DO IT YOUR WAY

BY ROBIN HOWARD

Avenue_1

What if there were no fashion trends and you could wear comfortable clothes that make you feel beautiful? What if you could get rid of all the things in your closet that you are supposed to like, but don’t? What if you were free to create your own unique style? For women especially, this would be a revolution, and there’s no better person than Sarah Berrard, owner of Mount Pleasant’s 7 Gypsy boutique, to start it.

Berrard is one of those people who simply cannot stop making things. Everything she sees, she re-invents in her head. “I love to create. It doesn’t matter what it is,” she says. Her latest work of art is 7 Gypsy, a clothing boutique that’s a kaleidoscope of colorful women’s clothing set against a backdrop of whimsical furnishings handpicked by Berrard.

The store is tucked into the Shops of Mount Pleasant, which is an easy in-and-out with plenty of parking. It’s worth a visit just to take in 7 Gypsy’s interior design. On one wall, a bleached longhorn cow skull sports a wreath of soft pink roses. A vintage cabinet, now painted hot pink, holds jewelry. Next to it stands a primitive table with a display of T-shirts imprinted with ’80s song lyrics. The store’s character is a blend of Charlestonstyle soul with a hint of Texas and a dash of LA. It’s as if a Southern belle raided Mick Jagger’s closet and got some advice from Stevie Nicks about how to put it all together.

Avenue_2

It’s impossible to predict what you’ll find in this store from one visit to the next. That experience is by design, and something of which Berrard is very proud. “Life is so much more fun when you’re unpredictable,” she says. To illustrate, she tells me the story of how she once won big at a Texas Hold’em table in Las Vegas because the other players couldn’t figure her out. Berrard is a vivacious, friendly person with an open heart and a genuine smile. She exudes sincerity and charm, but she’s also a serious student of martial arts, smart as a whip, daring, fearless and edgy.

Berrard’s mission in life is to help other women break free from the tyranny of being labeled. In fact, the name of the store alludes to that mission. The word “gypsy” reminds her of freedom and all of the different looks, facets and moods women can embrace. Seven is her numerology life number, a number that represents spiritual seekers and truth-tellers.

Berrard buys clothing, shoes and jewelry for her store that she hopes will appeal to women of all ages. She encourages her customers to embrace their bodies and enjoy being who they are in that moment. Her fashion philosophy is that women should build a wardrobe by investing in “foundational” pieces, adding seasonal or trendy items only as it makes sense for their personal style or body type.

“Wear what feels good and wear what makes you feel great,” she says. “Forget trends! Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” In fact, Berrard says she’s thrilled when someone asks where she got something she’s wearing. “I love wearing things no one else has,” she says. “This is a place where you can find those unique things.”

She also encourages her customers to pursue their own fashion experiments and to be brave when mixing styles. “If an outfit makes you feel good, it will show on your face. You just light up when you feel unique,” she says. “That’s all that matters.” Berrard says she is often inspired by her 7-yearold daughter, Brooklyn: “She’ll come out wearing an outfit I’d have never put together. I want her to be herself. She inspires me!”

Berrard, her two children and her husband, Steven, are familiar faces around town as they own other local businesses, including Pivotal Fitness clubs in Summerville, West Ashley, Columbia and Greenville, and EcoFitness clubs in Mount Pleasant and downtown Charleston. As an experienced entrepreneur, Berrard knows how important it is to have expert staff.

Most days the store is in the hands of Jeanne Everett, a Charleston fashion blogger who is currently studying fashion design at the Art Institute of Charleston; Alex Hogeboom, a native Charlestonian, a fashion lover and student at Trident Tech; and Amanda Gosnell, store manager and fellow creative. “My staff is amazing,” Berrard says. “They’re all so creative and talented. When you come in the store, you’re going to be in good hands!”

In October, 7 Gypsy will expand to a larger space next door and add more than 300 square feet of gypsy goodness. Berrard is already deep into brainstorming what the new space will look like and is excited to be able to have a hand in the smallest details of the aesthetic. The boutique carries designer lines such as KAS New York, a company known for bold prints and boho silhouettes with a slightly exotic feel; and Junk Food, famous for their fun, retro-inspired T-shirts. Other brands include Gypsy, Scandal, Cocoon House, Just USA, Glam, and Lavender Brown. You’ll also find DL 1961 jeans, a line whose body-hugging stretch holds its shape, as well as the lower-priced Just Black line of jeans, also popular for their fit.

Outside of 7 Gypsy, a sign reads: “I’d give up shopping but I’m not a quitter.” Somehow that sentiment so perfectly sums up Berrard and her latest business venture.

SARAH BERRARD’S FASHION TIPS
• Experiment with different cuts and styles. You might discover a flattering new look.
• Decide what you want to stand out—a bold pattern, a unique material or a chunky necklace— and work from there.
• Know what inspires you. Are you feeling gypsy chic? glam? rocker? Name your muse!
• Don’t forget the basics. Neutral colors and classic cuts make statement pieces stand out.
• Don’t over-accessorize. Choose either a bold necklace or a large bracelet cuff. Or pick a feathered wool hat and forget the print scarf.
• Show some skin. Accentuate your collarbone with a scoop neck or show off your shoulders in a cut-out sweater. Rule of thumb: expose skin on the top or the bottom, not both.
• Confidence is the best accessory! Avoid bell bottom pants if you don’t feel good in them. Instead, wear a style that draws attention to a part of your body you feel good about.

Robin Howard is a full-time freelance writer in Charleston. See more of her work at robinhowardwrites.com.