Highland Park Village has a glittery reputation, really worldwide in some echelons, but even regulars may not realize the Dallas shopping center has a soft spot for lifting local designers.
While Highland Park’s town square is known for European and American designer brands, from Hermès and Chanel to Tom Ford and Alice + Olivia, and really expensive jewelry shopping, Highland Park Village has reserved a row of its sought-after real estate for local designer merchants.
“While we do have incredible brands known worldwide, we want to support local designers,” said Victoria Snee, chief marketing officer for the 90-year-old shopping center at Preston Road and Mockingbird Lane. “It’s intentional that designers from our community can have a great spot in Highland Park Village.”
The row of shops on the south side of the center’s middle building houses longtime local businesses: Deno’s shoe repair shop (since 1960), Peepers eyewear and optical (1976), Lela Rose (2006), Hadleigh’s (2009) and Madison (2013).
The most recent additions to the row are two new women-owned boutiques — La Vie Style House and Lele Sadoughi — with rich stories to tell behind their unique merchandise.
Jewelry and fashion accessories retailer Lele Sadoughi opened in May, and hers is a coming-home story.
Designer Lisa “Lele” Sadoughi was born in Dallas, educated at Greenhill School and the University of Texas and spent 20 years in New York building brands.
She designed trims and was responsible for pattern-making at Rebecca Taylor, then went on to design custom jewelry at Ippolita for Neiman Marcus, Anthropologie, Banana Republic and Club Monaco.
In 2005, Sadoughi was recruited to create and launch J. Crew’s jewelry, which became a $40 million business over five years. After leaving J. Crew in 2012, she launched her own branded jewelry that is sold by more than 75 retailers, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, ShopBop, Revolve and Liberty London. Lele Sadoughi is worn by celebrities including Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Hudson. Sadoughi also makes handbags, hats and scarves, and socks.
Now she’s opened her first Lele Sadoughi boutique with an emphasis on headbands, including one she created that you’ll know when you see it.
Sadoughi was the first to dot fabric headbands with pearls and other jewels.
Her headband styles, which come in hundreds of options and range from $38 to $350, are also sold at major retailers including Nordstrom. A collaboration with Liberty London for Christmas includes holiday plaids.
“When I started making headbands, there really were only low-end drugstore options or theatrical headpieces,” she said.
“I was working on a beaded clutch when I was looking,” she said, which gave her the idea to design her own headbands.
Of course, she said, headbands have been around since ancient Greek and Roman times and Alice in Wonderland wore one, but she’s reinventing it as an accessory that people can buy and collect.
Headbands saved many women during the pandemic when they needed a last-minute polished look for Zoom calls, she said.
“A lot of people still think I’m in New York,” Sadoughi said, but the opportunity to work remotely during the pandemic and a spot in the shopping center led her family to move back to Dallas. “My children [ages 7 and 8] now go to Greenhill. A lot changed during the pandemic. I realized I can do this.”
La Vie Style House
Jamie Coulter and Lindsey McClain, two moms who met in a Pilates class and hit it off, opened their La Vie Style House boutique in Highland Park Village in October 2020.
The founders have reimagined classic caftan and kimono silhouettes from vintage and designer remnant fabrics into “one-size” pieces — short and long wrap dresses and duster jackets.
Some garments are one-of-a-kind, and there are never more than 20 of each style made in the same fabric, Coulter said. The pieces are sold at the Dallas store and the company’s second store that opened in October in Houston’s River Oaks District.
“Our customers don’t want to see others wearing the same thing, and these are pieces that can be passed down,” she said. “Sometimes you want to wear a crazy sequined piece and feel like Elizabeth Taylor on a yacht.”
Prices range from $650 to $1,250, and fabrics are sourced from global designers and suppliers along with vintage fabrics that may have been sitting in a warehouse.
“We upcycle fabric that would have remained on a shelf for years,” Coulter said.
McClain is from Dallas and has always had a strong fashion sensibility. Coulter is one of those Californians we keep hearing about who moved to Texas. She was a wardrobe stylist in California.
The two created some easy-to-wear caftans, invited some friends to a trunk show and sold out.
“We call it one-size-fits-most. I’m 5′10 and Lindsey is 5′5 and we both look good in the same silhouette,” Coulter said. She has a 7-year-old daughter and McClain has two boys, ages 10 and 11, so flexibility is important to them.
Now they’ve created a total of 15 jobs for themselves, an office staff and at their two stores. They also have three full-time seamstresses with teams who also can work from home and make their own hours, Coulter said. “We didn’t know what to expect during the pandemic.”
Highland Park Village did better than most other destinations during last year’s holiday season as coronavirus cases surged.
Ethan Chernofsky, vice president of marketing at customer traffic data firm Placer.ai, said traffic has been building at the center and was above 2019 levels in October.
“The timing is important here as the center is showing increasing strength into the holiday retail season,” he said.
Traffic is a key measure, said Snee, the chief marketing officer, and this year out-of-state license plates — some from far-flung places — are common.
But sales at Highland Park Village never really dropped significantly after stores were allowed to reopen last year, and this year, Snee said, ”sales have been really, really strong.”
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