Darla Miller, owner of That Special Fashion upscale ladies wear and accessories boutique, has that durable double quality of being both an expert in her field and congenial. They say that clothes make the man. So, what is the female counterpart?
“I had a customer, come in a few years ago, who had just had twins and was feeling frumpy about herself, and she wanted to boost her self-confidence. I think there is something to be said about retail therapy. Once in a while, something fresh makes a woman feel good about herself, when that something (in clothes) matches her personality.”
Now to the provenance element:
In the 1970s, Miller started working at the vanguard of fashion – Dylex, owner of chains like Tip Top and Suzy Shier – a giant in fashion’s volume moving market. In managing Suzy Shier and other Dylex stores, she amassed knowledge about fashion merchandising. She honed her expertise working with Marlene Shepherd at Shepherd’s Fashions in Ottawa. As Manager of the Rideau Centre Store, Miller was instrumental in the success of the aforementioned business. Deciding to open her own boutique, Miller returned to her Belleville roots to be closer to family:
“I like the small town feel of my boutique. I have had it since November 1994, I hate to admit,” she said, laughing. “Over the years, my merchandise has been kept up to date. I have probably changed my buying patterns 10 times over the years.”
Who would think that fashion trends in Belleville and surroundings would be affected by news events and geographical movement? Miller has her hand on that pulse, as well:
“Our area has transitioned into a more retirement demographic, drawn to our waterfront and wineries being nearby, etcetera. We have seen certain demographical changes with people selling larger homes and moving into our area where they are more active in more green space. So, they need more weekend wear and casual, even throughout the week.”
Miller believes, as the age demographic matures in ladies’ wear, there is less attention to things like high heels and shorter shorts and dresses. That Special Touch lines accommodate each change in demographic. She still maintains quality products that look polished but comfortable and easy to wear for women from 30 to 80:
“COVID significantly affected the trend. I bought lounge wear for the first time ever. I tuned in to how COVID was affecting the industry, but more so how it was affecting my demographic in this area. In a lot of my online postings, I will quote on trend but never trendy. So, as a fashion store, I am aware of trends and where to purchase higher end fashion pieces, but I am also in tune with who is buying my product and what they want. I try to match customer’s needs with the product they will enjoy.”
When asked how she arrived at her store’s name, she immediately laughed and paused and said she was standing in line to register it and had to come up with something as she approached the counter. When asked what the name of her new company, “it just came out.” She thinks the lapse of fore-thought was probably because she had the store up and running in less than a week; friends and family helped her build shelves and change rooms.
“Because I travelled and got my experience at a very young age, it helped me to be content with what I have built here. I enjoy every day because you never know. I have a positive attitude. I found joy in a smaller town. We have a beautiful area to live in, something I wanted to come back to, where I was born. Belleville is safe and comfortable, what can I say? My favourite thing to do in Downtown Belleville is have coffee with the girls at Capers.”
Renowned for its accessories and European fashion designs, That Special Touch is located at 260 Front St, Belleville.
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