Submitted by Melissa Howsam — Correspondent
It's settled. You no longer need more than a Franklin to find fashion fit for anyone in Raleigh. Thanks to Vestique, the relatively fresh-on-the-scene brick-and-mortar retail spot at Oberlin and Fairview, buying designer duds isn't dependent on having designer dollars. Fashioned by N.C. State grads Caroline King and Morgan Genty, originally as an online boutique, the majority of Vestique's dresses are under $50, with tops under $40, and an almost exclusive shop-cap at $100.
Borne of a love for fashion and an eye for a bargain, and a fated meeting freshman year at State, the two started tossing around the idea of birthing a business early on in the friendship. "Our original idea was actually not a clothing boutique, [but] we can't share it because we still may do it one day!" says King, 26, a business marketing grad who relocated to Raleigh from hometown Salisbury, N.C., to attend NCSU.
So the turn to trendy togs? Genty, a Bull City native who grew up sketching and coloring elaborate garments says they were just looking for affordable. "We both loved to boutique shop, but couldn't afford to pay boutique prices," explains the 27-year-old savvy shopster and communications grad. "We were constantly scouring the web and realized that other online boutiques left something to be desired for the budget-friendly shopper who wanted to stay up on the latest trends."
Filling the void
A hole in the market? Patch it with not-so-costly, hand-picked couture. Enter Vestique. Its name a nod to its concept, a play on the Italian word "vesti" for clothing, the popular posh spot isn't just a lucky land. The daring founding duo they're building a business in a bum economy toil endlessly for their labor of love.
"We work seven days a week. There's rarely a moment that our store is open that one of us is not there, either working the front, packaging orders in the back, answering emails or fighting fires," Genty says. "But we wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. We both feel incredibly blessed and grateful to wake up every day and do a job we love."
Originally conceived in 2010 as a virtual store, Vestique, despite its quick popularity, was not an overnight success. The co-owners actually both worked full-time jobs while crafting the online boutique. All of the website design, line research and business conception happened after-hours. Once the loan came through for the first line, those hours became filled with filling orders.
"We would go to work, come home, fill orders and update the website all night," remembers King. "We ran on very little sleep for that first six months. To be honest, we run on very little sleep now. Our inboxes are always full and there is always work to be done.
We did not take a paycheck for the first nine months. We quit our full-time jobs this past April and have done Vestique full-time since then. And we opened the doors to our first brick-and-mortar store on October 5, exactly one year after the soft launch of our site."
The pay off is obvious. Their cyber-couture, along with tons of trunk shows and traveling for inventory all over the Southeast, helped land them a big following. "The trunk shows were hard work," King says. Much more work than they were worth, but they proved to us that our local customers wanted to see, feel and try on the clothes. The store was the next logical step for us."
More than a good deal
In this economy in any economy, really not much bests a bargain, but in this case, it's the modesty behind their mass-appeal. When asked how it feels to be young and wildly successful in a cutthroat industry, the question drew a humble laugh. "Wildly successful is a stretch!" Genty says. "We've got a long way to go before we'll say that!" Good news. Sounds like the people most likely to profit from that are the patrons.
While you lay in wait, look for a colorful spring collection anchored in midi-maxis and prints, accompanied by a complete website overhaul, an expanded, university fall game-day section and, to mix it up in the middle, a second store location slated for late summer. The location is still a secret, but in-the-posh patrons will be happy to hang around affordably dressed, of course.