By Matt Wiley
New York…Paris…Wesley Chapel? Most ‘fashionistas’ wouldn’t dream of considering the latter a part of the fashion world, but 17-year-old twins Amber and Allie (aka A&A) Malott would disagree with you. The Wesley Chapel residents bring designer pieces straight from the runways of the fashion capitals of the world to their consignment shop, A&A Boutique, which is located on Bruce D. Downs (BBD) Blvd., directly across from Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel (FHWC).
A&A Boutique is a luxury consignment boutique that offers high-end clothing, handbags, shoes and accessories to men and women in the New Tampa and Wesley Chapel area for prices exponentially cheaper than those that can be found in malls and designer department stores. From Gucci and Chanel to Dior and Louis Vuitton, A&A has something from them all.
“We’ve always loved fashion,” says Allie. “Even as little kids, we always had fun mixing and matching clothes and dressing up.”
Today, the twins are completely immersed in the fashion showcase that they have created at A&A, holding fashion shows right in the store that showcase the consignment items they sell in the store and even involve their attending customers and friends as models.
“We wanted to open a business in our own community,” the twins’ mother, Lori, explains. “We saw no luxury boutiques in Wesley Chapel, so we decided to open our own. The goal is to have the girls’ designs in the store.”
Lori says she had always wanted to open a boutique for her daughters to showcase their own designs, which could launch at A&A Boutique as early as next year.
“Lots of people told us not to open a fashion consignment shop,” Lori says. “They said that there was no luxury market and we’d be lucky to be open for more than a month. That was four months ago.”
Allie, Amber and Lori, who live in the Quail Hollow neighborhood of Wesley Chapel, run the entire business. Amber takes care of authenticating products and works on the website, while Allie helps customers try on clothes and takes care of the shop’s Facebook page, adding pictures of new products and constantly updating new products from consigners added into the store’s system. Lori takes care of the bills, she says.
Real Designer Labels For Less
A&A is the place to go for high-end fashion brand name shoes, clothes, handbags and accessories, but not just for customers, who can find products at prices from 50-90 percent below those found at the “mall stores.”
“When consigners bring us products, especially if the pieces still have the ‘new’ tags, we price them at 50-percent-off the retail price,” Amber says.
Those same consigners also can look forward to making anywhere from 50-80 percent back on the products they bring in to A&A to sell. So it’s a win-win, both for customers and consigners.
What sets A&A apart is each item’s authenticity, which Amber makes sure of as soon as new items come in. None of the items on A&A’s shelves or racks are “fakes.” The girls look at stitching, patterns, labeling and hardware on products to determine which ones are worth purchasing from a consigner and which are cheaper “knock-offs.” Many times, Amber says, consigners aren’t even aware themselves that they are selling fake products.
The girls say that they also act as “personal shoppers,” and have wish lists set up for customers. If a certain piece or new items with their favorite designer’s labels come in that a particular customer was searching for, either Allie or Amber will call the customer and let them know before the product goes on the store’s shelves.
“We also help customers pick out clothing,” says Allie. “We’ll tell them the truth if something doesn’t look the way it should on them. We don’t want our customers to buy something that doesn’t look good on them.”
Amy Bledsoe Baldwin of Riverview says the system works.
“I love A&A Boutique!” she says. “I always find the cutest clothes for the best price. Plus, I love the owners. They’re sweet and knowledgeable, and never pushy.”
Another thing that sets A & A apart from other boutiques is that the shop carries actual runway pieces from fashion capitals like France and Denmark. A window display outside the shop showcases a picture of a model walking down a fashion runway, wearing clothing from Noir — a designer that can only be found in Europe. The mannequin current;y in A&A’s window is wearing that same exact outfit.
Allie says that many of the brands that A&A carries can only be found at International Plaza near the Tampa International Airport, a long drive from Wesley Chapel.
“They can drive all the way there, or they can come here and get it for half the price or cheaper,” says Amber.
A&A isn’t all about selling clothing, either. The boutique also puts on fashion shows for the community, donating proceeds to a good cause. For example, the shop recently put on a fashion show to benefit the Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel Foundation that included a runway, or “blue carpet,” as the girls decided to call it. Friends and customers were able to dress up in several pieces that were for sale and model them for all those who attended. The event raised more than $500 for the Foundation.
A&A also has participated in “Shoes for the Cure” during the recent fifth annual “Fashion Week Tampa Bay in Ybor City, as well as “Peace Couture” on November 9, a fashion event that benefited The Spring of Tampa Bay, a domestic violence shelter for battered women and their families. A&A also recently shipped three boxes of cold weather clothes, toiletries, cleaning supplies and batteries to a fellow consigner in New York City to distribute to victims of Superstorm Sandy.
After only four months, A&A already is making Wesley Chapel a more fashionable place to shop. The only downfall of running a consignment boutique with the word “luxury” in the name, Lori says, is that it sometimes scares customers away.
“People see the word ‘luxury’ and they automatically assume that the clothes we sell are going to be way out of their price range,” she explains. “That’s really not the case at all with us at A &A Boutique.”
Don’t believe her? Stop in to see A&A Boutique (2653 BBD Blvd., Suite 108) for yourself, visit Facebook.com/AABoutiqueLLC or call 528-8765.