The Hill Center. The “land of the beautiful people,” as I’ve seen it referred to on Facebook. Love it or hate it, there is no other place in town that can boast parking in one spot and being able to grocery shop, shop for your kids, yourself and your home with a collection of local and national brands, all while enjoying wide sidewalks and manicured gardens. It’s the blend of local and national that makes this place magical, and we earnestly hope that in 5 years this mix continues to have a large mix of local.
The Hill Center’s newest store is the locally owned Kayce Hughes. While starting as primarily a wholesale children’s ready-to-wear company called Pears+Bears 14 years ago, owner Kayce Hughes has expanded the company in recent years to include the eponymous women’s line, which has grown to be even stronger than the children’s line. Previously, we Nashvillians had to go online to buy Kayce Hughes women’s clothes, but no longer.
Kayce started designing the women’s collection, having been inspired by the beautiful cotton fabrics in her children’s line. First, she wanted a top for herself… And then another blouse, and a skirt and a dress. The line organically grew from her own needs as a mom (of seven children) in pursuit of clothes for the days she wanted to still be comfortable but look a bit more put together than say, our beloved yoga pants. Since the company was already hosting trunk shows for the children’s collection, where moms gathered in abundance to shop, the addition of the women’s line made perfect sense: the audience was already built-in.
Above all, Kayce designs with timeless style, ease and comfort in mind. She wants her customers to feel pretty each time they wear one of her pieces.
I recently caught up with Kayce to chat about the evolution of her company, where she is now and what is on the horizon.
So, welcome to the world of bricks and mortar! In this day and age, many bricks and mortar stores are moving to an online environment. What excites you to move in the opposite direction?
I have always dreamed of having a brick and mortar store. As a shopper, I love being able to see things online but I also want to feel the fabric and try things on. We love being able to offer that to our customers. Environments have always been really important to me and a store is a way to share our clothing in a way that websites can’t.
Learning along the way is what keeps life interesting. Retail is an art form that is new to us and I am loving the challenge of constantly improving the store experience for our customers. It’s exciting to finally be able to drive by my store and pop in every day!
How special is it having a store in Nashville?
Having a store in our hometown is special for a million reasons. Having a store here also allows me to be hands-on, as I need to work with my hands. I love to get messy with glue and paint, so painting the window displays and glueing on gold sparkly circles feeds a creative need in me that is different than the drawn out creativity of designing the line.
Kayce Hughes is a family company. Scott and I run the company together: he takes care of the business side, freeing me up to focus on the creative. He is also our photographer. Our children have grown up discussing the company at the dinner table, modeling the clothing and much more. The wonderful group in our office (Caroline, Betsy and Ali) have become like family. Having the store here has made everything tangible in a way that shipping boxes across the country could never do. It is so much fun having my kids come home from school and tell me with excitement that their friends visited the store and loved it. We are doing the same things that we have done before, but now we get to share it with the people who touch our everyday lives.
This is your second location, with Chattanooga being your first. What was it like launching your first store in a city outside of your hometown?
It was a great experience because it taught us how to manage a store remotely and work with our excellent local manager (Lyndal). Chatanooga is simply too far away to visit every time I want to create a window display or test out new furniture. Because she does such a great job, we can focus on Nashville and then on our next store in Atlanta.
Atlanta? When are you opening up in Atlanta?
We are planning on opening in Atlanta at the end of February in the White Provisions district.
How many items do you design for each season?
I design around 200 items for women and children each season. The company has evolved into much more of a women’s company, but it’s hard to cut back on kids, as that is how I started. The women’s line does get bigger every year but the children’s line stays about the same size. Each season, you can find our trademark colors worked into the collection: turquoise, red, Kelly green and a variety of pinks.
What item are you most looking forward to adding to your women’s line?
I have some great hand-me-down blazers that my brother wore as a 12 year old. I love the way they are cut and the way they fit. I’m currently working with a tailor to mimic this fit and am excited to add a blazer to the women’s collection very soon! It will be one that I am going want to wear all the time. And, while not a specific item, we also did a small party collection this Holiday season, and I am excited to do more.
Where do you get your inspirations?
I love finding inspiration in vintage stores, friends’ creative homes and a 20 minute indulgence looking at beautiful things on Pinterest. When I worked at Ralph Lauren, I was less excited about the fashion of the moment and more interested in timeless, easy pieces. In the end, I love how style in the interior and fashion world all meld together. For me, it is the little touches that make everyday life feel special whether, it is a dress that makes me feel pretty or setting the table with cloth napkins.
In your opinion, how is it best to accessorize an outfit?
Oh, I’d say add a bangle or two–or a great big ring. Not that I don’t love a great pair of earrings, this is just more what I tend to grab. Above all, grab something that is a statement and is big. It makes the whole outfit instantly feel like it was “thought about” — that tiny bit of effort can go a long way.
Do the Kayce Hughes stores sell brands beyond Kayce Hughes and Pears + Bears?
Yes, we have other brands, as it makes the store fresh and gives the store variety. I love wearing a mix of lines (usually including some vintage) and I want the store to feel that way too. And they are things that I found and wanted for myself. Obviously our line has the largest emphasis, but you’ll find other brands for sweaters, dresses, jeans, jewelry and such. We have candles, gifts, different brands of handbags. This way there is always new inventory arriving in the store. The store has much more, as far as overall inventory, than the online site does.
So, Nashville, we hope you are as excited as we are that the flagship Kayce Hughes store has arrived! You’ll find the store on the Whole Foods end of the Hill Center, across the parking lot from West Elm. www.kaycehughes.com
For more on Kayce, she was featured as our FACE of Nashville last spring: click here.