I was introduced to W.O.W. Boutique through Kozan, one of my favorite clothing brands. As I followed their Instagram posts and stories, I knew I wanted to learn more about this boutique. And I’m so glad I did! Erica, the owner, is so real and funny. I enjoyed talking with her as I learned about W.O.W. Erica has a great eye and selected some fabulous pieces for me to share with you!
When did you open your boutique?
I opened W.O.W. in 1996 with my mom, Ellen.
What made you decide to open a boutique?
I was a clothing, jewelry and shoe fanatic from birth. Both grandmas and mom were fashionistas as was (is) every person in our family. I would spend my days as a toddler setting up my “droolry store” in my grandmas’ dressing rooms. I would wrap myself and my sister up in blankets as dresses and hang Christmas ornaments from our ears with ribbons and plod around in our mom’s shoes showing off “our fashions”. I was addicted to crystal and rhinestones and sequins and lamé. Being a textile family made this easy and hereditary. My grandpa owned a knitting mill. My other was a luxury fabric rep. in Dallas and my parents owned an import/wholesale/retail textile corporation with 30 locations worldwide most of my life. (Marimekko’s direct competition in the 70’s) I grew up on the sales floor playing with buttons and rolls of trim and lace. I love(d) dressing up and was good at helping others do the same even as a kid.
I could spend hours at Marshalls or Filene’s Basement (a Boston icon) or Loehmanns sifting through racks of goods and putting things together. I always knew with my family retail and textile background and my love of dressing myself and others it would lead to a store of my own. Even though my parents warned/pleaded/begged me and my sis to “Never go into Retail” 😉 Both ended up helping us do just that. Me with my mom in fashion and Alexa with my dad in contemporary furniture.
Do you have a background in fashion?
I became a jeweler, graduating from Tufts and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in 1994. I knew I wasn’t going to be a traveling trade show artist and I didn’t want to go work for someone else. So Mom suggested a studio space with a storefront. And so it was written.
What do you look for when ordering clothes and accessories for your shop?
This answer has changed over the last 26 yrs…
Early on we specialized in one of a kind handmade artists work mixed in with a couple of small arty manufacturers we both liked. Mom was a small curvy lady and I’ve been a plus size gal since college. I wanted both size ranges so everyone could shop at W.O.W. together and find equally beautiful and different things. The store was only 400 sq ft so it was intimate to say the least. As we grew and moved to bigger space and had a following, I/we looked for the creative and “off beat” as my grandma Hazel would say. Never trendy but on trend. Things that would always be great looking, current, appropriate, interesting and DIFFERENT!!!! W.O.W. Is WOW for a reason 😉 [DOABH: This really speaks to me as I love pieces that are different and why I was so excited when I found W.O.W. and am so excited to share them with you!]
Do you stay with the same designers or try different ones?
We carried small makers who did limited edition collections and production, but in a special way. Worldwide finds that could work together and be added into an already existing wardrobe to pump it up and create new and interesting combos with what one already owns.
Textiles are incredibly important as you can imagine from info above. Fabric means a lot!! I’m tough on prints! I need the materials to feel great, look good, and hold up to years of wear. I want edgy and funky styling that makes people notice the garment, the wearer, and hopefully have a complimentary conversation about it. I feel that what we wear draws people to us or repels them. I want people to find interest in each other and connect over ones “look” or “style” so the things I want for W.O.W. should encompass some of all of this.
Now… that being said, times have changed. So…
Today I still look for my wants but realize that many are not dressing like they used to. They aren’t doing, going, working, traveling, entertaining, socializing etc… like they used to. Today my focus is on comfortable, user friendly clothing that still look fabulous and have some novelty and creativity to them. That I will never lose.
I do stick with many of my lines loyally but only if I love what they are doing. I can’t just buy from them because I always do if the goods are not to my liking or aren’t salable for me. It’s hard to take a break from good vendors/friends but my grandpa, the rep, used to remind me of his lovely Texan lady who used to say “Aww Harold… I sure do like it but I sure can’t buy it” lol. He always knew what that meant. It was the “Bless Your Heart” form of “Thanx but No”
I used to work with over 110 lines/makers. Now in my new little space I can not. Trying new collections and products is imperative especially now. People are jaded and fickle. So ya gotta give ‘em something new.
What is your favorite part of owning a fashion boutique?
My favorite part of owning the store now is the shopping for it and the relationships I have made with my makers/vendors/reps and fellow retailers. I also love receiving new goods and putting it all together and creating Art with the products. When a great creative open client is the canvas it’s even more fun!!!
What is the hardest part?
The hardest part is still the stress of $$ and keeping the business going other than the finding great things to sell. My staff are amazing and loyal women who have been with me for 12-15 years each and gone through a lot. But being the boss isn’t always fun for me. That’s what Mom was good at. Sadly we lost Ellen 10 yrs ago at 68 to cancer.
If I had a boutique I’d want to keep everything I sell. Are you like that? If you are, how do you keep from doing so?
I do keep more than I should but again since we cover XS-3x and I’m a 3x I can’t own the rest. I’m not a bag/purse girl so those are safe from me and jewelry? I have such a gigantic collection already I’m actually at the point where I’m pretty hard to please. Something would have to make me want to stop wearing 40 other things I love in order to make it part of my collection these days.
What is the meaning of the name W.O.W.?
W.O.W. Stands for Wonderful Ornament for Women. Ornament magazine was the best wearable art mag out there for decades showcasing the amazing handmade work of artists everywhere. It was my bible. When thinking up a name my MOM was thinking about “Ornament” as personal adornment and self expression and how to use it in a name for the shop. She was batting around alliterative word combos on a napkin on a plane one day and put down Wonderful Ornament for Women … W.O.W. As the anagram, and the person next to her said “hey WOW is MOM upside down”!! That was it. She was MOM and we were WOW!!! It turns out to be the #1 word most people use when they walk into a booth at a Craft Show and it turned out to be the #1 word they said when walking into our shop! So it fit!!
And does that name fit! I loved everything I put on! I can’t wait to visit Erica in her boutique in Needham, MA. Until then I will be keeping a very close eye on what Erica posts on Instagram and Facebook!