Fashion Forward: A new way to support local boutiques


April 23, 2020

Illustration by Peyton’s Post

A new coalition connects shoppers with stores.

As retail stores have been hit hard during the coronavirus pandemic, a group of local stylists are banding together as part of Fashion Forward, a coalition supporting fashion and apparel retailers. While most retail clothing stores are closed, many are still selling their products online and on Instagram.

Through its website and Instagram page, Fashion Forward aims to inform shoppers about discounts and specials at local shops, as well as bring more awareness to the local fashion industry as a whole. 

“Charlotte’s fashion community is so vibrant,” says Whitley Adkins Hamlin, a local wardrobe stylist who formed the coalition. (Hamlin is also style editor for SouthPark magazine.) “What I want to do is boost morale and hopefully drive traffic to their sites.”

As of today, six local stylists and 21 stores and designers were participating in the effort, with more partners being added.

Anyone who knows Hamlin understands her passion for all things style and supporting local businesses. Having seen her own business shift drastically, and given the economic climate during the pandemic, she didn’t feel totally at ease promoting her own services “at a time when so many are suffering in such a dire way,” she says. “I wanted to be busy in my work, be productive, play the pivot game — do the work I enjoy doing, but I couldn’t get it right in my gut about trying to operate business a usual.”

She decided to use her resources and contacts in the local fashion and retail industry to launch Fashion Forward.

“I knew I wanted to do something to help and give back.”

While news outlets have rightfully rallied around supporting the local restaurant industry, Hamlin wanted to do the same for the city’s retail fashion industry.

“They are offering takeout too. Just like the restaurants, they will deliver the clothes right to your front door,” Hamlin says.

“If we keep our faith, we will come out of this, and when we do, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and gatherings and parties are going to happen,” and people will want to purchase gifts for their friends and loved ones.  

When reaching out to local shops, she noticed a unanimous sentiment: Despite concerns about their own livelihoods, retail business owners wanted to give back in some way to those with even greater needs.

So along with sharing information on discounts and special offers, Fashion Forward will highlight the charitable efforts local businesses are involved with, from making face masks to donating a percentage of proceeds to nonprofits.

As far as her own business goes, Hamlin plans to make a donation to Running Works, a local organization that, according to its website, “uses sport to empower individuals and families to break cycles of abuse, abandonment, neglect, poverty and homelessness.”  Through a virtual “closet edit,” in conjunction with Good Taste with Cate, she is also collecting gently used women’s clothing that will be donated to a charity for women in need.

Local jewelry designer Noelle Munoz is spearheading a portion of the project that will introduce shop owners, stylists and designers through personal stories shared on Fashion Forward’s website and Instagram page. 

To learn more about Fashion Forward, visit their website and Instagram page.

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