True style is enduring. That is a rule Janyce McMenamin of RTW Charleston knows well.
This fall McMenamin is celebrating one of the biggest landmarks her store has seen in its 39 years on King Street. Launching a new second-story shoe department, McMenamin is adding footwear to RTW’s already extensive collection of high-end designer fashion.
“My intention is not to be a shoe store,” says McMenamin. “This change follows the outline of our clothes. People always go, ‘I love this outfit. What shoes do I wear?’ We want to complete their thoughts on that.”
With shoes on the second floor, RTW can deliver ready-to-wear looks down to the very soles. Some footwear will come from designers that RTW customers are already familiar with—Lanvin, The Row, Dries Van Noten—so you can pair Lanvin shoes with that new Lanvin dress. Some designers are household names, like Manolo Blahnik. But McMenamin has an eye and a soft spot for the eccentric, too. She’s curated a careful selection of independent designers, some third- and fourth-generation handmade lines from France and Italy.
“My selection goes from sneakers to Manolo Blahniks, but they are selected with the same fashion-forward eye,” McMenamin says. “I want them to be comfortable and I like them to have a statement. When you take them off, I want you to say, ‘Those were so fun to wear!’”
A model sporting velvet sneakers and a patterned sequin skirt posed for an RTW photo shoot the day I spoke with McMenamin, who was orchestrating the scene with her standard poodles—a mainstay at RTW—by her side.
“It might sound bizarre,” she admits of the nonstandard looks she creates. “But when you see it, it is gorgeous … not for everyone maybe, but beautiful.”
RTW is not concerned with following trends in fashion. McMenamin, along with her team of four personal stylists, excels at helping women create their own customized fashion. Now, even second-and-thirdgeneration returning customers entrust her with curating their personal style.
“It’s all part of you defining how you dress,” says McMenamin. “Everything you wear gives a certain speech about who you are. We like to help the client feel 100 percent at ease with what they’re wearing. … It is more about defining the client as opposed to defining a trend.”
Traditionalists shopping RTW will appreciate staples like the taupe loafers McMenamin chose from The Row, Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen’s two-time CFDA award-winning womenswear line. For bohemian looks there are casual heels, like a pair of suede Chloé wedges. Eveningwear finds its perfect match in Manolo Blahniks—one midnight blue silk pair is particularly stunning. And McMenamin never ceases to surprise with picks like a mandarin orange pair of Calvin Klein stilettos.
“It’s not just something I’d point to on page 37 of Vogue and say, ‘You should look like that,’” says McMenamin of RTW’s commitment to individuality. “Maybe you could. But is that who you are?”
Who are you? That’s a question McMenamin feels passionately about.
“Nobody owns us. We are not on Amazon. I am very proud of the fact that we’re local and independent,” she says, and on a street that has seen countless trends come and go since RTW opened it’s doors in 1978. That makes RTW quite rare.
This fall McMenamin is taking a historic step by adding shoes to her time-tested shop. Nothing will change RTW’s standards, though. Each shoe will be chosen with the personalized attention RTW stylists have been delivering for decades. The designer trunk shows will continue. And the standard poodles that customers and their families have enjoyed for decades will still be there to welcome shoppers back. McMenamin says she won’t stop working until she stops loving it—and that won’t be any time soon.
“There is a difference between trend and style,” says McMenamin. At RTW, style is enduring.
Enid Spitz is a Charleston-based writer and yoga instructor. See more at ersyoga.com or @littleyogibird on Instagram.