Saturday, September 13, 2008
Christine Fellows knew she needed her own shop when her work began spilling out of her spare bedroom into the rest of the apartment. "I came home one day and Kevin, my husband, cried 'You have to do something about this,'" referring to the clothes and boxes piled throughout their Hells Kitchen flat, she said. For a time she worked out of a storage unit before opening Couture du Jour, her vintage clothing and luxury goods boutique, in the basement of a tenement in Hell’s Kitchen.
Undaunted by its location, six-steps below street level and two doors away from a troubled SRO, Fellows took a shabby space and created a bright stylish shop. This attractive 450 square foot shop is cozy yet spacious for a handful of visitors to browse comfortably. Wood floors, track lighting, a huge mirror, shelves and racks filled with an amazing collection of dresses, blouses, pins, earrings, and much more create a toy land-like experience for adults.
For many people vintage means worn and cheap. At Couture everything is in mint condition. Fellows buys clothes and accessories with today's woman in mind. “If you need an accessory to complement a work outfit or if you need a dress for a picnic or evening wear, I have it."
Born in Miami Beach, Fellows grew up in Atlanta and attended school in the south. She identifies closely with her southern roots but is very much a New Yorker. "This is my city and where I want to be. Paris is the only place that could take me away from here," she said.
Fellows started as a deejay and arts critics at Florida State's public radio station. Then she worked for independent and punk rock labels in Los Angeles. Tired of the cutthroat entertainment business and in desperate need of change she went to Hawaii for vacation. She fell in love with the island's beauty and stayed for several years. She worked as a mortgage broker but soon opened a consignment shop. Having worked at Bloomingdale's Fellows loved retail and interacting with people, plus Hawaii had only three consignment shops.
She is the ultimate people person. Friendly and gracious with an engaging personality and a warm beautiful smile, Fellows has a sharp business mind and a keen eye for fashion. She attributes this to her Bloomingdale days. "I learned how women shop, what they like, how they expect to be treated and how they spend money,” she said.
In 1999 she sold her shop and moved to New York with her husband, who she met in Hawaii. Fellows worked for a research group when she moved here but grew bored. "I like making change for a living and meeting people" she said.
She attended a vintage clothes show with
avant-garde artist Julia deVille.
"I fell in love with it all," she said. "I knew I could do it." She researched the business, frequented shows and felt the city had a large enough market.
Fellows has a discerning eye for quality and style.
On a recent visit Fellows showed off her Bangle bracelets, Boucher costume jewelry, Donald Brooks evening wear; and cotton Shaheen MUMU's with colorful floral patterns.
Vintage looks expensive but there is something for all tastes. Prices range from $20 to $1000. "There is always the sale rack," she said. _
Fellows loves Hell's Kitchen. It is a socially active, creative community. It is vibrant and full of many interesting people, she said. Her clients are locals, theatergoers, tourists, garment center, Broadway and a few celebrities.
One day several ladies from the Midwest stopped in. A voice
from behind the dressing room curtain asked Fellows for a certain dress. A minute later a six-foot-tall drag queen in high heels walked out from behind the curtain. "The looks on their faces were priceless," she said. Visiting Couture is also priceless.
Couture du Jour, 349 West 44th; Hours Wed-Sat. 12-7 Hours; Available for private appointments; 646-595-6351; Christine@Couture-duJour.com Photo by Straycat