Thursday, December 14, 2017

Rachel Lutz Wants to Dress You: The Peacock Empire

A few years ago when I was looking for a dress for an event a friend suggested I stop by The Peacock Room in Detroit. I wasn't familiar with the space, but my friend is a stylist with great taste so I actually took her recommendation seriously and made my way down to The Park Sheldon on a Saturday morning to see what they had. An hour later I walked out of the boutique with a new dress for my event without breaking the bank, which is something I've never experienced before. Being a size 12/14 means that you can't usually shop at boutiques unless you're looking for accessories, even the most eclectic places don't carry many items above a size 8/10. Surprisingly, The Peacock Room not only carried a wide variety of sizes, but they had a ton of options in each size. So I actually got to play "Pretty Woman" and try everything on to find the perfect dress without feeling bad that I couldn't squeeze into anything on their racks.

Since that first visit, I have continued to visit The Peacock Room when I needed something special for a night on the town or a big event. Sometimes I leave with a cool scarf and sometimes I leave with a new gown for an event, but I always leave happy. Which is why I was pleased to hear that they would be expanding his year and even more excited when I found out the new location would be inside the historical Albert Kahn designed Fisher Building. I was able to visit the new store on Small Business Saturday and found out that the owner, Rachel Lutz, owner of both shops, was also the owner of a shop a few stores down called Yama. I walked through both stores, fell in love with a variety of pieces, and celebrated the fact that a local female entrepreneur has low key built herself a little all-inclusive empire in the city of Detroit. (In case, I forgot to mention it she also owns Frida, a cool shop located next to The Peacock Room in The Park Sheldon Building.)

It's rare to see someone open and sustain a successful business with such a good reputation, but to be expanding that business and reshaping retail in Detroit is fascinating to us. So, we reached out to Rachel to learn more about her stores, her approach to style, and her passion for the City of Detroit. The interview, much like her stores did not disappoint. Check out what she had to say and stop by and shop local this holiday at The Peacock Room! 

HID- Why did you decide to open the original Peacock Room?
Rachel Lutz- "I opened the original Peacock Room because I hate shopping and I don't like the fashion industry. Ironic, right? I wanted to bring the pleasure back to shopping since it's a necessary chore. I wanted to give others the experience I always wanted."

HID- What motivated you to expand?
Rachel Lutz- "I had no desire or plans to physically expand earlier this year. The Fisher Building's new owners approached me in May and I declined, wanting to keep my business small. I then toyed with the idea of a modern, contemporary version of The Peacock Room, which is decidedly vintage-inspired. But additionally, I made the mistake of standing in the last intact storefront of the Fisher Building. I realized it was the same exact space I stood in front of two years earlier when the building was slipping into foreclosure. I gawked at the beauty of the original historic detail, turned to my friend and said, "If I hadn't already built The Peacock Room in the Park Shelton, I would've built it here." By the end of May, I had two leases signed. Surprise!"

HID- Why did you pick the Fisher Building?
Rachel Lutz- "I picked the Fisher Building because it's the Fisher Building! They don't call it the world's largest art object for no reason. I believe in The Platform's vision for New Center and I'm excited to help them serve this already-vibrant neighborhood. There is a great foundation for retail laid by many businesses that have been here for 30 years or longer. Many retailers are headed in the opposite direction, downtown. But I think it's important that as Detroit builds up, we build out into the neighborhoods."

HID- Why did you decide to open two stores at the same time?
Rachel Lutz- "I wanted to open two stores at one time because once you're mentally, physically and financially invested, you're all in. My two Fisher Building stores have very different looks, so between them, there's something for nearly everyone. I wanted to give my customers double the reason to come to New Center, bringing the neighborhood new foot traffic. I also wanted to help bring our customers back and forth across the storefronts on Woodward between Grand Boulevard and the Amtrak station, an area poised for major growth within the next couple of years."

HID- What kind of customer does the Peacock Room cater to?
Rachel Lutz- "The Peacock Room is very vintage inspired, but not costume-y. It's for someone who loves a classic feminine look."

HID- What kind of customer does Yama cater to?
Rachel Lutz- "Yama is a polar opposite of The Peacock Room. Inspired by Minoru Yamasaki, it favors his no-nonsense clean lines. It's for someone who appreciates architecture and modern design."

HID- Why was it important for the Peacock Room to cater to the Plus Size market?
Rachel Lutz- "It's important to cater to all sizes. Detroit's apparel scene has always been inspired, but there's a documented shortage of retail, especially clothing. I wear a size 2X, larger than the average woman, but not by much. Most boutiques the size of our Park Shelton location would never commit to carrying sizes 00-26 because it's only 1,000 square feet. But it was important to me that nearly every woman has options, even if it's a small but well-curated selection. I struggle to buy good finds in extended sizes- they're not easy to source, and it gets harder every season to find unique plus apparel that's made well. One of the great things about the new, larger space is that we can continue to expand our selection in every size."

HID- Do you plan to keep both Peacock room locations open? Will they feature the same merchandise or different merchandise?
Rachel Lutz- "I plan to keep both locations of The Peacock Room open as I decide my next steps. Both Peacock Rooms have some things in common, but enough unique merchandise that will make you want to visit both. Frida in the Park Shelton is completely different than Yama in the Fisher Building. That's the benefit of the stores being less than a mile from each other! You can easily take the QLINE and walk only a block from building to building, shopping at all four."

HID- What are some of your favorite style tips? Will you share them with us?
Rachel Lutz- "My favorite style tip is DO YOU. Stop feeding yourself the same images from social media and pop culture that everyone else consumes. Go to the library, go to a concert, get out in nature, people-watch. Get inspiration from life around you. Don't give into the expectations of others, and use your style to express yourself to the world. Don't think of fashion as an industry- think of it as the evolution of your own personal style. Fashion is the process of figuring out the next you, not letting others dictate their ideas to you. Fashion is your very own evolution."

HID- Why did you decide to open a second location in Detroit instead of somewhere else?
Rachel Lutz- "I didn't want a second location of The Peacock Room anywhere. But the combination of the Fisher Building and this specific storefront made it impossible to say no. Cities vary neighborhood by neighborhood, even block by block. The two buildings are only a mile apart, but each surrounding area has its own unique identity, needs, and challenges. I will only consider opening shop in the right context and Detroit gives me that context. It also has a wealth of beautiful historic spaces that provide a unique atmosphere. The future of retail is experiential, and it's hard to get your visitors inspired by the average suburban white box build out."

HID- What is your favorite part about being in the Fisher Building?
Rachel Lutz- "My favorite part of the Fisher Building is being able to hunt for fossils in the lobby. Check out the hidden fossils in the stonework next time you visit! I love that every inch of this building is beautiful for the sake of beauty. We don't build spaces like this anymore, so we need to fiercely protect the ones we have left."

HID- Is there anything else that you would like our readers to know?
Rachel Lutz- "I want to remind everyone, especially this time of the year, that your spending power is so important to your neighborhood. If you want to support Detroit, support its small businesses."


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