3 min read ·
Ashley Harris’s Vermillion may be a designer boutique worthy of New York, but it’s her personal touch with her clients, her shop, and her own sense of style that bring an air of southern hospitality to all aspects of her North Hills business. In fact, Southern Living magazine named her among the 50 Best-Dressed southerners of 2015. Not bad for a first-time store owner who just celebrated 10 years of being in business, and more importantly, 10 years of rewarding client relationships. We had the opportunity to talk with Ashley about why her slice of the fashion world has truly become a North Hills treasure.
For those who may not be familiar with Vermillion, how would you describe your boutique — both in the clothing that you offer and the atmosphere of the shop?
Ashley Harris: A warm, inviting women’s boutique filled with beautiful, designer clothing and accessories. Allowing women to buy beautiful clothing at all price points has always been my philosophy. We are basically personal shoppers ready to help with updating your wardrobe each season.
Vermillion is a fairly high-end, niche type of boutique for the Triangle. What inspired you to start this type of business here?
AH: I had worked at Razooks, a high-end designer boutique, and saw that Raleigh could support a designer store. With all of the new growth in the area, that has proven to be the case. But I still buy the way I dress. I love pairing a less expensive, fabulous pair of jeans with a beautiful hand embroidered top. Having a selection of beautiful clothing and accessories at all price points has always been my buying philosophy.
Why did you choose North Hills as the location for your business?
AH: I liked that North Hills was a new fresh development, very accessible to the beltline for people coming in from all surrounding areas. We do a lot of our business by sending out approval boxes to clients who live all over North Carolina and in other states. We email or text new inventory and send out boxes weekly. Then the clients return what doesn’t work for them.
Has your North Hills location proven to be beneficial for Vermillion?
AH: Very. Some of my favorite clients just walked into my store.
How do you pick brands and items to sell?
AH: I am a sucker for luxurious clothing and accessories and really do go by the rule, “Would I wear it?” I typically will follow designers I am interested in for a few seasons to see if I think they would appeal to my clients and perform well in Vermillion. For instance, I kept my eye on Chloe for years and picked them up when I thought it was the best time to launch the designer line in Vermillion. Wes Gordon was another one I kept my eye on. Now he has become a friend and comes to Raleigh a few times a year for trunk shows!
It’s been said that you sometimes have people in mind when you buy items for your shop. What does that type of personal touch mean to you and your customers?
AH: Relationships are everything to me in not only my personal life but my business life as well. I definitely am personal shopping each season I go on a buying trip. I’ll keep in mind what my clients have going on and what Raleigh has going on.
Vermillion is your first store. What have been some of the most rewarding aspects so far of owning your own boutique?
AH: I am so grateful to be able to walk into Vermillion every day with excitement and happiness. Clothing all different types of women and making them feel special is really what it’s all about to me. I love introducing a client to a new designer when that opens up their personal style and helps influence their growth as a person. I also have an incredible sales team and have surrounded myself with loyal, kind, smart, interesting women who share a love of fashion.
What have some of the challenges been with starting your own business?
AH: NOT over-buying is a constant struggle each season. You fall in love with these designers and their beautiful designs, and it is tempting to buy too much! Surviving 2008 was HUGE. It helped me become a smarter businesswoman. I decided to have more events to weather the storm in 2008, and that has continued throughout the years. Events and connecting with my clients are always important. The designers love meeting the wonderful clients and vice versa! We have trunk shows several times a year so clients can get exactly what they want in their size, which is a win-win for everyone!