TIMELESS YET ON POINT

BY M.S. LAWRENCE

Keeping abreast of fashion trends and sharing that knowledge with customers is part of the DNA at Berlins for Women.

Since 1883, Berlins has been dressing Charleston residents and visitors. At the corner of King and Broad streets, the 160-year-old landmark store has been handed down by 10 generations of the Berlin family. Photograph by Holger Obenaus

“Berlins for Women is a destination,” says Kristin Williams, who has been the buyer for Berlins since 2012. The boutique carries well-known designer clothing and accessory collections, including Tanya Taylor, Badgley Mischka and Nicole Miller. Store owner Ellen Berlin and Williams also curate emerging designers, particularly under-the-radar American designers.

“Hayley Menzies is one of our new featured designers,” Williams says. “She has interpreted the animal print trend in such a new way!” She notes that Tanya Taylor is also a favorite, known for her youthful way with prints.

“When you enter our doors you can see, touch and try on our edited collections. Then we can help you choose what’s best based on your needs and preferences,” says Williams.

Berlins is known for its fashion-forward style but also, and most importantly, for its personalized service. And here, Williams says, is where longtime sales associate Martha Verner comes in.

“What do our loyal customers love most about us? One word: Martha,” says Williams. “Martha has been styling women in Charleston for over 30 years. Over and over, her clients praise her for knowing just what they need and keeping them ‘age-appropriate’ and edgy. And Martha works with all generations. Whether she’s a young professional or a mother-of-the-bride, a woman knows that when she enters Martha’s special fitting room, she is in for a real treat!”

Verner has been working on King Street her entire career.

“Everything about helping a woman determine her best style and size, and how to help her look her best, I learned in the 1990s when I started my career in retail here on King Street,” says Verner. “I still have customers who started with me all those years ago. I love people and love to find out about their families and events, so I develop a relationship with my customers. I pay attention. I know many of them in a personal way.”

All this is to be expected at a high-end boutique. Williams says, “You get personal attention, service and professional styling expertise.”

“Because fashion is constantly changing,” Verner says, “if you don’t change with it, you’ll be left behind. I help women— mothers, daughters, granddaughters— to be on trend, to understand what fashion is at the time.”

Both women agree it’s about being who you are. “Most of our clients have their own style. They’re comfortable and current with it,” says Williams. “It’s their style, their look. They incorporate a trend here or there, but they are not trendy. They are timeless yet on point. They often are able to wear an item they’ve bought here for 10 seasons.”

Long a destination for evening wear and special occasion clothing, Berlins offers in-store events to give customers a first look at new designer collections. Other benefits include free parking, expert tailoring services and easy returns. Last year, the store introduced its online shopping service, providing customers the option to shop and chat with store stylists online.

“I love what I do. I love getting up and heading to work and seeing what the day has in store,” says Verner.

TOP TRENDS FOR SPRINGS
“We like to be aware of and follow the trends, but also interpret them in a way that’s wearable and can be seamlessly introduced into the wardrobes of our clients,” says buyer Kristin Williams. “We encourage our clients to stay true to their style and aesthetic and have fun with fashion—especially when incorporating a new silhouette or color.”

Surfer-inspired or Polynesian paradise: “One of our favorite looks for spring evokes travel, escape and adventure,” says Williams.

Yellow: “We’re excited to see yellow, which is a welcome pop of color in any closet,” says Williams. “Some shoppers are afraid of yellow, but it can be a really fun and current addition to your existing wardrobe. It pairs well with all neutrals—black, white, navy and gray. And it looks fresh with cobalt blue, Kelly green and pink.”

Crochet: The 1970s mood has returned but with a modern twist. Look for updates in color and fit. Williams praises Temptation Positano, an Italian brand that combines crochet with embroidery and exquisite linen. “The look is timeless,” she says.

Vintage florals: “You’ll see this trend on items from handbags to evening gowns,” says Williams. “Badgley Mischka’s beautiful spring collection of gowns uses florals and pastels that will take you right to a garden party.”

Shades of sorbet: Ice-cream colors continue to reign.

Silver lamé: “Lamé is back, from elegant dresses to little tees you’ll love to wear with jeans,” says Williams.

Wild jungle: Tanya Taylor, known for her prints, has new looks inspired by her travels— jungle and leopard themes, tie-dye and watercolor florals.

M.S. Lawrence, a writer and journalist, lives in Charleston.