#PeaceStPerspective: Getting to Know The Art of Style, Caitlin Richards ’19

November 10, 2018

A student post by Caitlin Richards ’19, COMMUNICATION major

Q&A: Getting to Know the Art of Style

Kendra Leonard and Natalie Drennon are the owners/managers at The Art of Style, which is a local clothing boutique in downtown Raleigh, located just a few blocks away from WPU. The Art of Style has been around the Raleigh area, but has recently re-located downtown. Kendra and Natalie are professional stylists who love what they do, and would love for you to be the next person they style.

“We own The Art of Style Boutique in downtown Raleigh, which is a men’s and women’s clothing store. We have clothing from all over the world, very European styles, but modern clean classic with a little edge. Things you can’t find around Raleigh and North Carolina in general to be honest. They’re unique pieces.”

“It’s all about your personal style when you come in here, so you can come in and pick out one thing and another person come in right behind you and style it a completely different way, and just make it your own.” 

What made you want to start this business?

“I worked at Banana Republic for 11 years prior to opening. My husband was diagnosed with leukemia and after 17 months he lost his fight. After he died, I was passed over for a promotion after 11 and-a-half years.”

“So, I wrote a business plan in two months and ran for ‘Woman of the Year’ in Leukemia Lymphoma Society and raised $30,000 in 10 weeks with my campaign – sold my house and bought a new one, and quit two weeks later,” Leonard said.  

Art of Style is boutique retail store in downtown Raleigh
The Art of Style is a boutique retail store in downtown Raleigh. Photo by Caitlin Richards.

When did you start this business?

“November of 2010. We’re coming up on our seven-year anniversary,” Leonard said. 

What made you choose to have it located in downtown Raleigh?

“We knew that we wanted to be in downtown Raleigh for the past couple of years and it was just the right time. I think all the stars finally aligned and now we’re at the right time, right place, and with the right people,” Leonard said. 

“We started off in Brier Creek and obviously for our style, it just wasn’t where we needed to be. We were very hidden and there wasn’t a whole lot of walk-through traffic. From there, we moved to Cameron Village, which we thought was going to be amazing for us, but it just wasn’t our target audience there.”

“We needed to move downtown where people had more open minds and are less conservative to a certain degree. Downtown people have a live, work, play mindset. They want to live here, they want to come here to get some clothes, they want to go out and eat dinner, and they want to present themselves in a different manner than what Cameron Village or Brier Creek went for,” Drennon said. 

“So, it’s definitely a life style brand. That whole thing about opening up a business is all about location. Really try to think where your people are, what they’re doing, and what makes sense, and this really makes sense for us,” Leonard said.  

What is one thing that stands out most about having a business in downtown Raleigh?

“It’s the people that come in here. Without the people, we don’t have a business. They drive us to come into work every single day. When people are open to us and to our suggestions, we are stylists – that’s what we do.”

“So, when people come in here and they allow us to walk them through the pieces and to tell them ‘this is going to look great on you, this may not be your perfect shape or your perfect color,’ but allowing us to kind of send them in the right direction for where they want to be in life, I feel like that is what we do best,” Drennon said. 

Art of Style is boutique retail store in downtown Raleigh
Kendra Leonard (left), Natalie Drennon (right) in front of The Art of Style. Photo by Caitlin Richards.

Are there any challenges having your business in downtown Raleigh?

“Challenges downtown, I just think that downtown is still up and coming with retail. We are one of the first people down here, so ‘yay’ that’s awesome for us, but there’s still a price point issue for some people where they’re just not used to spending money on clothing.”

“We have really cool clothes and they’re from all over the world, so therefore you know, we have shipping that we have to pay for, so the prices are a little more elevated. But I feel like that’s the only issue for me” Drennon said. 

“I think the challenge is not necessarily downtown Raleigh, I think the challenge is being in Raleigh itself. Raleigh is an up-and-coming city. The last thing to make a city a city, or downtown a downtown, is the retail. I feel that we are the first men’s and women’s retail in terms of what we have going on down here,” Leonard said. 

“That’s a big hurdle for us, trying to change the mindset. We’ll cater to the individual obviously, but change that mindset and dress up just a little bit and make yourself feel good,” Drennon said. 

What makes this business stand out?

“For us, it’s all about a foundation of trust and building positive long-term relationships with people, and I think that we pride ourselves on service and service to the individual. We’re not robotic in what we do, we’re wanting to help and serve people. We have that servant leadership mindset here. It’s whether or not people will let us get in there and help them.”

“We were born with the talent to style people and give back to others. This is what we do. I think that that stands out and I think that people can tell that we’re present. We’re not just doing this to make the days and minutes go by. We are running a business and we’re really trying to have a positive impact in the community, and we need that love to come back to us in the form of buying things.”

“For us, it’s all about a foundation of trust and building positive long-term relationships with people, and I think that we pride ourselves on service and service to the individual.”

“We don’t sell clothes, we transform lives. The way we build relationships with our clients is that they come back time and time again and we see them evolve as a human being and see them get married or have kids. It’s forever. It’s a long term thing,” Leonard said. 

“We carry men’s and women’s clothing too, so not many stores do that. When you find a men’s and women’s clothing store, it’s like Banana Republic, Old Navy, Gap, or Nordstrom. But to do that in downtown Raleigh where there’s no clothing retail, that makes us stand out. It’s a one-stop-shop sort of deal. Bring your boyfriend, bring your girlfriend, bam you got it. A whole night’s look,” Drennon said. 

Art of Style is boutique retail store in downtown Raleigh
Owner Natalie Drennon working at The Art of Style. Photo by Caitlin Richards.

Any additional comments?

“We’re very passionate about what we do and we love each other. We’re celebrating seven years and that is not easy in the retail environment, so I feel like we have something amazing going on and we are not going anywhere. We’re appreciative of everyone who has helped us get here,” Leonard said. 

Can you tell more about First Friday events?

“We incorporate ourselves into the downtown world, so not only with the fashion and style, but with the arts and with the music. We just threw a Hopscotch Day party which was awesome.”

“We’ve been a part of music events, we’ve had DJs in the store, we have our own fashion shows, that in the past have raised money for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and this year it will be just a party. And by a party, I mean just think of the best time of your life.”

“Its going to be great. Every First Friday, our doors open to the public and we have new artists in our store every month. Everyone who comes downtown to look at the art, they get to see what we have going on in here. 

“We have wine, beer, all that kind of jazz going on. It’s really fun. We are part of the community, and we love being a part of the community. Like Kendra said, we’re not going anywhere,” Drennon said. 

The Art of Style is hosting a Holiday Fashion Show and Seven-Year Anniversary Party called “LUCKY NUMBER 7” on Sunday, Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. For more details, check out TheArtofStyle.com.

For more WPU student perspectives, search #PeaceStPerspective or #PeacePacerCam on social media.

View Caitlin’s ‘A Capital Idea’ Blog