Clementines is Seattle's well-loved local boutique on Pioneer Square that carries a curated selection of hard-to-find shoes, apparel and accessories, a style quirky, unique and refined. They were also the first store in Seattle that both inspired us and carried our line - so we thought it fit to interview Linda, the owner of Clementines, and delve a little deeper into her story and her views on a changing retail landscape.
Q: What's the story behind the name "Clementines"?
A: My friend was going to name her baby Clementines...and I started thinking about the song. There are really funny shoe references - how Clementines dies even though her shoes are number 9, and when she drowns, her sandals are "herring boxes, without topses". I always thought the song was sad because his love dies, but if you listen to the whole song, he's sad until the end when he kisses her younger sister. It's really macabre, like a Coen Brothers' movie. Sad but funny.
Q: What made you decide to open a store?
A: I was really inspired by shoes - how sculptural they are - like little pieces of art that we get to wear. So I knew it was going to be a shoe store. I had been part-owner of a retail shop in Portland and it was really thrilling and fun. She wound up buying the business from me but being in control of a store, I found pretty exciting and I had always admired a shoe store named Ped in Seattle. It was a shoe store in a beautiful historical building with bricks, so I feel like I've come home to that. You walked in and you could smell leather. The things that she brought to market were so different from mass-produced things that you would find in typical places. She was really my inspiration...that you could go out and find products that were beautiful, hand-made and that people would appreciate.
"The thing that first got me involved in this business was to bring something different to customers so I feel like I can represent small designers that I believe in."
Q: Why did you decide to move the store to Pioneer Square?
A: My lease in West Seattle was up at the time and while West Seattle is the biggest neighborhood in Seattle, it also has a small neighborhood feel and I felt like I needed more foot traffic. I moved to Pioneer Square about five years ago when this space opened and inspired me...next to London Plane...the street car was due to open then, and Pioneer Square was at the time enjoying a renaissance.
Q: What do you love about Pioneer Square? Favorite places to go to?
A: I love the food in Pioneer Square. I would have Pasta il Corvo every day of the week. It's so good that people line up for it everyday and by the time you get to the front, you kind of want to purchase some of their sauces and items to make it worth your wait. I love London Plane. I get pastry from Grand Central far too often. There's Taylor Shellfish. Salumi just opened on the next block and they have amazing meats and sandwiches. There's a community of businesses here. It's one of the few places in the city where there are small, independent businesses. You can have a really different shopping experience here.
Q: How has Seattle's fashion retail landscape changed since you first started?
A: When I opened, Amazon was around but they were primarily selling books. They were getting bigger but it still wasn't the threat that it is now. When I started, it was before the recession. The economy was good and it was fun to open my doors in Seattle selling shoes. 2008 happened and I had to scramble...I did whatever I could to pare down and survive, and here I am.
Social media is another huge influence on retail because there are so many more choices. If you want to find something sustainable, zero-waste, uses natural dyes...name your consideration, you can find it. You don't have to be a huge maker. You can be a small, independent brand and still make it if you market yourself right on social media. For me, that's exciting. The thing that first got me involved in this business was to bring something different to customers so I feel like I can represent small designers that I believe in.
Q: Who is the Clementines' customer?
A: Women who are in their late 20s to a woman who still cares about how she dresses. We have shoppers in their 70s. It's also a woman who, like me, want something that is not mass-produced. Pioneer Square is an artistic neighborhood. We have architects, gallery owners...our customers are interior designers, hairstylists, people who want to put together a personal look and they're often artists and creators.
Q: Any artists/designers that you feel we must know?
A: My current crush is Miranda Bennett out of Texas. Hand-dyed, zero waste...the colors are beautiful and inspire me. I was listening to the radio on my way to the shop and there was a woman who had written a book on joy and it was interesting because she was talking about simple things that bring joy, and she was talking about colors - how just being immersed in a colorful environment can be so joyful. I find Miranda Bennett's colors joyful, the fabrics luscious, like silk noil, silk charmeuse, some rayons. She's just a good company from start to finish and, of course, she's a woman-owned, woman-operated company, and I love that.
Q: Your go-to outfit?
A: It changes. I will have a year of "this is my go-to" and the next year will be something different. When I was thinner, my go-to was Levis or denim jeans in general. I was a total denim freak. I compulsively watched for new denim jeans makers and what they were doing. I love the way jeans stay jeans but the shapes changes...the waist or length...For a whole year, my go-to was a very pretty, feminine blouse, French-girl tucked into a perfect pair of jeans and wild, crazy shoes.
Shop selected styles from A.Oei at Clementines
Great write up on this store and store owner. Carries some very unique shoes.