Gabrielle Chin's boutique, Bohemian Belle, is one of those boutiques that keeps you coming back to see what else you need to pick up. AW's TSO reporter Curt Cawley pulls up a Plexiglas high chair to discuss casual luxury and effortless style with the urbane Chin...
What's the genesis of your store's name?
Brown Sugar was originally the name I wanted to have for our registration. Unfortunately, we were pending and since any business has to have a trading name, I went with my plan B, Bohemian Belle. That name has become an even better anchor for my business as we've sought to define casual luxury through our brand.
How long have you been in the retail industry?
This is our third year; our doors opened in 2010.
What keeps you interested in the business of fashion?
I love its change of seasons and the energy that the younger generation of emerging designers bring to the table. Also, when purchasing piece after piece of boutiquery, the texture and colour of fabric is what informs me and gets me charged. Retail should, for the most part, be enjoyable, regardless of whether you're buying a lipstick or a car; and more than anything else, that is what I want for every person that walks through our doors. Life is kind of tough for everyone right now; everyone's a bit hard-pressed, so when you have that opportunity or that moment to have that interaction, they should be made to feel good; to be left with a great impression.
I must say, through this business I've met some great individuals. I aspire to turn my customers into friends. It's nice to be able to say to them "How are your kids?", "How's your family?" or "What happened last weekend?" Boutiques are able to connect to customers in a way big department stores or shopping online can't, so it's important to me to be afforded the privilege to cultivate those relationships.
How would you describe your personal style?
I don't like to dress up, I've left that behind me, now. I really only dress up when I have to; whatever function requires me to and, thankfully, I don't go to a lot of those. I love a casual look that I can start out in the morning and can take me right into the evening, because when life takes over, I seem to always be going by the 'seat of my pants'. The concept of going home to change rarely happens for me very well and fortunately, I'm good with that. I like to have pieces in my wardrobe that meet the requirement of a full day: work, lunch, dinner, if I have to meet up with friends for a night out. Jamaica's relaxed lifestyle and the fact that I don't work corporate allow me to fully exercise my casual tastes.
As you mature, I think one tends to learn more about oneself and what we naturally prefer and so, with that said, I like to be comfortable; that's my thing. I don't want to have to be constantly readjusting my outfit once I'm out the door, I want to be left to concentrate on the other things in my life that need to get done. I don't have a lot of clothes nor a huge wardrobe, but I like timeless pieces that I can keep and wear over and over again. I know many people don't like to wear the same thing twice, but I definitely play favourites. Whenever a much-loved piece 'dies', I'm really saddened and find myself organising the hunt for its swift replacement.
In terms of a colour palette, in recent times, I've really been enjoying ivories, creams and camels.
I would say, separates with a clean aesthetic would be my signature or go-to; I don't do a lot of fuss.
I can't get enough of pants. At times, I do do dresses and skirts, but for movement purposes and not having to think much, I stick to jeans and twills. I have all the anchoring denim of any great wardrobe: black, white, dark denim; and light-coloured distressed for the weekend; this then gives me the freedom to be a little more creative on the top. Sweaters -- despite our local climate -- are my favourite, after trousers, especially in a lightweight cashmere.
It should come as no surprise that Katherine Hepburn is my style icon. Like her, I know I have a little tomboy in me and I work it by switching it up with heels, flats or even sneakers.
What lines do you carry?
We try to stay on par with the seasons in the western hemisphere. Jamaica may be considered a third world country but we are very first world. We go on the Internet to shop online and to source information on the latest trends; plus, we have access to cable. I try my very best to stay parallel to that international conversation, as much as I can, with the pieces on offer here at Bohemian Belle. Our signature line is J Brand. We also carry brands such as Equipment and Feel the Piece; and from season to season we have all kinds of jersey-knit lines that we also feature in the shop.
Which are the fastest moving lines?
The tried-and-proven J Brand — hands-down. They have mastered the fit of a woman's body.
How would you describe the Bohemian Belle woman.
She possesses a strong self-confidence, wears her pieces over and over and is definitely not looking for structure. Even if she needs something that's a little more evening — whether for the theatre or a nice dinner or cocktail hour -- she still doesn't want to get too dressed up. Her wardrobe is comprised of easy-to-wear pieces such a cool shift or a body-conscious dress hemlined at the knees, dressy tops, indestructible bottoms, and elegant statement jewellery.
What can customers expect from Bohemian Belle Thursday, September 19 when the Jamaica Observer Takes Style Out?
A relaxed, stress-free evening of discounted products in the midst of light cocktails and canapés, surrounded by friends and amiable faces.
Share a few retail tips for Thursday, September 19.
Drop by the shop any day before TSO to pick pieces for us to put aside for you; so come the 19th there'll be no need to wait on a dressing room, but relax, have a drink and take your selections home at the end of the night.
What do you expect to be the major trends or must-haves for the Jamaica Observer Takes Style Out?
Accessories! Cool scarves and lots of jewellery. You can still wear what you have in your wardrobe and
give it a completely different look through the effect of your accessories.
Which SS14 Collections are you most looking forward to and why?
I really like smaller designers; I love ALC and some of the lines coming out of Scandanavia, like Dagmar. They are not big names but they bring a fresh perspective and they are taking the quintessential classics and adding twists; and the price points are also very good. Where the bigger names are concerned though, I love Alexander McQueen because it's very rock-and-roll.