HubThreads: Celebrating Boston Street Style
Critics say this city has no style. We’re here to prove them wrong. Welcome to HubThreads, where we chat with the most stylish people we find out and about in Boston. Think you or someone you know has the best street style? Let us know.
You’ve been in retail in Boston for a while. Care to share a brief history? My husband and I ran Stel’s, with a partner, for 10 years. Prior to that I was the operations manager at Zegna when it was on Newbury Street. I took the job specifically so I could get a really good handle of the back-end operations of how to run a retail establishment, and I worked at Louis when it was at the corner of Newbury and Berkeley. My husband was there for five years, he worked in the finance office, and I worked in the buying office for almost two years. It’s hard to come out of that experience because it was such an amazing store. At the time, this was the mid 90s, fashion was a very different world, it very high-end and there was so much innovation. Debbie Greenberg and Murray Pearlstein, the owners, helped me hone my eye about what’s gonna work and what isn’t and taught me not to be afraid to take risks. They were constantly taking risks with vendors and styles within collections and were at the forefront of promoting independent, burgeoning brands; Dries would not be Dries if it weren’t for Louis Boston. So that’s where I got a taste for retail and it’s evolved over the years and now we’re at my second iteration of a retail brick and mortar with Covet and Lou.
Covet and Lou was online for many years before you decided to open the brick and mortar. Yes, we launched the site in 2013. When we closed Stel’s, that was at the beginning of this e-commerce phenomena that has grown to be almost unmanageable. After I left Stel’s, I worked at Karmaloop which had a little brick and mortar on Newbury Street, but their bread and butter was e-com and the majority of their budget was spent on developers. It made me realize that e-com wasn’t about fashion or retail, but it was about technology; from photography to user experience to the speed of the website, you have to keep in mind all of these things because you’re trying to translate what was known as a brick and mortar experience to online. There were no touch points. I saw this pocket where we could establish an e-com business around supporting independent brands. I took that philosophy to support these brands from Louis and Stel’s, because I saw that’s where the innovation, and quite frankly, where the most interest is in fashion. But a lot of the independent brands are tiny and they don’t have a lot of money or backing. The same person who is designing, is also the production manager, is also in sales, is also in shipping and packaging, and is also dealing with customer service issues. Covet and Lou was not the first to sell these brands online, but there was an opening for me to continue to support these brands and help them develop a much wider audience through the internet.
What are some of your favorite brands in the store right now? Lauren Manoogian is amazing. She’s knitwear and we do really well with her, obviously in the fall, but even in the summertime people crave her aesthetic. Her price point is a little bit higher, but it’s very, very luxe and it looks great on everybody. Black Crane are from Los Angeles and designed by a husband and wife team out of Japan. They produce everything in LA so they’re able to keep their price points down. Again its very architectural and sculptural and looks great on everyone. I always love No. 6, particularly the clogs. We had those clogs at Stel’s years and years ago and I was able to maintain my relationship with Karin Bereson, the owner of the company. They’ve done very well here and I think it makes sense from a New Englander’s perspective because they’re so functional. A Detacher is a brand that we started working with recently that does well for us. Mona Kowalska, the owner and designer, has been around forever, she has a store on Mulberry Street in Manhattan and her pieces are amazing. She creates all of her own textiles, she has a tiny little team and her store is beautiful. I also love a brand out of Germany called Anntian which also produces their own textiles, typically screen-printed onto silks or silk linen blends and cottons. The designers then cut the style based on those different fabrics. Everything is sort of one size and looks great on everybody. It’s always a nice pop of color and really just beautiful, beautiful clothing.
Were you always interested in fashion growing up? I was. I grew up in Wisconsin, so there wasn’t much of an outlet, but my mom is very fashion-forward and she would take me to Chicago quite a bit and to New York City. I was always reading fashion magazines. I still have stacks of fashion magazines from the 80s in my room back home.
Me too! I have all of these old Seventeen magazines that I can’t get rid of because they are such a time capsule. Yeah, you can’t get rid of them. I have stacks and stacks of Elle magazine because when Elle first came out in the 80s, that was the big thing. It was so innovative and the way that they shot clothes and the models that they used, it was very, very cool. I always grew up with a passion for fashion, thinking that maybe it would be a career somewhere down the road, but never really thought about how it would pan out because there are so many different avenues that you can take in this industry. The pieces just fell into place over the years and I feel like this is where I was meant to be.
