Last October, the New York Times identified the Maryland flag pattern on shorts, pants, socks, shoes, hats, and shirts around the University of Maryland campus. Yes, they ventured to guess, the distinctive pattern was starting to become a trend. Now, one year later, those instincts have been proven right–the Maryland flag seems like it’s on everyone’s clothes, and not just in College Park.
This is Baltimore’s “soiree for the stylish.” It’s the fashion event of the season and it’s happening tomorrow. It’s FashonEASTa, and it’s the day when Baltimore’s hottest shopping destination (that’s Harbor East) transforms into an all-out celebration of style– complete with in-store specials and fashion events, live entertainment, cocktails, small bites, and of course a runway showcasing the hottest looks of the season. Oh, and did we mention there’s a guest model? That’s right, the Ravens’ own Justin Tucker will be struttin’ it down the runway as the year’s special guest– just to show how fabulous this event truly is.
As anyone who has worked in women’s clothing will attest, retail is a tough business. To run a successful boutique for a few years is an admirable feat, but to thrive for 40 years, well, that’s nothing short of remarkable.
Tomorrow marks the fortieth anniversary of Baltimore high-end women’s clothing boutique Ruth Shaw. The store opened in 1973 by namesake Ruth Shaw, a former tennis clothing designer and renowned local fashionista before it was even a word! She sold the boutique in 2008 to her long-time manager and buyer Ray Mitchener, who has run the store with the same commitment to quality merchandise, the latest trends, top designers and more, features that have made the store a Baltimore institution.
The upscale boutique will celebrate “Forty Fabulous Years of Fashion” Saturday night with cocktails at its Cross Keys location and 100 close friends, supporters and, of course, the 85-year-old original owner Ruth Shaw.
We caught up with current owner Ray Mitchener, who has played a huge role in establishing the store’s brand while helping to run the business for the last 35 years (he was a model for Versace, Ralph Lauren and others before). He is known and respected in the fashion industry and the store’s national reputation — it has been recognized as a fashion leader by Harper’s Bazaar, Elle and Lucky — has earned Ray access to the best and hottest European and American designers, and in the store, it shows!
He gave us a few insights into the secrets of his success…
You have kept a high-end designer business alive for 40 years in Baltimore, which is not a high-end designer town. What is your secret?
I think the real reason we have enjoyed such longevity is that we constantly change and evolve with our clients, listening to their wishes and demands and nurturing our relationships with them.
I am forever seeking the “next and now” in fashion and trying to bring it to Baltimore, keeping in mind that it has to be wearable and somewhat practical. I think the keys of staying in business for over forty years is staying relevant.
It is my greatest joy to help a woman discover more about herself through clothing.
Why did you decide to buy the boutique?
I bought the store in 2008 because, working with Ruth for so many years, it was a natural succession. I love what I do. I want to continue the legacy of Ruth Shaw.
What has changed about retail since you started working in it years ago?
The changes that have made the biggest impact on the fashion industry from my perspective are the accessibility of clothing through internet shopping, the fact that designers are accessible to the masses via product lines for Target, Kohls, Uniqlo, and others. Lastly, our relaxed dress codes have changed fashion, too.
Bill Cunningham, the famous NY Times street photographer, once said, “The best fashion show is definitely on the street. Always has been and always will be.” This week, I visited Baltimore’s longest runway, the Inner Harbor, and found charming models of our city’s own winter style.
There’s something almost Victorian about Ma Petite Shoe. By that we mean that the Hampden boutique captures all of the decadence, romance, indulgence, and classic beauty of that period while dispensing with the restrictiveness of corsets and the fact that the chocolate of the period bore almost no resemblance to the treats we enjoy today. That’s why we will be sure to visit the Hampden boutique on Sunday, November 18 from 1 – 4 p.m. for a special event.
Our favorite local interior design blogger Meg Fielding of Pigtown Design headed to High Point earlier this week to cover the foremost American furniture show known as “Market” at High Point, North Carolina. Throughout the week she has written her diary of happenings at the show and documented her favorite trends. Read on to see what’s in store in 2013. -The Eds.
I am heading down to North Carolina for the High Point Market for the next few days.
As you can see, this Market’s focus is Fashion. I am going to a breakfast with Christian Siriano (who went to the Baltimore School for the Arts), Thom Filicia and Lela Rose.Also scheduled are cocktail parties, book signings, lectures and lots and lots of checking out gorgeous showrooms.
On a recent chilly afternoon, we spotted a beautiful woman, Rachel Bloom, in a romantic fur vest. She stood outside the chic Stevenson shoe store Joanna Gray. Fur vests are all the rage for fall, and we were happy to spy such a pretty one making the scene in Baltimore.
I love your vest.
Thank you. I got it at a sample sale in New York.
What’s a sample sale?
It’s when vendors (designers) sell the samples that they showed at market to the public. You can find great deals.
Do you shop only in New york?
I shop when I’m traveling. And in Baltimore. And I love sales!
What would you call your style?
Fun and easy.
Do you have children?
A daughter 23 and son 21.
Does your daughter dress like you or do you dress like her? Oh, my daughter is much more conservative than I am. I’m braver with my wardrobe the older I get. I just turned 50!
Local blog “The Sassette Diaries” by Garrison Forest school alum and Sassanova owner Sassy Jacobs is developing a following for its love of style and sassy sensibility. Checkout the blog below.
Just had one of those *moments* where someone asked “what’s the date today?” and I almost fell over. November 14th…which is practically the middle of the month (which means my gym membership payment is due tomorrow), which means Thanksgiving is literally next week, which means my grandmother has been done Christmas shopping for weeks…
Pumping. The. Brakes.
Enjoy some mid-November links from around the web (while I gather myself):
-Wearing pumpkin spice doesn’t have to involve work in the kitchen.
-Seeing green (everyone could use a little more green right?).
Anastasia ran off before we got to ask her the question that still gnaws: Who cuts your hair? Her long, lovely chestnut locks set against white Ray Bans make for an eye-catching look. You don’t need much else.
Where are you from?
I am from Hartford County. I am graduate student in clinical psychology.
What brings you to Baltimore?
I am meeting friends.
Can you tell us about your outfit?
I am not sure where I got the shirt and jeans. The shoes are from a thrift store.