Village Designs recently celebrated their one year anniversary on Elmwood Avenue this May. Born and raised in Buffalo, owner Michelle Voit opened her boutique shop on May 5th, 2014. After a year of great business and fashion, the EVA stopped in to the boutique to catch up with Michelle and learn about her ideas, inspiration, popular trends and local charity projects.
Describe what Village Designs has to offer.
Everybody on Elmwood kind of has a similar niche–hardwood floors, a rustic kinda look. So, when I was designing the store, I was looking at boutiques in Los Angeles, New York City, and even in Texas where boutique shopping is more popular. I wanted more of the big city fashion, but also looking for the Elmwood-style that everyone already knows. The fashions we have are little of everything for everyone. I’ve got the dresses and clothes for the businesswoman and then “play” and fun clothes.
What inspired you to start your own business?
I have a mild obsession with jeans. I love denim. All the brands that I used to spend $150 on, they’re $200 or plus. So I was looking for a denim that was still that same quality and comfort you wanted to wear all day, but at a lower price point. Not everyone has $150 or $200 to spend on jeans. So that it was kinda how the idea came about and then it just evolved from there.
What’s was your mission when you started VD and how has that evolved?
My mission was to bring in different brands that weren’t already here. I kind of started on a range going middle to high, then I was going to nix the high. It’s that middle-of-the-line pricing where you can buy a whole outfit or buy two outfits and not feel guilty about it. I look forward to changing them some more, based on what my customers want.
How do you think your business adds to the color of Elmwood?
I think every business here adds something different. We all mesh well together. If I have customers come in and they can’t find something, I’ll send them down the street to Anna Grace, Blush, or Urban if I know that they might have something that would work with them better. I think everyone works well together doing that, but that’s me. I think I add to it because I have a little bit of something for everybody. I cater to women from their 20’s up to their 60’s.
What do you love about Elmwood?
I think it’s just a great area- you could spend an entire day here and not get bored. You don’t really get that anywhere else.You talk to any business and really their first pick is going to be Elmwood just because there is people that come in from everywhere.
How do you choose designers and brands?
I go to New York City twice a year for shows, so I get to see firsthand what’s there. Then I do a lot of research online. I am constantly searching. I follow a lot of stores around the country and I get a lot of different brands that aren’t here and that don’t go to the shows. It’s based off of fit, fabrics, quality, and price. I want someone to buy something that they are going to have in their closet for years, not something too trendy or too cheap that will fall apart after a year of wearing. These are pieces that should last them for years.
Can you tell us about your Grace Audrey line?
So Grace is my niece. When she was born she was diagnosed with down syndrome. She’s my goddaughter and I love her. So, when she was diagnosed with leukemia last July, my sister took her right over to Children’s Hospital. Watching her go through chemo and the inpatient treatments has been rough, but Children’s Hospital is really great. The people are amazing and the programs they bring to interact with the kids to keep them busy. It was great to see first hand how they could take a really miserable morning for her and just turn it around.
So, we came up with this t-shirt line. We designed the t-shirts and 20% of every sale is going to back to Children’s Hospital. I am actually working with Kiss 98.5 on their Kiss Cares for Kids Radiothon next year, when I am going to present my first check. I’m really hoping it could be a big number at some point. Then in September for Pediatric Cancer Awareness month, I am hoping to do an event every year to raise additional money.
What products are you most excited about and why?
Right now it’s the tees and all the summer trends that I have been focusing on. The summer trends have a lot of bold colors and prints. The maxi dresses are all back again. Buffalo has finally taken to the jumpsuits and rompers. Everyone is really excited to get out of the pants and leggings.
Could you walk us through a personal shopping consultation?
If somebody comes in and gives me a little feedback about what they are looking for, I can go from there. If it’s a skirt or a shirt that they really like but they don’t know how to style it, I can help them style it. That’s the fun part about this job that I really enjoy: putting outfits together and helping people get out of their comfort zone. Everyone is really stuck with their basics, so it’s really fun when they branch out and buy something that they wouldn’t have ever worn before.
What can we expect from VD in the next 5 years?
I will always stay true to myself and my own personal style. You won’t walk in one year and have it totally changed up the next year centered toward a younger age. I really believe in some of the brands and my customers think they are great. I always listen to my customers, so I will evolve with them. I think that’s very important.
I hope Grace Audrey works out and raises lots and lots of money for Children’s Hospital. I hope that I expand my customer base. I have some really great customers now. I hope that they will continue to shop here and I hope to continue evolving and growing from there.
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