Stacy Smallwood wants you to get dressed. And, please, you can give those yoga pants the day off. “It’s just as easy to throw on an Ulla Johnson dress and some cute shoes,” says Smallwood, “as it is some lululemons and a T-shirt. I think a lot of times what you have on can hold you back. Maybe you’re not going to go meet your friend for a 5 o’clock cocktail because you didn’t get dressed today.”
As the owner of clothing, shoes, and accessories destinations: Hampden Clothing, James, and Small—all on historic King Street in Charleston, and all named for her great-great grandfather—this Greenville native now Charleston dweller has an eye for fashion. But the flounce and fluff? No, dahhling. You can leave all that for the Miranda Priestlys of the world. Smallwood might wear Prada, but she’s no diva. Instead, she is as vivacious and unassuming as they come—especially in an industry that can be allergic to both traits. “Fashion is deemed to be this thing like this girls club that you’re not a part of,” says Smallwood, “and I would love to continue to break down those walls.”
Smallwood just wants to bring high fashion’s best of the best to the Lowcountry and beyond, which she is doing in spades—and in shades beyond the très Southern pastels and pinks. In fact Smallwood says 70 percent of her business is from clients who live outside of South Carolina. Hampden opened in 2007, James in 2012, and her newest venture, Small (a mini-version of Hampden with a $500 and less price point), just four months ago. All have made Smallwood a wild success at being the Southeast go-to for brands usually only purchasable in marquee cities. She carries more than 100 different designers from A (Alexander Wang) to Z (Zimmermann) with Helmut Lang, Marni, and Stella McCartney in between. She’s gone one-third of the year (Paris, New York, Milan, Copenhagen) to curate from the collections she deems the best for her eager clients. The entire inventory is available to see and shop online. Press, including Town & Country, Vogue, and The Washington Post, has covered her, and her King Street takeover is the latest in a string of can- and will-do moments.
Smallwood’s first and only job interview out of Vanderbilt University was with the buying program at Neiman Marcus. Her twin sister, Sallie Holder, told her to “get off the couch and go to the interview.” Sallie has recently moved back to Greenville and is a leadership coach for female entrepreneurs. It must be in the genes. “I’ve been in this business for 17 years, since I was 23-years-old,” says Smallwood, “and I have seen it all from celebrities to meeting amazing designers and editors. And there are plenty of times I go into Fashion Week, and I’m the crazy one who is like, ‘Heyyy!’ and I feel like I’ve kind of made a name for myself for that reason.” The culture of her couture is also, happily, commission-free. Her 10-person team is all on salary, which changes the shopping environment, and if you have dressing-room aversion, they even curate wardrobes and ship a box out. Keep what you want, send the rest back.
“I love expressing myself through fashion. As women we are all talking about self-awareness and all these things, and subconsciously we dress for our mood or to express our personality, and I think it’s such a fun thing. But often women look at it as a burden, and I don’t want fashion to be that way. My goal is for women to feel beautiful and feel empowered through fashion instead of put down.” So whatever it is, rock your style because it’s yours, and nobody can take that away from you.