New ecommerce sites launch all the time, but sometimes they’re special. Jaclyn Bethany launched Audrey Grace in her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi about a year ago and it first popped up on our radar earlier this year when she staged a Marie Antoinette-themed pop-up shop at the Highline here in NYC. She shoots dreamy look books with cool bloggers and stocks the kinds of precious, ultra-feminine, vintage-inspired (and vintage) pieces we can never seem to find outside the pages of magazines like Lula (one of her sources of inspiration) and, like, Zooey Deschanel’s wardrobe.
She sources her inventory from all over the world and now those perfect frocks from hard-to-find brands like Orla Kiely, Lauren Moffatt and Rachel Antonoff are all in one place, accessible for all on audreygraceshop.com, which officially launched last week. To promote the launch, Bethany collaborated with Claire Cottrell on a pretty video, which you can see here exclusively.
Bethany’s also an example of a new trend we’ve noticed of young twentysomethings opening up shops straight out of (or, in her case, while still in) college. She just graduated from Fordham with a BA in Acting, which she says is her true passion (perhaps the name of her business wasn’t the only thing inspired by Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly). We chatted with her about how she did it and what’s next. Watch the video below and read on for our interview with Bethany.
Fashionista:Can you tell me a little bit about your background, what you did before opening your store/what you studied in school? Jaclyn Bethany: I am originally from Jackson, Mississippi, although I am now based in New York. I just graduated from Fordham with a BA in Acting. I am first and foremost an actor. I have been acting and singing since I was a little girl. I suppose the fashion bug sort of set in at some point too. I was always very interested in how a costume can transform a person into a character. I come from the deep South, and a very fashionable family. My grandmother and mother instilled in me at a very early age that dressing well was important, and I learned through them that fashion could be very fun.
What inspired you to open Audrey Grace? How long ago did it open? I was inspired by an uber feminine aesthetic that I felt was missing from boutiques today. The type of clothes you see in beautiful magazines like Lula, with a reasonable price point. I wanted to stock clothes that were hard to find and have them be accessible to girls everywhere. It was perfect timing really, because many of the SS12 collections were so vintage and girly. I love the way the women in the 50s and 60s dressed. I love Old Hollywood. The store was inspired specifically by Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly. I was also inspired by many stylish actresses today- Alexa Chung, Kirsten Dunst, Michelle Williams, Elle and Dakota Fanning, etc.
I have been working on the store for about a year. I have traveled all over the world to source amazing pieces for the boutique.
How did you fund the store in the beginning? My parents helped me open the store and I am forever grateful to them. Specifically, my father because he is a business owner himself and really helped me with this process. I could not have opened the store without them.
How do you find/decide what to stock? I initially just started contacting independent designers, but then I reached out to higher end designers and vintage dealers from all over the world. I got to work with the owners of my favorite London boutique Koh Samui (which is closed now), which was pretty cool.
What famous person, dead or alive, real or fictional would you picture shopping at Audrey Grace? This is a really difficult question! There are so many. I would say someone like Coco Chanel because she inspired a whole new world of women's fashion. I would be interested to hear what she thought of my shop!
You had a pop up in NYC back in March of this year. How did that come about and what was the response like?
I had always wanted to have a pop up in NYC from the beginning. I felt like I would have a great clientele there, so I figured it out. I worked with Small Girls [PR] for press and the girls of Blow Up for event styling. I also had models; the band SUPERCUTE! and DJs the Jane Doze. It was a fantastic, girly wonderland--my dream vision brought to life. The response to the event has been overwhelming and I don't think I could start an online boutique if I had not have had the pop up in NY.
Why did you decide this was the right time to launch e-commerce? Well, I think that the internet is taking over our world now. I had many people contact me expressing interest in shopping at an Audrey Grace online store, so it was a logical step for my business. I think I launched it at the right time. I have learned a lot over the past year.
What are you working on next? Would you want to open another brick and mortar location? Perhaps in NYC? Right now, I am headed to London for "vacation" and have several business meetings set up. But, no, I am really, really thankful for everything that is happening to me and Audrey Grace. When I get back to New York, I am planning on focusing on acting and doing styling and the online store on the side. I also plan on buying some new stock for the store over the next couple of weeks. In regards to fashion, I want to ultimately be a freelance stylist, and I have been really working on building up my portfolio. I also hope to become a working actress over the next couple of years.
In terms of Audrey Grace, it would be amazing to open a bricks and mortar store in NYC. I just feel like that would be a few years down the line. I am only 23! I also have a dream to start my own magazine, sort of based on the Audrey Grace aesthetic, and get some amazing collaborators involved. I put an unofficial one together for the Audrey Grace launch, and published it online, and it has been really successful as well.
You often make look books with fashion bloggers- what made you decide to do that and how do you put those together? I believe my first one was with The Cherry Blossom Girl. I reached out to her; she loved my store, and we started working together. From there, I started reaching out to bloggers all over the world that I felt fit the Audrey Grace aesthetic and could put their own spin on the clothes. The collaborations with bloggers have turned out to be an excellent way of getting press, and the sales do increase every time a popular blogger posts! I have also virtually connected with amazing young women all over the world.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to open up their own store or ecommerce site? Do some sort of test run before you officially launch a huge online store. For me, it was pop ups, but there are lots of ways of doing it--Etsy, blogging, etc. You have to make sure you have some sort of interest and fan base, because launching an online site can be very expensive and takes a lot of time and effort.
Where do you see Audrey Grace five years from now? I hope that the store is still open, and that it has grown, whether that means a permanent location in New York, or something else. I also hope to start a magazine; maybe in five years time I will be able to achieve that.