How would you describe your own style? There’s definitely a tomboy slant to how I dress. I wear things a little oversized. I like my baggy jeans, I like my drop crotch sweatpants, I like menswear. I love a perfect crisp and clean men’s white shirt. Every now and then, I’ll mix in a feminine piece. The other day I was wearing an Anntian dress, which is oversized and blousy, with a gorgeous flower pattern and a muted palate of blacks and greys, and then I put on a Chelsea boot from Celine, to tie back into the menswear feeling.
Have you always had the same style or has it evolved? Always. Even in high school. I was never one for super girly clothes or dresses or makeup or blow drying my hair. I did have a perm though.
Didn’t we all! Everything with me has to be easy and that’s how it’s always been. I don’t typically like to take a lot of time to think about what I’m going to wear, I just throw on an outfit. When I buy something or invest in something, I wear it. My husband might say to me, “Why are you wearing that dress? Are you meeting someone? Do you have a date? What’s going on?” I say because I have it and I need to wear it, it’s a beautiful dress! I’ve always been that way. If its too fussy or there is too much going on and I can’t figure it out when I first try it on, then forget it, it’s not going to work.
It’s like you’re more drawn to the fabrics and the cut and the feel of clothes, than the idea of putting together a Look with a capital L. Oh definitely. For me, it’s about the individual piece and if I can incorporate some of my other things with it, that’s great, but I don’t typically think head-to-toe. I know there are men and women who do, and it makes them feel good and that’s how they express themselves. For me, I feel like throwing on that sweater and then whatever else is lying around the room that I can grab and will work with it. I think people think I’ve changed because I have kids now and I have a lot more on my plate than I did 10 years ago, but it’s always been that way for me.
You do have an effortless style. I don’t think it should be so hard. I don’t think you should have to think about it as much as some people do, because then it isn’t enjoyable. Fashion is fun. It’s also an expression of who you are. For some people it might be their only creative outlet, if they don’t write, they don’t paint, they’re not drawn to museums. But getting dressed is what you have to do every day, so I feel like it should be an easy thing that reflects who you are and you should have fun with it.
So even though you don’t put a ton of effort into your head-to-toe outfit, you still do feel like your style expresses who you are. Yes and I think that’s how people should dress. You’ve interacted with enough people, I’ve interacted with enough people to know when somebody doesn’t feel good in something they’re wearing. It doesn’t look right, they’re constantly fidgeting with it, it’s probably not the best fit for who they are.
You can tell when style is authentic. You can tell when it makes people feel good. They’re standing up a little bit straighter, they’re looking a little taller, you can see that. Be you through fashion, but let be an easy thing.
What are some shops in Boston that you like? Our home business is growing and that’s sort of where my eye has been taking me recently. I love Joanne Rossman, she has a beautiful little shop in Roslindale. If you get a chance, you should check it out, because it is stunning and she always goes balls to the walls for the holidays. Patch is always amazing. Those guys are bringing something different to New England that people resonate with. Its a very, very distinctive style. I think what All Too Human is doing is great, they’re bringing a level of fashion to the area.
Is there anything else that you want to add? I have to say that I feel like Boston gets a bad rap. I think we should get more credit for what is happening here in all areas of the creative world. We’re so close to New York City that it becomes a problem of association, but we are not New York. We are not meant to be New York. I think there has to more of an embracing of what’s happening in Boston. It’s definitely gotten better over the years, but I think people need to feel ok with being in their skin in Boston. It’s ok to be here. I’m happy to be here. There’s a lot of great things happening here, you just have to be open to it and venture out and find it.
That’s such a good thing to call out. Sometimes I think there is a self-fulfilling stereotype. Because we aren’t known to be a fashion city, we end up getting the most boring styles of a particular line. Buyers need to let go of the misconception that the Boston consumer is boring. It has to stop, it’s true. Clients are here! Alan Bilzerian can be here and survive in two locations for decades, and he started in Worcester! We need to rise to the occasion.