I'm often asked where I find such interesting fashions for Hop Sing, and my reply has probably been slightly different everyday. I find it practically impossible to reply to this question with a parroted response. The selected designers and intricate details that quite truthfully draw me like a Marlin to the fishermans lure and usually land me with a thud onto the boat... the famous photo of the trophy catch now comes to mind. How can you explain to someone in a snapshot moment that this particular designer reeled you in with amazing bursts of color and luxe, couture sensibilities; simplified to create the perfect beachy-resort dress that can easily translate to dinner at that cool new Thai-fusion restaurant near your house in Scottsdale.... That's a mouthful of TMI and I'm quite sure the potential customer would most likely run, not walk, to the nearest exit... Thinking "that woman is insane!" So, resisting the urge to blather on & on... I usually just say "I buy things I really love, or we try to find specialty designs or... " Whatever seems to be the quick and easy answer of the moment. But not today.
Today, I was asked the usual question... And when I looked up to see the woman querying, she was young, exotic, beautiful, and spoke with a French accent... Straight out of a Gauguin painting. Wait a minute! I'm in Prescott Arizona! This is not a woman who is asking me that question because she's confused by the prices or the labels or the prices. She wanted to know who chose our collections, and she was most curious because it was, in her words: "So beautiful and different compared to all the other stores in town". Of course I was beaming over her compliments, and so appreciated her excitement over the "island flavor" of many of our fashions. I asked her where she was visiting from and she said "Mauritius". "Oh! You are an Islander!" I exclaimed. She looked shocked that I'd ever heard of her home. For those who may not know of this exotic locale, it is located off of the continent of Africa between Madagascar and Australia. It's beautiful, tropical and perfectly resorty. She and her husband were considering moving here to Prescott, and she was thrilled to find our boutique here. Earlier in the day she had visited the Gateway Mall to see what kind of shopping was offered, and left disappointed.
It was at this moment that I realized just how deeply my past island lifestyle has influenced me as a buyer. How certain visions of sand between my toes lead me to choose a summer dress or drapey sweater... or a swanky outdoor "tasting" might be reeling through my mind as I'm considering this or that fabulous cocktail dress arriving at the party (oooohs & ahhhhhs in the background and all). My brain just creates these wearable scenarios to compliment the item in my hands, almost from the moment I see it. From jeans to gowns I have a vision of the woman who will wear these pieces and all the styling tweaks that will make her look perfect no matter where she plans to wear it. Casually or dressed up. It's my gift and my curse. I don't enjoy mediocrity or trendy. I love feminine, but tomboy, romantic but funky, retro yet modern... A yin and a yang.
Fabrics are a whole 'nother story... Because no matter how cute the design, bad fabric can kill the deal instantly! I've watched sales reps cringe when I go from "ohhhh love it", to "uggghhh the fabric". In fact one of my favorite reps now warns me when she knows I probably won't like the fabric. It's pretty funny, especially when she tells me that the style has sold really strongly for her (to other buyers). That is a line we buyers hear often, and it never plays into my decision making. Mistakes are made sometimes, and buyers remorse can overcome me as I'm opening a box of "what the hell is this". But most of the time it's more like Christmas when the orders arrive. I find that even my items that haunt the sale racks are items that I loved for one reason or another; but didn't necessarily translate to my customer at this time and this place. Perhaps my resort background from living on the garden paradise known as Kauai for just over three decades, can deceives me at times. After all how often will my new customers experience salty, white sand between their toes?
I buy for the woman in each of us who longs to be carried away to that far off exotic place- whether it's yearning for a tropical holiday, dreaming of a homeland, or recalling a favorite memory... So perhaps the shortest answer to the question of inspiration in Hop Sing is "you".