One of our favourite discoveries of 2016 was the beautiful Cloth Shoppe with its whimsical, beautiful, peaceful collection of clothing and accessories. This boutique offers an utterly harmonious selection reminding us of yesteryear, yet brings together modern designers from all over the globe. We just had to know more, and Justine kindly answered our five questions.
1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself, where you live and about your family.
I lived in NYC for many years with my husband and two kids, Hunter (6) and Vivienne (my muse, who just turned 4) and we had a house on Candlewood Lake that we’d visit every weekend. When our youngest was 3 months old we moved permanently to rural Connecticut. I thought I would never survive here, but the city is just an hour and a half away if I need it. Living in the country has given me a different perspective of needs and wants, cleaner air and space to explore nature. We’ve been here for almost 4 years and I am still the complete juxtaposition of city and country girl.
2. Tell us a little bit about your shop and how you came to create your store.
I’ve always adored fabric and went to fashion school before beginning a career in women’s fashion in NYC. By way of Donna Karan’s foundation, Urban Zen, I went back to school to become a holistic nutritionist when my babies were young. I continue to see clients for nutrition counseling. It’s another part of me. I wear many hats, I’m an Aquarius; I get bored just doing one thing.
Last year I woke up and realized that my kids are 3 and 6; the light clicked on and I knew that is was time to begin again. To find myself again, my passions, and to create. Cloth is my new baby (July 2016). I get giddy and chilled when I talk about my business, which means it doesn’t feel like work — and it’s meant to be.
I’ve been dreaming up a children’s boutique since before my son was born. I was always on the hunt for new designers, eco-friendly and organic clothing, wooden toys and more. I was constantly being asked “where did you find that dress?” or “where do you shop?”. I have certain ideas of how children should dress. Childhood should be simple and clothing should compliment that play and simplicity. Hot pink and glitter have a time and place. I believe if we show our children how to compose themselves early in life (with manners & dress), they can shine bright in the world. Not in a shallow way, but in a way that conveys confidence and individuality. My shop is a throwback to the simpler times of childhood and clothing.
3. What is important to you when choosing your brands?
Cloth’s brand message of ’embrace the loved, discover the unfound’ hit home to me when I attended market in New York for the first time last year. I went in with this bullet list of the established labels I ‘must’ have. But I also had a list of brands that I’d been ‘studying’ from my hunting online, on Instagram or wherever. The ‘unfound’ – the designers from the little tucks of America, London, Australia, Germany.
I hope to create an outlet for emerging designers and to open up buyers’ minds to try different styles and brands out. I’m a risk taker. A key component of choosing what labels to carry always comes down to how the clothing has been manufactured and made. It’s vital to me that it was ecologically and humanely made. Everything I do is rooted in sustainability, humanity, nutrition and clean living. I also think about price points to ensure I’m hitting a variety of markets. Not everyone can buy a $150 coat; it’s a high and low fashion concept.
I think one of the surprising and ‘loved’ things about starting this business is that I’ve become friends with most of the designers and brands that I work with beyond the buying and selling process. I love these people and I am deeply connected with the process of art, design and what their vision is – and then it clicks. I have these connections with people around the world. It is deeply humanizing. While, I don’t (yet) sell some of the beloved brands on my ‘list’, I still buy from them every season for my daughter even though I have my own shop!
I’m excited for Spring; I definitely feel I have reached a nice balance of ‘loved’ and ‘found’.
4. What is your current favourite product in your collection?
The Spring deliveries are roiling in this month, which makes me feel hope for warm weather. What a tough question. Ha! I love the Briar liberty bonnets; Velveteen’s ‘Rosaline’ Bleached Denim Ruffle Vest is simply to die for – I can just picture any little girl throwing it over any of the Spring dresses or rompers or a top with jeans and riding boots. If only I can have that vest in my size! And then there’s Apolina’s embroidery pieces – they’re a throwback to the 70’s and I just love the bohemian vibe.
5. Where are you based and how is your work space set up?
My studio is based in Bantam, Connecticut (Litchfield County). I am so lucky to have a space in the historic Switch Factory building, which dates back to the late 1800’s. When they were doing the renovations of the floors, the workers discovered old light switches. The building is now occupied with antique dealers, artists, gilders, galleries and my little online shop. The windows are original; they line the entire back wall of the space giving the room incredible sun on clear days and this diffused, subtle light on cloudy ones. When it snows, it is magical. There is a river that runs behind the building, so when I open up these vintage glass windows for fresh air, you can hear the water flowing. It makes for a very peaceful, spiritual and inspiring workspace. It’s very grounding.