The ability to welcome students into her classroom and the passion to make students feel appreciated followed former teacher Andrea White to her new boutique.
White has worked in boutiques for almost as long as she has taught in Chicago Public Schools, but a layoff led her to open Anie’s Accents, a South Loop clothing shop for women. The shop, 1237 S. Michigan Ave., officially opened earlier this month. She wants women of all colors and ages to feel at home when they step foot into her showroom.
“When I’m here alone, that’s when I know the race begins to make a difference and make this a different type of environment for all women of all colors to come in, even if they don’t buy anything,” White told the Defender.
“Because believe it or not, there are a lot of people out here who are lonely, they need a friend, they need advice, they need a place to just sit sometimes.”
If White’s open and attentive demeanor does not put customers at ease, then the layout of the room definitely will do the job.
The charcoal-colored shag rugs creates a fun and comfortable environment. The splash of red from items throughout the room is not too harsh on the eye and brings energy without going overboard. The window display is unique in its own way with silhouette mannequins straight from New York City that have creative lampshades for heads.
Stylist Rosalyn Draine used green moss on one lampshade and Vogue Magazine strips to create a confetti look on the other. She said she wanted to be eco-friendly, while having fun. She described the boutique as “urban chic.”
Long before White opened the shop, she was receiving plenty of practice from working in her mother Barbara’s boutique.
Coincidently, both women opened a boutique in their early 60s.
She never saw herself doing the same thing years later and there was never a conversation with her mother about the business venture.
“She was quite surprised and a little leery because anyone that’s 80-years old feels that teaching is a safe place. I’ve always heard behind the desk you’re safe,” White said.
After selling garments in her Hyde Park home for years, White took a leap of faith and opened her boutique. She sets it apart from others by small personal touches.
In the fitting room hangs a small sign: “You are beautiful, your true beauty lies in becoming yourself.”
“I want them to feel comfortable here because there are a lot of women who say ‘I’m big back here, but I don’t have anything here or my stomach…’ I can fix that,” said White.
“It takes a special owner or stylist to know that because shopping is a very emotional thing.”
The hard work happens behind the scenes because White makes her job appear effortlessly. Many of the pieces she sells in her shop come from places like Miami, Los Angeles and her favorite city, New York where she attends fashion shows.
She travels to New York’s fashion district to purchase from vendors in smaller shops. Dressing comfortably on those trips is important, she said.
“They open their doors at 8a.m. and 9a.m. and you have to be there to get the goodies. It’s a lot of work because you’re up early and they close their doors at 5p.m.,” she said.
After her trips to the fashion district or other locations, she brings home handbags, clutches, colorful scarves, jewelry, jeans, tops, dresses. Anie’s Accents even sells candles, candle lighters, soaps and fragrances by Tocca.
The boutique also carries plus sizes.
“Most women that pass here ask ‘are you going to carry for the larger woman? A lot of young women are larger and they want that edge too,” she said.
Her two daughters help attract the younger crowd with their ideas, White said.
“My style has changed because there are so many universities and colleges on this strip. There are so many young people that pass here so I have to think about the cross body bags and not the type of bag that I would carry…youthful fun stuff for young women,” she said.
Her inspiration and fashion sense comes from her mother, White said. The ambitious shop owner is grateful for a supportive husband and two daughters who help out when they are available.
White said she would consider an expansion if business continues to do well, but nothing in the near future.
“I don’t know what God has in store for me. I’m not going to limit myself to just this one door, but I’m open and ready for bigger and better,” she said.