For the latest in fashion trends to barely hit the market, Salt Lake City is at times a bit behind on getting product on the shelves. Its not a matter of not trying hard enough, its just difficult sometimes to pick and choose and then get it here. But a lot of our local shops do what they can to provide with the latest. Like the recently relocated boutique we're looking at today.
Q Clothing started out a a few years ago over on 9th East as a corner shop for people to find a particular selection of clothing and accessories, hand picked by founding sisters Annie & Jan Quan. Since then its grown a reputation for being a local retail leader, focused on bringing would-be shoppers a taste of something different from standard department stores. Earlier this summer the shop packed up and moved to East Broadway, sharing the same business front as Slowtrain and The Tavernacle, bringing those same tastes to the thriving area. For this interview we chat with co-owner (and former City Weekly marketing manager) Annie Quan about her career, starting the shop, thoughts on local fashion and a few other topics. Plus some pictures of what you can find there at the moment. Knowing the publication (and this blog) Annie wasn't up for doing a photo. So here's a picture of the logo. Its like seeing a piece of Annie... in the form of her last name... the first letter of her last name. Let's move on.
Gavin: Hey Annie! First off, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Annie: I’m one of two partners that own Q Clothing on Broadway. I also work at a marketing firm and I hate olives.
Gavin: How did you first take an interest in fashion, both local and national?
Annie: I’ve always had an interest in fashion. When I was young my mom and aunt would make dresses and sweaters as hobbies, and I would sit there watching them and cut fabric pieces. When I got into high school I started taking fashion and sewing classes and it progressed to an associates degree in fashion.
Gavin: Did you seek out any college for fashion, business or retail before hand?
Annie: When I was sixteen I got a job at Old Navy. Old Navy was a really big deal back then, there was only one in the state at Fort Union. I really enjoyed working in retail and it progressed to a management position at Gap and then I became interested in merchandising. I was going to school at the time so I started taking merchandising courses in college along with a marketing degree. It progressed into an early career in merchandising for various retailers.
Gavin: I read your uncle was the head designer for Z Cavaricci when ti started . How was that for you seeing him start that and gain success?
Annie: He was a great influence. My family has always been a big part of my fashion career and still is today. He has since started another brand that’s carried nationwide at department stores like Neiman Marcus as well as small boutiques like Fred Segal. I continue to learn from him and now I’m able to partner with him and carry his line in our stores.
Gavin: You worked at Polo for a time where you eventually became a merchandiser. How was that experience for you?
Annie: Polo was a great learning experience for me. It was the turning point in my life where I decided to make a big change and no longer work for a corporate company. It made me realize I wasn’t interested in becoming a corporate zombie wearing nice clothes wadding through the mundane politics. I was only twenty-four, I was making a really good salary but I decided it was time to make a switch and I started looking for marketing positions, even if that meant I’d make half the money.
Gavin: As a cheap plug, you worked for City Weekly for a couple of years. How was your time working here, and do you have any lingering death threats you wish to voice?
Annie: Yeah. I was at City Weekly just shy of my five-year mark. All the death threats didn’t compare to how great City Weekly is and how much it does for our community. I’d take those threats ten fold and still work there all over again. And hey, now I know what local businesses to support and which ones I would never step foot in.
Gavin: Where did the idea come from for you and your sister to start up Q Clothing?
Annie: My sister and I had always talked about opening up a small boutique. I wasn’t working in corporate retail any longer, and my sister was in a financial position to back the endeavor. It happened really quickly, we had talked about it in July, we went to market week for a buying trip in August, and signed a lease and renovated the space by October.
Gavin: How did you decide what designers you would have in-store and what kind of clothing you were going to offer?
Annie: It was a lot of research. We knew we wanted to carry brands that weren’t offered in Salt Lake. So we started traveling to other markets like L.A., San Francisco and New York. We looked at what other boutiques were carrying and then walked for five days, eight hours a day at the fashion convention on our first buying trip, just talking to brands and designers.
