A Red Dress Is Always in Style: The Red Dress Boutique

For those of you who do not know this, I believe I really got my start in fashion in Athens. Yes, I was that little girl reading Vogue and cutting out pictures and yes I shopped in boutiques before coming to Athens- but it was living in Athens and working in a boutique that I really saw first hand what fashion could be like. What it was like for our owner to go to New York and LA to do buying trips and how those styles would filter down to us in the South. And how we would put our own spin on it here. Athens really is the quintessential Southern college town, what with University of Georgia being across the street from the boutiques. The girls up here have their own style and it’s so fun to me to see how they can take a piece from New York and turn it in to “Southern Style” by perhaps adding their grandmothers pearls or some kitten heels.
This is one of the reasons why I am interviewing the owner of The Red Dress Boutique in Athens: Diana Harbour. The Red Dress has a HUGE following not just in Athens but outside of Athens as well. If you see something you love there isn’t much time to wait on it. Example: I got my favorite maxi dress from them, but only after it was restocked. It sold out in about two hours of being in. I did NOT let that happen to me again.
The Dress I Almost Lost Out On

MIWM: Hello! Please tell us a little bit about yourself, what made you decide to open a boutique, etc.

Red Dress was inspired from a LOVE of fashion. We didn’t have much money growing up so I just studied it. I read magazines, watched a show (long gone now) called Runway and it would show a different designers runway show every Saturday. I sketched outfits, covered my notebooks in cutouts and literally dreamed of a day when I could wear those pieces.

I got my first fashion job in college at a store called McKays. I apprenticed with the owner and he introduced me to the markets where everyone goes to place their orders. He actually let me pick styles for the store and even do window displays with no supervision. It was wonderful to act like it was mine and treat it as so. I learned SO Much from that job only because he let me participate in the stores appearance and success.

My major in college was English Literature with a minor in Art. I did not study fashion in college as I didn’t find it necessary. I took as electives classes I felt would help me own a business later on: accounting, metalsmithing, painting and advertising. 

Right after graduation I got married and we both went to work in cubicles at a credit card processing company. I worked there 90 days and slowly felt my dream of owning a store fading into the background. I feared staying in that cubicle for the rest of my life more than anything in the world. In life you have to choose either security or freedom and I wanted the freedom. So in those 90 days my husband and I plotted the store. We are from Columbus GA and did not want to stay in our hometown so we looked to Athens, GA. Josh graduated from UGA and I had never been so we took a weekend trip to scope out spaces. We found a small one on the first trip and made the jump.

We put our house on the market and luckily it sold in a week. We took the money from the house and secured bank loan and line of credit and I attended my first market! I made the racks that hung in the store (my metalsmithing class) and painted all the paintings for decoration. Our first space was only 1000 square feet. Tiny! 

And we couldn’t afford a new home so we slept on an air mattress in 4 different friends apartments for a whole year! We literally lived out of a suitcase. But that first year we learned so much. It is hard to run your own business. There are no 9-5 hours here. It is literally at least 65-70 hours a week of non stop working, but you are free. There is certainly no security. Some months I would panic that bills wouldn’t get paid. Other months I worried we didn’t have enough inventory. But the happiness comes from having your own schedule and no one to push you but yourself.

MIWM: The Red Dress has a HUGE Facebook following, can you tell us did it start out like this from the start? What did you do to build such a large audience?

Red dress started on Facebook in 2006 with my college email address and before pages were started, it was deleted 3 different times! But I just kept it going and finally when Facebook started pages, we were one of the first to jump on it. We have built our audience by engaging our fans and they know we actually listen to them! This is their store as much as it is ours…we invite their opinions and through You Be The Buyer they get to have an input on what I buy.

MIWM: I used to live in Athens, in fact I worked across the street from yall at McColly’s (now closed) and I am familiar with the Athens style scene. Can you tell us, has it become more competitive? (When I was there- it seemed every store was very distinct and had it’s own audience. Granted- this was about 7 years ago.)

 

It is still highly competitive but it all comes down to customer service and if you dont have that or a social media presence, it is much harder to be in the game. We strive to have the best customer service in town and we engage our customers in the store just as much as we do online. The store and the website have very distinct different personalities. And we separate ourselves from other stores by going above and beyond to find the best southern style we can.

MIWM: Tell us your interpretation of “Southern Style”- what does it mean to you and how do we set ourselves apart from say a New York or LA?

 

Southern style is sweet, with a quiet sexiness. I read an article about cleopatra once that claimed she could seduce a man at 20 paces, without revealing an inch of flesh. That is the southern woman and how I see our style. It involves a quiet grace and a ton of charm! Plus we love color! New York is a lot of neutral tones and LA has a dichotomy of hippie chic and high fashion.

Wow! Well, I hope yall have enjoyed learning about Diana and The Red Dress Boutique as much as I have! NOW- time for the giveaway!!!

The Red Dress Boutique is almost at 25,000 Facebook “likes”- so… if we can get them to that mark Diana will give away a $50 gift card towards their fall collection! Just be sure to tell her that Make It Work Molly sent you!!

 

This contest closed in July 2012.

Molly McWilliams Wilkins

Molly McWilliams Wilkins is a Southern culture commentator, web producer, and social media marketing maven. She is also a freelance writer who has worked with a variety of publications and online magazines including Bourbon & Boots, Paste Magazine, Macon Magazine, the 11th Hour, Macon Food & Culture Magazine, and as the Digital Content Editor for The Southern Weekend. Mommy first, fashionista, social media maven, writer, artist, dreamer and poet. Hangs on to her Oxford Commas by force. Addicted to shoes and purses- and lots of coffee. Coffee coffee coffee.

Molly McWilliams Wilkins has 883 posts and counting. See all posts by Molly McWilliams Wilkins

2 thoughts on “A Red Dress Is Always in Style: The Red Dress Boutique

  • April 2, 2013 at 1:30 am
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    Does the reddress sell wholesale?

    Reply
    • April 2, 2013 at 9:44 am
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      I don’t think so, but they are super sweet! I’m sure they would be happy to talk to you. Their number is 706-369-5823

      Reply

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