Shop Talk: Hampden Clothing

Written by on January 7, 2013 in Lifestyle, Shop Talk - 6 Comments
Shop Talk: Hampden Clothing

Hampden Clothing is known as the place to see—and be seen—in the charming southern town of Charleston, SC. Stacy Smallwood has created a fashion destination with cutting-edge labels and established designers—and changed the way much of this town dresses in the process! You won’t find the stereotypical punchy floral prints, pastel-hued polo shirts, or oversized pearls in Hampden, that’s for sure. In addition, Hampden frequently hosts events and trunk shows for the likes of Chris Benz, Tinsley Mortimer, and Lizzie Fortunato! From racks of Rag & Bone to Derek Lam, the possibilities for designer dressing are limitless.

Photography by Cobble Hill Digital

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  • You’ve created the must-visit shopping destination in Charleston for fashion lovers. How did Hampden Clothing become what it is today?
    I am flattered that you feel it has become a destination, as that was always my dream.  I wanted to bring together a collection of designers that were unique, young, and talented—but they were rarely found outside of New York and LA.  I definitely heard comments when opening like, “Do you really think someone down South is going to like Alexander Wang?” But the response has been amazing, and we have found loyal clients that come back year after year because they can find all of their favorite designers under one roof.

  • Is your Southern style reflected in your store?
    I believe it is, because there is still some preppiness thrown into the mix—but I’ll never be a floral girly-girl.  I still have to have my golden goose boots and leather jackets in the mix to keep the edge.

  • We love how you partner with designers and have created a design hub for industry events in the South. How do these collaborations develop?
    Much like life, I believe everything is about relationships.  I value how hard the sales reps work to help us buyers and how hard the designers work to keep innovating their collections.  I have consistently worked with many of my brands for 12 seasons.  We have been through a lot together, and I like to think our respect for one another is a big factor.  It was funny to hear David Neville say when he was in Charleston celebrating our five-year anniversary, “I remember filling out your UPS labels myself when Rag & Bone first got started.  You have been with us a long time, and we wanted to come say thanks.”  That was an amazing moment for me!

  • What is the most challenging aspect of owning a clothing store?
    Wearing so many different hats at one time!  Manager, cleaning lady, handyman, buyer, tech expert, interior designer, merchandiser, accountant, stylist, online marketer, SEO expert…the list goes on and on!  As soon as my head hits the pillow at night, I think of a million more things I want and need to do. It seems that my ongoing to-do list never gets any shorter!

  • What have you done to successfully grow your business?
    I think the best thing I have done is to never be satisfied and always look for new opportunities.  Fashion is about change, so you have to keep evolving your brand to keep your clients excited and interested.  My team laughs at me all the time and says, “You never know what Stacy is going to say next!”

  • Tell us about your new accessories store, James.
    James is named after my Great, Great Grandfather, James Hampden Small, who came from Scotland to Charleston.  I was named after him (Hampden is my middle name), and these two stores are like my children, so I used family names to represent them.  James has been in the back of my head for awhile, and when the space next door became available, it seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up.  It allows the customer to have 2 unique experiences in 2 different spaces.  Hopefully when you think of fashion in Charleston, you think of Hampden—and then when you think of accessories, you’ll now think of James.  We have all you need covered under one roof in 4,200 square feet of space on one of the best shopping streets in the world, King Street.  Plus, everything in both stores are available online for even more convenient shopping!

  • Do you have any tips for young women dreaming of opening their own boutique?
    Know your numbers, do your research, and work in retail beforehand!  People often get caught up in the idea of fashion and forget that you’re still running a business at the end of the day.  The love can be lost quickly when you’re stuck doing payroll or worrying about paying the bills.  This is a tough business, and not one for the faint of heart.

  • Who are your favorite designers?
    I love Rag & Bone and Alexander Wang—both I wear almost every day!  But, you can’t beat the way a pair of Jerome C. Rousseau heels make you feel!  Simply beautiful.

  • How do you sparkle?
    It sounds silly, but I hear from clients all the time, “I can’t pull that fashion piece off!” But I say, yes you can!  Confidence makes a woman sparkle, and nothing gives you more confidence than wearing something that makes you feel beautiful.  :)  Take a risk and express yourself through fashion…what’s the worst that can happen?!

  • Calder Clark

    Stacy is one of the most stylish friends I have, and an absolute gem of a person. Hampden rocks! Thanks for reminding us all!

  • Robyn

    What a stylish and chic store and owner! I would love to know where the ghost chair and throw came from?

  • Lauren Maxwell

    I live close to Charleston and adore this place. Thanks for the South Carolina feature!

  • Longhorn Fashions

    Love this interview! Great advice for anyone wanting to open a boutique or a business in general.

  • Allison

    Love the article and all of the amazing photos that capture Stacy so perfectly! Favorite place to shop, favorite girl 😉

  • Rena

    Oh, what a pity: this shop is so far away from our region.

    Thank you for warming up my heart and soul.



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