My name is Katie McKenzie, and I am the owner of Luceo Boutique & Styling Co.
This store has been an important dream of mine for a long time, for countless reasons. Growing up, all I knew was that I had a creative flare, and a love for clothes. I thought about owning a store, because in my limited knowledge of the fashion industry, it was that or designing. Over time in the industry, I learned there were many, many more opportunities than that, however the idea of owning a boutique continued to stick with me. I quickly started working at retail positions in my teens, because I wanted to gain an understanding. While in high school and college I worked in several retail spaces, one in particular truly formed my understanding of the importance of a specialty boutique. These positions in retail, though at the time I placed little value on them, ended up being the backbone of my career.
There was one retail position in particular that completely stood out above the rest for me, and if you’re ever in Savannah, GA, you must check it out. It’s called Custard, and it’s a lovely boutique with amazing service, and a one-of- a-kind point of view.
I got the job because I hosted a girl’s weekend in Savannah with my grandmother, mother, sister, aunt and cousins and we went into Custard and had so much fun and shopped like crazy. While we were there my mom blurted out, “you should hire Katie.” And since the owner didn’t outright say no, I went in a few days later with my resume (my mom actually does have a filter in most scenarios, but she often got me jobs in a manner similar to this – Thanks mom!). Looking back, I might have been slightly pushy when it came to jobs & internships, but, hey, here I am. The owner of the boutique said she couldn’t hire me, but she would give me an internship, i.e. let me work for free. Truthfully, I was stoked.
A few months in she did end up hiring me, just as she said she would. This position truly shaped my understanding of the industry; she allowed me to learn so much. I worked on photo shoots for magazines, I learned how to put on a fashion show, and I learned how much of yourself you have to give to your business to help it succeed. Tara, the owner, even passed out my resume to brands she carried in the boutique, so that I could get an internship in New York over the summer of my sophomore year. This was an idea that I likely wouldn’t have had unless she suggested it. Getting an internship like the one I had that summer, not only catapulted my career, but it gave me a new confidence that I hadn’t had prior.
I spent summers and some time after college living in New York City. I had a blast. I interned at French Connection, Harper’s Bazaar, Otteny.com, and then worked at Harper’s Bazaar in web production. I remember interviewing for all these positions and getting asked what department I wanted to be in, and saying, “I’ll work anywhere,” because I sincerely wanted to learn everything. And I did, I learned about visual merchandising, sales, e-commerce, styling and buying.
While I was in New York I waffled a lot on the boutique thing. It was always in the back of my mind, but watching my superiors climb the corporate ladder was intoxicating. Although I was unsure about my plans of opening a store of my own at that point, there was one thing that was quite clear to me, the further I got from retail and working with customers, the less exciting the fashion industry became to me. Don’t misunderstand me here, the clothes I saw, felt, and tried on were spectacular, but the lack of seeing customers enjoy the clothing was a miss for me.
That moment where someone feels wonderful in a new garment is a simple and quick moment, but it is the payoff of a very long process. It’s the glory moment for all the people who worked to conceptualize, design, cut, sew, re-cut, re-sew, showcase, sell, transport, steam, and tag, and that’s just the beginning. It takes a city of people to get clothes into Luceo, and ultimately to you.
After moving back to Madison, and re-acclimating to the magical Midwest, I felt totally energized to open Luceo. I had a goal to open a specialty store that was void of the stigma’s that can be attached to boutiques and fashion. At times, I think we can forget how much fun fashion is, and I hope this store can act as a reminder.
Now that I’m almost a year into this dream world, I feel very fortunate that I get to spend my time working with people to find apparel and accessories that they enjoy. I’m incredibly honored from both angles. First, that so many people worked on the product before it reaches Luceo. And ultimately, that customers trust Luceo and have welcomed us so warmly into the community.
If nothing else were to come from Luceo and I packed up tomorrow, I would take great pride and feel truly successful, knowing that people came in, found clothes, and felt good.
Never fear, Luceo is not goinganywhere. In fact, we’re just getting started.