On October 5, the students of Design Leadership Symposium heard from Nikki Anderson and Grace Cervantes. Nikki is the owner of a small clothing store in Madison called Change Boutique and Grace, a School of Human Ecology Interior Design aluma, has had a large role in helping grow and expand parts of the business. Beyond just being a really neat clothing store in the Madison area, Change Boutique carries a very unique message and hopes to share its pillars and ideals with the customers and community. The goal of the message is to raise awareness towards ethical fashion, fair trade, women empowerment, and helping individuals in poverty.
Nikki immediately let the class know that public speaking was her least favorite thing to do in the world, but it was very inspiring to see her push past that fear in order to deliver her message and share her passion with the group of students. In the first part of her presentation, Nikki focused on the mentality behind what she does and why she opened Change Boutique in the first place. Her goal is to “sell products that are cute and attractive, but that also convey a message in order to promote awareness…”. She spoke about how fair trade fashion is an integral part of combating global poverty and destruction of the environment and how handmade, small batch production provides superior quality and preserves traditional craftsmanship techniques.
The other part of the presentation focused on how Grace had helped Nikki design a completely new storefront interior and layout. A big reason for the re-design of the space is because Change Boutique has such an amazing story to tell its customers. Before, there was very little evidence that the store supported fair trade and ethical fashion. Now, almost every aspect of the store has something that helps spread the message to the consumer and anyone walking around. Just inside the door is a large wooden wall with the pillars of Change Boutique written large and clear. There is a section of wall titled “from them to us” that helps spread the message of the creators and craftsmen whose product is being sold, there’s local artwork hung as decoration, hanging polaroids with real people show that the store really cares about real individuals, and there’s even an indoor garden to show support for the environment. All of this, while still being a fully operational clothing retail store.
Listening to both Grace and Nikki speak was very enlightening. We got to see the mentality and and reasoning behind the fair trade retail industry, learned about the thought process that goes into designing a retail space, and got to hear first-hand what it is like to own and operate a successful retail store in an urban setting. If you’re looking to learn more, maybe purchase some clothes, or just talk with Nikki, you can find the store a few blocks past the capitol at 1252 Williamson St.
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