Gavin: How did you eventually come across the first location on the corner of 13th South and 9th East?
Annie: Completely by accident. We had talked about the possibility of opening a shop. We didn’t have any areas in mind and I happened to be driving a friend home and saw the previous store was closing. I called the landlord and signed a lease that week.
Gavin: What was it like for you getting set up and how did that first year open go for you both?
Annie: It was insane with a lot of very late nights. I was working full time at City Weekly and my sister is a CEO of her company with two kids under five years old at the time. But we got through it with the help of my friends who became our first employees. My two good friends Len Rawlings, who is one of the most talented merchandisers anywhere, came in and merchandised our store every week. And Aimee McCrea worked seven hours a day trouble shooting computer issues, programs and setting up the register. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.
Gavin: You've received a lot of praise over the past few years for keeping the store flowing with original designs. How much of a struggle is it to stay on top of it all?
Annie: It’s a constant struggle. Every week we work to find new items and every season we have to find new lines. We’ve been trying really hard to keep the store updated with new items weekly. It was such a small space we wanted to make sure if a customer came in each week, they would find something completely new.
Gavin: Recently you moved the shop to Broadway. What made you decide to relocate to the downtown location?
Annie: We’d been in our previous location for almost four years. Last year my sister left Q and my really good friend Amber Espanet came on as my partner. It was really her dedication and vision that got us to expand to the new location. We loved the 13th and 9th location, but it was just too small for everything we wanted to carry. She has been doing such an amazing job with the lines we carry, we really wanted to be able to offer more selections to our customers.
Gavin: How have things been going for you since opening that store up?
Annie: It’s been wonderful. The neighborhood and surrounding businesses are so supportive and welcoming. We’re really excited to be an addition to the Broadway neighborhood.
Gavin: Are there any plans to open a second at this point or waiting for things to settle?
Annie: We’ve talked about opening a second location, but it would be down the road and in a different city.
Gavin: A little local, what are your thoughts on our fashion scene, both good and bad?
Annie: I think there’s a lot of growth potential in our fashion scene but there are people who are defiantly setting trends and taking risk and progressing the ideology of fashion in Salt Lake.
Gavin: Anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?
Annie: I think people just have to take more risks. Go into all the local boutiques and you’ll find they carry a wide range of brands and styles. Not everyone has to wear the same thing from big box retailers.
Gavin: Who are some of your favorite local designers right now?
Annie: I think we have a plethora of great artisans and crafters that are very talented here in Salt Lake.
Gavin: What are your thoughts about other local retailers and how they sell local products?
Annie: You have to give all local retailers accolades for going into a small business. Running a small business is hard and a really big risk. I think we really need to re think how we spend our money and how if effects the local economy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a martyr to any small business cause. I just think if you can find the same thing from a local business, even if it’s minutely more expensive, why not spend your dollar knowing it’s going back to your own community.
Gavin: Do you have any favorite shops you like to work with or shop from?
Annie: I’m a big supporter of shopping local and eating local. We don’t have very many local boutiques but the ones we have offer so much to the community. My friend Kyong Millar owns one of my favorite boutiques, Koo De Ker, near 9th & 9th. She’s been around for close to ten years, which is such a testament to her hard work and dedication. I think Ron Green of Green Ant has one of the greatest selections of mid century modern furniture anywhere in the country.
Gavin: What's your take on Fashion Stroll and the part it plays in our scene?
Annie: I think it’s a great event. They work hard to provide the community a fun and free event while offering local businesses and artists an opportunity to showcase their inventory. It gets people downtown and experience shops and vendors they may not otherwise encounter.
Gavin: What can we expect from both Q Clothing and yourselves the rest of the year?
Annie: A larger selection of merchandise and hopefully brands that will be introduced to Salt Lake for the first time.
Gavin: Aside the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
Annie: Take risks. Buy local. And pick up a City Weekly.
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