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Unique Boutik is an experience for the well-rounded shopper
By Sasha Fastovskiy
“We are definitely not like the mall,” says Lilana Silkman, co-owner of Unique Boutik on Worcester’s Highland Street. Maria Pappas, her business partner, replies in agreement. “Who can tell you where to find silk charmeuse at the mall? Who can tell you what silk charmeuse is at the mall? We do that and more; we can give you the real story behind something, the product knowledge.” “No, no, definitely not like the mall. We have special things,” Silkman explained. “We have the clothes, the furniture, even the music. People come in asking for our music. People come in to hang out. We’ve really created an ambiance here.” Yes, they certainly have.
I stopped over to the quaint little consignment store one Friday afternoon, which just happened to be a day short of the 2-year anniversary of the store, and walked right into a conversation about a fascinating vintage white fur hat. “It’s the most gorgeous thing. When she [Silkman] put it on, she was a showstopper outside. It’s made for a bride, I believe” said Pappas. “It really is a beautiful hat,” said Silkman. “I’d get married again just to wear that hat.” Not only did I walk into a boutique filled to the brim with gorgeous vintage furs, barely-worn designer duds (Versace eyeglass case, to the left! Balenciaga motorcycle bag, in the back! Chanel jacket, sold!), home furnishings (what the twosome call “Antique Homegoods”), more affordable brands (Chicos, Talbots, Old Navy), men’s collections, and even newer pieces by the latest designers like Ed Hardy, I walked into an all-around fashion Renaissance.
Consignment shops, Pappas explained, take in clothes and try to sell them for 30 days. The proceeds of the sold items go back to the original owner. The difference between Unique Boutik and other similar consignment stores is a relatively simple ~ yet extremely important, as we fashionistas can appreciate ~ and can be summed up in one word: “Passion.” “We love clothes here, we really do,” said Pappas. “We’re different from other consignment stores, we’re so fussy here. All we want is the crème de la crème!”
That not only goes for what they take in, but also for what they hand out. Both Pappas and Silkman bring years of experience to their boutique; Pappas worked in retail for Talbots and J.Jill, Silkman owned Alta Moda in Mechanics Hall back in the ‘80s and has been involved in antiques and estate sales ever since. Being in the fashion industry for so long, they equally understand what women look for and what’s up next. “The average size in America today is a 12 ~ we take that base and provide for that,” said Pappas, describing how their store is arranged so that different sizes, from 0-XXXL, are represented. In addition, they are constantly trend watching and predicting. “You must always have your finger on what people want,” she said. Most of the time, they are right on the money with what customers like. “It’s so hard to be funky, so we go out and look for them [the customers]. We have people we can call to get certain looks in, so we do,” explained Silkman. “Like the ‘70s parties this year. Everything we had that was ‘70s, we sold out of almost as soon as we got it. Me? I’d like a pair of True Religions, myself.”
Their little shop of treasures has come a long way in the two years that they’ve been at the helm, all thanks to their ever-expanding clientele. “We have a huge European base, and many college kids, and mothers and daughters come in and shop together. The mothers want to look good, and the daughters want more vintage things,” said Silkman. “It’s like shopping déjà vu! Mothers are so stuck; they need to feel creative again, so we transform them. It’s about transforming women, no wait. I have a better one; it’s about ‘timeless fashions.’ ”
Wandering around the boutique for over an hour presented plenty of glamorous garments – and Fredda, a customer with whom I shared the space, definitely agreed, as she put on a flowered blouse and sought the wise opinion of the store keeps.
“That’s beautiful,” said Silkman. “You can put a flower in your hair and dance to Fleetwood Mac. You see? We entertain in here. And if they don’t come in by themselves, we drag them in.”