Now a women’s-only establishment, Standard Style opened in October 2003 as the first men’s and women’s contemporary fashion boutique in Kansas City, USA. The first location debuted in Leawood, KS and the second one followed three years later at nearby Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, MO. Here, the stores’ owners, husband and wife Matt and Emily Baldwin (who are also responsible for the on-fire premium denim line Baldwin), discuss the pleasures and pitfalls of being an independent multibrand retailer. Interview by Christopher Blomquist

Store owner Matt Baldwin
Store owner Matt Baldwin

Who is the “typical” customer at your two stores?
There is such a wide variety of clientele who shop each location. The average demographic is women ages 40 to 55. The buying encompasses a larger demographic so there are high school girls as well as sophisticated women in their sixties and seventies. Standard Style is women’s only as of 2013. The men’s segment now shops from one of the two Baldwin shops which include not only the Baldwin collection but third-party vendors as well.

What are your bestselling brands and specific items at the moment?
Bestselling brands for women include A.L.C, Rag & Bone, Baldwin, James Perse, Veronica Beard, Elizabeth & James, Claire Vivier, Frame and Rebecca Taylor. Specific items for this season include novelty fur items from Elizabeth & James, Iro leather coats, Claire Viver clutches, Janessa Leon wool hats, Rag & Bone booties, Illstevia sunglasses, Baldwin Rivington denim, Birkenstocks and RMS lip and cheek color and rodin oil.

How do the two stores stand out from others in the area?
Our focus from day one was to serve clients-it was never about selling, but providing a service with authentic relationships. One of our attributes is offer the best product for our market. After 11 years we have some designers who we have carried since the beginning, and have also launched many, many new emerging designers and continue to seek the top designers and products in the contemporary market. We have a great mix of top trends, but also very wearable day-to-day wear. You can really find an entire wardrobe from casuals to work to evening attire. We offer a variety of price points and looks which allows for multiple demographics to shop. We really value our personal shopping and personal styling services and focus on pre-pulling rooms, delivery services and closet cleanouts. Having two locations for women’s in the same city allows us to better serve our city. Each location has its own individual buy which reflects the customer shopping at that store. We introduce new items to keep evolving. We recently launched a beauty bar with Apothecary and Skin care from Skin & Bones, Aesop, Odyn, Verso and makeup from RMS, Kevin Aucoin, Edward Bess and Claudio Riaz to offer full one-stop shopping. We are also very involved in the community and love giving back. It has been a great city for us.

Standard Style store space at the Country Club Plaza location
Standard Style store space at the Country Club Plaza location

What is the fashion scene like in Kansas City?
The fashion scene has definitely evolved since we began. There has been a lot more shops open, a lot of designers launching out of Kansas City and it’s so great to see Kansas City people just as relevant as [those from other] cities.

How has being a retailer helped you in launching your own line?
We have worked on the floors in the dressing rooms with people for years. The customer feedback on so many items of clothing and fits really allowed us to identify what men and women truly want to wear. You cannot trade in years on a retail floor–it's a true education in the fashion industry. It’s priceless.

What is your favorite part about running the store?
We love the people aspect of the stores. We have great clients and they become like family—not to mention the teams we get to work with. Every day is changing and there are always ways to improve, identify trends and make a difference in people’s lives. Our team really values taking the time with everyone in the stores to create their look and make them feel special. It’s rewarding. Buying of course is a part of that, because it creates this lifestyle and the brand and the opportunity to educate.
Shoe area of Standard Style
Shoe area of Standard Style

What is the biggest challenge of being an independent retailer today?
There is so much more available to the customer today than when we started 11 years ago. They are inundated by the digital world with offers, specials and bargains daily. As an independent retailer you don’t have the margins that the corporate world can provide so your service and buying has to be very special. However, with the number of online stores that carry similar product that can deter people to convenience. We have to continually make the experience in each store of value.

How do you stay in touch with your customers?
We do e-mailers, use social media like Facebook and Instagram but most importantly it’s about the personal connection through cards, calls, texts and personal e-mails.

What special customer services do the stores offer?
We do personal styling, closet consultations and we ship boxes all over the country with a personal stylist buying just for you and then you can send back what does not work.

Describe the stores’ décor. And how do you think it influences sales?
The stores are modern and clean with a white, gray and warm wood palette. The Leawood shop was recognized in Interior Design magazine in 2012 for top retail design for interiors. We have a high emphasis on merchandising so the clothes become the focus rather than too much distraction on the interiors.

Denim at Standard Style
Denim at Standard Style

What do you think will be the key fashion items for fall/winter?
As always we are seeing leather and fur trend, so we think that will be a strong representation through end of year. As much as the prediction of sportswear is trending, we are still selling denim well. Denim is always a staple this time of year.  It’s back to the silk blouses and sweaters.

How do you discover new brands?
Most trends start on the streets, so it’s important for us to stay educated on those trends and find the people doing it best. We travel and seek out new things wherever we are.

What is a “golden rule” of retailing that every store owner needs to follow?
It’s all about the client. You must take care of the people that are choosing to shop from you. Especially now with all of the options-you need to offer service, experience, product and listen to their needs and desires. In retail you must always be willing to change. Just as fashion is a game of change, so is retail.

Standard Style

4573 West 119th Street
Leawood, KS 66209
+1 913 685 4464

451 W. 47th Street
Kansas City, MO 64112
+1 913 685 4464