Andrea Serrano is the stylist, model, and blogger behind Charleston shop Curator
There's a reason Charleston is the nation's darling right now. We've got all the perks: the charm, the weather, the history, the food.
But what about the fashion? Does Charleston have what it takes to be considered a major shopping hub? Andrea Serrano, creator of the buzzy new blogCharleston Shop Curator, thinks so, and she's doing her best to place the Holy City on America's style map.
"I love Charleston. It's such a special city," she says. "And there aren't a lot of places in America that have that history, where it's not so cookie-cutter. I know we have some chain stores along with the local stores on King Street, but I think that also gives us this legitimacy — that we're an important shopping destination."
And she's right. H&M is opening a future store here, and that's proof enough that things are happening in the city's retail industry. But Serrano, who's a local girl at heart, wanted to properly give Charleston's own shop-and-designer scene its props, and she didn't feel there was any outlet that was doing that. So she decided to create her own. "I thought, why not take the blueprint of a fashion blog and make it city-centric? We have a lot going on here, and we really have a voice that needs to be heard, and why not be that voice and really do it justice?" The result is Charleston Shop Curator, where each post features glossy, high-production-value photos of models (often including Serrano) that are based on anything from a particular item of clothing to a store or designer.
Serrano isn't new to Charleston's shop scene. TheCity Paperwrote about the streetwear boutique, B'zar, that Serrano owned with her husband back in 2006. Back then, she was fresh into town from working years as a freelance stylist in New York, ready to embrace the South's slow and sweet way of life. B'zar certainly brought the city a cool edge, but after five years, it was time to move on — to kids, to freelance styling forArmy WivesandReckless, and, eventually, to the creative rollercoaster that is the Charleston Shop Curator blog.
"I focus on what's happening here," she says. "The stores, the designers — there's so much going on that there is always enough here to really keep me busy all the time. Even when I cover a store or designer, five months later they're going to have something totally different, so it's exciting for me. And every post is so different. It could be a dress that inspires me, it could be a shoe, it could be a location. It could be makeup. Those things influence every shoot."
The key players on Charleston Shop Curator are the cast of local creatives who provide the photography, hair, makeup, modeling, and of course, the fashions. They're always listed below each illustrative photograph. Serrano and her team create stories with their work, all the while using products from shops and designers that Charleston can be proud of.
Serrano produces 80 percent of the content herself. She dreams up the photo shoots, styles them, directs them, and even stars in them. Playing dress-up is admittedly one of the plus-sides to this gig, but so is the experience had by all. From the photographer to the assistant to the hair and makeup artists, everyone ends up with some stunning work for their portfolios. "I think the underlying theme is always youthful sophistication. Whether it's streetwear or high-end designer labels I'm featuring on the blog, there's always going to be a level, I hope, of sophistication that comes through, yet something that's relatable at the same time," Serrano says. "I want people to see it and think, 'Oh, I could rock that.' I want it to be relatable to the masses."
Serrano's blog posts are also featured onLucky magazine'swebsite, and for a blog that only began in March of this year, that's an accomplishment worth shouting about. Using backdrops like the French Quarter, Cypress Gardens, and most recently the Alley, Serrano's posts are always something you can't stop looking at. "What's important to me is to produce really good, high-quality images," she says. "It could be a $15 T-shirt that I'm wearing, but I want to make it look like it's a million bucks. When you have the right hair, makeup, photography, location, and styling, you can make a $15 T-shirt look like a thousand-dollar shirt."
But what she's also going for is bringing Charleston some love. She wants everyone who finds her blog to see the many forms of beauty the city offers. She says, "I just want to pull all of those things together to share with everybody — not just people in Charleston, but with fashion lovers all over the world."
To see for yourself, check outcharlestonshopcurator.com. You can also follow Serrano's fashion finds on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
The new Local Makers Series takes place at Dwelling
Leigh McAlpin, owner of local furniture and interiors haven Dwelling, has big plans for 2014. Now settled in the store's relatively new location in the antiques district of King Street, McAlpin thought it a perfect time to debut the Local Makers Series, putting a deserving spotlight on Charleston's local furniture craftsmen. A Jan. 9 preview night will launch this periodical opportunity to meet the makers and learn more about their craft.
Dwelling is interested in the makers they're working with, how they source their materials, and their eco-friendly approach to production. Because some of the craftsmen are using reclaimed woods, McAlpin believes there's bound to be some captivating stories to be told that the general public would otherwise never be aware of. By creating the Local Makers Series, she hopes these interesting stories will be unveiled to their customers, straight from the maker's mouth. After all, where else would anyone have access to furniture makers who are typically squirreled away in the workshop whittling wood into useful pieces of art?
"While Charleston's local fashion, art, and food options are thriving here, and some of the small accessory makers and jewelers do very well here, there's really no support out there for the local craftsmen in terms of the furniture makers, and they are here," McAlpin explains. "And there is some real talent here, and it's untapped. We just feel like somebody needs to step forward to provide a voice, a space, to provide a go-to resource to help bring all of those together because all of those furniture makers — they are artists, they are craftsmen. They work independently of one another, and we really want to provide a resource to really help to bring them all to the consumer."
The first to take the spotlight is husband-and-wife team Joseph and Katie Thompson ofJoseph Thompson Woodworks. Based in nearby Eutawville, S.C., they combine modern aesthetics with old-world woodworking techniques to create truly unique pieces. Katie also recently startedBlack Swamp, her own jewelry line that uses leftover woodshavings. The Thompsons plan to have a good mix of their creations available at both the launch as well as King Street's Second Sundays in January and February.
Katie and Joseph Thompson
"We'll spill some furniture out onto the sidewalk," McAlpin says, "and we'll be out there to mix and mingle and let people stumble across their wares and let them ask about the story behind a bar stool and that kind of thing."
Expect locally crafted libations from High Wire Distillery to be poured at the launch party, and costumers can peruse the Thompsons selection of one-of-a-kind benches, chairs, tables, and stools at all three events. These heirloom-quality pieces are in line with Dwelling's motto that the antiques of tomorrow really can be purchased today. Apparently back in the day, there was a great presence of high-quality furniture makers here in the Holy City and their pieces are now heirlooms. Dwelling wants to help bring that artisanal pride back to Charleston.
An example of Thompson Woodworks' finished product
"Charleston has a long history of supporting furniture makers and architects and builders," McAlpin explains. "In the 1800s, there were some very well-known and talented furniture makers based in Charleston. You can go to the Charleston Museum and see examples of these pieces by these makers; but there's been a skip, and I really want to pay a bit of homage to the history of furniture making in Charleston. We really had our name on the map for a long, long time, and we have a nice hub of talent here again. I really want people to recognize that talent. I want them to find success and take off, because they deserve to."
Joseph Thompson Woodworks will be in-store on Jan. 9 as well as during King Street's First Sundays on Jan. 12 and Feb. 8 Second Sundays.