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Joan Shepp on Change, Bad Fashion Choices and the Evolution of Philly Retail

Joan (L) with her daughter, Ellen. Image credit: <a href="">Joan Shepp</a>
Joan (L) with her daughter, Ellen. Image credit: Joan Shepp

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It's been a busy year for Joan Shepp. Her eponymous, 40-year-old designer boutique moved twice in the last 10 months after rising rental rates transformed Walnut Street into a playground for chain store heavy-hitters.

But according to Shepp, change is good. Her iconic store's new, permanent home at 1811 Chestnut Street, which debuted June 28, is sleek, stylish, gleaming-white, and in good company: Indie favorites Knit Wit and Duke & Winston are neighbors, and the street will see the addition of Nordstrom Rack and Uniqlo later this year. "We're on a roll here," she declares. "There's a new energy in retail coming to this city."

Keep reading as Shepp shares her thoughts on Philly retail's greatest obstacle, reveals the one designer she can't stop buying, and opines the trend most deserving of a slow, horrible death.

You've been a member of Philly's boutique scene longer than most. In your experience, how has retail here evolved over the years?
Since we first moved into town, the retail scene has exploded, especially with chain stores coming to Philadelphia. The city itself, in terms of retail, seems to be finding its own niche, though. There are a lot of smaller shops gravitating to Chestnut Street and bigger stores on Walnut.

How do you imagine Rittenhouse Row retail in five years?
As the city becomes more of a viable tourist destination, the growth will be exponential! We're on a roll here. There's a new energy in retail coming to this city. I think people traveling have started to notice Philadelphia as a destination in itself, not just for shopping, but for the museums, and people watching, and architecture.

What, then, do you see as Philly retail's greatest obstacle?
Infrastructure. It might seem strange to note, but it's the basic things, like having a good amount of parking that would bring more people into the city on weekends.

You've seen decades of designers and trends come and go. Ever get nostalgic for fashions past?
There's always some personal favorites, but I'm more focused on the anticipation of what these designers will do next. The excitement of seeing newness in every season keeps me alive.

What's one trend you wish would die a slow, horrible death?
Leggings worn inappropriately.

A Polaroid of Joan from her days as a stylist during the '80s.

Name one designer whose clothes you can't stop buying.
Yohji Yamamoto.

What's your single favorite article of clothing from your personal collection?
A Jean Paul Gaultier tux jacket with tails that I bought at the flea market.

What's one fashion mistake most people tend to make?
People have their own innate sense of taste they don't trust—and should!

Name one celebrity, living or dead, whom you'd love to dress.
Vivienne Westwood.

Your boutique has been the subject of rumor and chatter ever since you left Walnut Street last September. How have your customers adapted to the new location?
The reaction has been unreal. Every day we get people coming in that are just taken aback by the sheer volume of space and light. It's a very nice homecoming for us.

What's one misconception about your store that you'd like to clear up?
That we only sell expensive items. There's a broad range of prices in here; we have something for everyone.

Sum up the new store in one word.

· Joan Shepp [Official Site]
· Here Are the 10 Golden Rules for Succeeding in Philly Retail [Racked Philly]
· Finally! Joan Shepp Announces Chestnut Street Opening Date [Racked Philly]
· Joan Shepp Teases Upcoming Documentary, Opening Date [Racked Philly]

Joan Shepp

1625 Chestnut St , Philadelphia, PA 19103 (215) 735-2666 Visit Website

Joan Shepp

1811 Chestnut Street Philadelphia, PA