I love that I can reach anyone in the world and that potential customers can use a search engine and be directed to the exact product they're looking for on my site. That right there is pretty powerful! So I would say I have a tad bit of an advantage.

SB: What do you think makes you stand out compared to other online boutiques?

KL: I always try to add fun touches to Ooh La Luxe! in order to make the online shopping experience a bit more fun. For example, I added the scrolling billboard on the main page as well as a couple of other pages which is kind of like window shopping all the new arrivals. And I also give fit tips for each item and ideas on how to style every piece.

SB: If you weren't doing this job what other line of work would appeal to you?

KL: I would probably still work in fashion, maybe as a buyer for another store or as a sales rep. But basically, I love anything fashion related or anything creative.

SB: Who's your favourite designer?

KL: Just one? That's hard! I love any designers who make beautiful things. I really love what Elie Saab does every season as well as Monique Lhuillier, and I like a lot of Marchesa's work as well.

SB: Where do you see Ooh La Luxe in 5 years time?

KL: In 5 years I definitely see a brick and mortar Ooh La Luxe! boutique in existence. I also see the website as one of the handful of well known, well respected online boutiques with tons of product lines and a great mix of well known brands and hot up and comers.

SB: What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting up their own online boutique?

KL: Learn as much as you can about fashion, sales and running a business. I think hands on experience and book knowledge are both important. Try to take fashion courses, marketing courses, classes in business management, and definitely work in retail so you can hone your skills as a salesperson and learn about customer service. Even if you're just working at the mall, which is what I did, it can help a lot. And learn as much as you can about the potential customers in the area you wish to open your boutique (if it's online, then pick a niche and stick to it). Also, immerse yourself in fashion. You've got to live and breathe it!

The lovely Kimberly is giving all Style Bazaar readers 20% off any item in the store just enter in the code "stylebazaar" at the check out.

Aren't I good to you :) Enjoy!

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