By Yuwa Vosper
Michelle West, owner of Style Unleashed, eagerly greeted customers as they browsed her summer and fall racks placed outside of Nail Finiti, a luxury nail salon located in Baton Rouge. A customer was eyeing a new arrival − the tiger print long-sleeve romper. West encouraged her to “give it a try because it’s a great fit.” Inside while other customers were getting manicures and pedicures, they were also perusing jewelry and accessory items. This was not just another Thursday at Nail Finiti, because West was holding her Style Unleashed October Trunk show to showcase new fall arrivals.
West decided to begin Style Unleashed mostly online. Her website and social media pages are used to showcase new arrivals, preview lookbooks, and sell merchandise. However, this trunk show was not just promotional but also an opportunity for her to meet customers and for customers to view her merchandise in tangible form.
“Online businesses can be very impersonal,” she said, “and we want to be able to connect and communicate with our customers in person. They get to try on our clothes and become familiar with the sizing. If you decide to go online and purchase, you now know what will arrive.”
In this trunk show, West prides herself on presenting merchandise a customer “won’t go to the mall and find.” Her merchandise is unique but still on trend. She has rompers, jumpsuits, cardigans, palazzo pants, skater skirts, kimonos and off-the-shoulder tops. West maintains her Louisiana roots with popular teams’ gameday colors but wants to focus on showcasing creative and unique garments. Even her accessories collection is unique. With jewelry resembling antiques in colors like brushed turquoise, West wants her merchandise to stand out for its originality.
Style Unleashed is still considered a new boutique. However, the website has already seen greet success. She has a feature that gives customers an opportunity to pair clothing options. With this offer, customers are able to email West and her team to get fashion advice on trends, styling, and sizing.
“Some people complain about having lots of great pieces,” she said, “but they don’t know what to pair them with. Therefore, we like to assist and give pairing advice with each item.”
West is adding another unique feature to her website, which is a vintage section. “We will take vintage pieces and give them a modern twist to make a one of a kind piece,” she said. “Customers can always request similar pieces, but we will not have two of the same piece in our vintage section.”
West decided to open her own boutique because of the encouragement and advice from her husband, Dean. She explained that her love of fashion is what inspired her husband to take notice of her savvy business skills especially in fashion merchandising. “I would sell clothes on Ebay to clean out my closet and he encouraged me to begin investing money to start my own boutique,” she said.
This love of fashion has taken her around Louisiana with trunk and fashion shows to promote her boutique. She may open a boutique as Style Unleashed matures, but for right now West is grateful for her online success and loyal customers.