Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 40
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
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Getting Dressed Up to Go Downtown, Where Supporting Local is En Vogue

Matthew Hersh

All shops in the Borough’s Palmer Square, the so-called Fifth Avenue of Princeton, will host their own trunk shows as well as their own special promotion as part of the Palmer Square Fashion Week, October 8 through 14. And while the event’s tagline, “a week of style on the Square in Downtown Princeton” may be easily applied to all of Palmer Square’s shops, the theme, focusing on career, weekend, and evening styles, is getting some shop owners to think creatively, as well as giving them an opportunity to strut their stuff.

Fashion Week will conclude on October 14, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Nassau Inn, where a fashion show, designed as a clothing drive to support the Mercer County chapter of the Dressed for Success charity, will likely showcase that creative thinking, while, of course, offering a visible venue for Palmer Square shops.

Among those shops are Palmer Square’s smaller enterprises, the so-called “locals,” that use promotions like Fashion Week to get the word out to consumers, many of whom are drawn to the Square for the high-end national businesses, sometimes considered the Square’s anchors.

But look at Bucks County Dry Goods, the six-month-old shop across from Lindt Chocolate that has made a name for itself right next to the signature Palmer Square arch. That store, the third Bucks County Dry Goods opened by owners Stewart Ross and Natalie Page, is a prime example of how a small-time enterprise can play with the big boys.

“We’re a new store in town, and this is a really good opportunity to let people know where here,” Mr. Ross said.

Bucks County, which is basically a sportswear store that also sells contemporary, “funky” home furnishings, goes for a more casual style, but, Mr. Ross said, it is geared toward an urban, fashion-minded consumer.

For the show, Mr. Ross has to fit 10 models with different combinations of the clothing his shop offers. “We have a lot of sweaters, skirts, and tops, and we put together an outfit for each model that we think suits them — these models range from age 18 to 45, which reflects the age range of our clientele,” Mr. Ross said.

“For someone who wants to dress a little differently, they come to us,” he added. With two other stores in Lambertville and Doylestown, Pa., Mr. Ross called it “essential” to work with Palmer Square in getting his shop’s name out there.

Will Hassett, owner of the Pawtisserie, has experienced all sides of Princeton’s commercial landscape. First opening his pet-owners boutique on Witherspoon Street five years ago, he moved he the store to Palmer Square, taking advantage of an opportunity to gain a different clientele. A crisp, sunny day in the fall, which is the forecast for this coming weekend, means a significantly different shopper demographic on the Square than on Witherspoon Street — a fact Mr. Hassett readily acknowledges.

“There’s more spent in the pet industry than in the child clothing industry,” Mr. Hassett said. “When we first started our business on Witherspoon Street, we dabbled in just about everything: T-shirts, sweatshirts, frilly stuff, but now we realize that the fashion here in our market is really dedicated to the outdoorsy stuff.”

Just up the street at Dandelion, manager Carole Mendelsohn, is organizing her jewelry for something a bit more traditional for her portion of the show. Sloane Designs, featuring custom pieces by Princeton jeweler Sloane Shavel, will be the focus of Dandelion’s entire week: “She’s going to be doing the trunk show with us because she really represents, to us, how the trends are going,” Ms. Mendelsohn said. “And we like it because she’s a local artist.”

Fashion Week, she said, provides the right type of retail-driven venue to attract customers to the Square’s stores: “People can see what it looks like on, rather than just browsing in the stores.”

Other shops taking part in Fashion Week include Aerosoles, Ann Taylor, Au Courant Opticians, Blue Mercury, Chico’s, Corkscrew Wine Shop, Cotton Company, Design Within Reach, Lace Silhouettes, Lindt, Original Soupman, Origins, the Papery of Princeton, Salon Vis a Vis, Ici Fashion for Children, and Stacy Gemma.

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