High Fashion: Ashland, Ky., boutique offers chic styles
Published 10:05 am Tuesday, October 28, 2014
The philosophy of Colleen Griffiths is written on the walls of her boutique. It extols elegance, kindness and all that is chic.
“I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.”
Those words emblazoned on the walls of her shop come from Audrey Hepburn and to see Griffiths in her navy blue sheath with matching suede pumps, the owner of Haut Panache channels the iconic Hepburn with — no doubt about it — panache.
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The shotgun-shaped shop in the historic Camayo Arcade in Ashland opened about a year and a half ago when Griffiths chose to build on her skill as a seamstress and designer of hats, headbands and that latest trend of the 20s-something fashionistas, the fascinator.
“I started this because I have a passion for handmade things,” Griffiths said.
At first she sold her designs out of her Ironton home.
“It grew to the point where my husband encouraged me to open a store,” she said. “I wondered if a small boutique could make it in Ashland. But people miss customer service. I greet you when you come in and take care of you. If I don’t have something I will find it for you.”
What she has are handmade hats worthy of a royal wedding or the winner’s circle at the Kentucky Derby, the result of her unique imagination and dexterity with scissors and fabric.
There are black velveteen jockey caps; a houndstooth fedora; a picture hat made out of hand-crocheted beige with a teal blue crown covered with rosettes. Fascinators feature peacock feathers or paisley disks accented with black netting.
These creations are all the result of what Griffiths calls being the daughter of a “Can-Do Mother.”
“I knew how to create patterns and sew by the age of 10,” Griffiths said. “To me fashion and clothing is a form of artistic expression. I love to be able to make something with my hands that someone else will wear and make them feel good about themselves.”
She and her twin daughters, Loralei and Isabella, were at the prestigious Ann Sawyer hat gallery in Lexington when they saw a wall covered with fascinators.
“A fascinator is between a hat and a headband that sits on your head,” Griffiths said. “Kate Milligan is known for her fascinators.”
The trio spent hours trying on each one, as Griffiths studied them.
“ I told them I could make these for a fraction of the cost,” she said.
And that’s what she has done. It’s all a part of her philosophy of taking an inexpensive piece of clothing and turning it into something that looks high end. Whether it’s the head wear she makes or the latest addition to Haut Panache, the bridal salon.
Upstairs in a room graced with Palladian windows Griffiths has transformed the space into a salon that is part bridal shop and part reception area. Here she will take an inexpensive gown and turn it into an elegant creation.
“I work really hard to have affordable prices,” she said. “I find great deals. Not a lot of stores cater to the everyday person. I have a growing awareness of a need for a wedding shop and I have a network of bridal vendors.”
She also works hard to create hats or gowns that fit the client’s personality and provide an avenue of creativity for herself.
“My goal is to make people smile,” she said. “Art is a creative expression of who you are. Fashion can be a way to express that. When I get up in the morning, I get to dress how I am wanting to feel that day. Who I want them to see.”
Taking the seemingly impossible and turning it into a reality is the philosophy of Griffiths, who is battling a variety of eye diseases that threaten to take her sight.
“Your attitude about life is a decision you make,” she said. “I am going blind. There are obstacles in my way. That’s when I work a thousand times harder than I would if I didn’t have any obstacles.”
Hard work, creativity and the proverbial sunny outlook sustain Griffiths and are the backbone of her success.
“I am the eternal optimist,” she said. “I genuinely like people. I love to help people. I feel more like a philanthropist than a business owner.”
Camayo Arcade, 1536 Winchester Ave.
Suite 6, Ashland, Ky. • 606-646-2484
Monday-Friday: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Saturday: 11 a.m.-5 p.m.