With concrete floors, simple displays and bold accessories, Morgan Henzlik’s Charleston boutique is the perfect setting for her carefully selected sartorial pieces. Morgan Kylee is a shopping experience that focuses more on style than trends and is pushing the bar in fashion initially for those living in Atlanta and now in Charleston.
We loved this curated approach to fashion, so we sat down with Morgan to find out more about the Morgan Kylee experience.
What is the driving force behind the store?
I wanted to provide an aesthetically beautiful and special place that housed wonderful treasures that couldn’t be found anywhere else. Atlanta was and still is very much a mall city, and there really aren’t that many boutiques there, which lends itself to being a city where there is a lot of the same thing over and over again. I’ve always hated having the same things as everyone else and I wanted to created a place that had brands that weren’t mass marketed, so Morgan Kylee was very self-serving in a way. Even if the designers and brands change, my goal is to always provide a place where you can find something that you’ve never seen before.
What are you looking for in the pieces that you carry in your store?
When it comes to the designers and lines that I carry, I really try to find (and sometimes they find me) lines and designers that aren’t mass marketed, that are under the radar, and have little to sometimes no boutique representation. So, my first question is always inquiring about the distribution of a product. I’ve been told that I am a “piecey” buyer. To me, it is unrealistic to have one designer in your closet, so I go for pieces that are super versatile and can be styled numerous ways. I merchandise the store the same way. I never put brands together, I love to constantly mix and match what I have in the store. To me, the versatility of a piece of clothing makes it a better and easier purchase. I went to school for architecture, so fit and construction are huge to me. A piece could be stunning, but if it doesn’t fit a woman’s body, it’s worthless to me. I stay away from trends, in fact, most of the time I don’t even know what they are. I really seek classic, timeless pieces with current twists that have no shelf life and are easy to wear a million different ways.
What brands do you carry?
My brands are always changing, which is really fun for me as well as the customer. I don’t buy based on projection, only what I love. If a line isn’t as strong one season, I will give it a break and revisit for the next season. Some of my favorite lines that I are currently in the store are Dodo Bar Or, Behno, ESSEutESSE, and Pero. Some lines that I picked up for Fall that I am really excited about are Danielle Lehavi, Phelan, and R/R Studio.
How would you describe the type of customer that shops at Morgan Kylee?
I don’t think there is one type of customer that shops with me, which is part of what is so fun. I have 14 year old girls that come in with their moms and at the other end of the pendulum, I have 75 year old women. I really try to have something for everyone. I am more into style than I am fashion, so the pieces I carry are really for everyone to love, interpret, and style in their own way.
You’ve mentioned that clothes shouldn’t be about fashion or designer brands but about style?
I am much more interested in style than I am fashion. To me, fashion is the idea that clothes make the people, whereas style is the people who make the clothes. I guess really, fashion provides us the tools, the equipment, the options and style is the way we decide to use them. One wouldn’t exist without the other. It is a direct reflection of who we are or what we want to say on any given day without really having to say anything at all. I think that fashion tends to be an industry that unfortunately supports the stereotype of being elitist, expensive, and exclusive, an industry where the label on your clothes makes you who you are. I like the idea that style is accessible to anyone and it doesn’t come with a price point or a certain label. Anyone can be told this is cool- fashion is easy to copy; style is innate, it is much harder to copy…it speaks to an individuals character.
What do you think is the biggest mistake that women make when it comes to what they wear?
I think that are two big mistakes-one would be when people don’t dress for their body type. There are tons of wonderful things out there that I cannot wear because I’m 5’3. And that’s okay. And it goes the other way too, I can wear things that some women who are 5’9” cannot wear. The point is not to fit yourself in this box of fashion, but to make fashion work for you. Take men for example… men look a lot sharper in tailored clothes that fit them correctly. It is harder for women because we can be preoccupied by size and we have unfortunately decided as a society that smaller is better. People try to squeeze themselves into a certain size—but it’s a lot more flattering to wear something that fits you well than to wear something that is way too small. Another huge mistake is people trying to be something they’re not. If someone comes in and says “I don’t want to get a black shirt, all I have is black”–there’s a reason for that. There is nothing wrong with sticking with what you like. Going back to style, our style is who we are, and there is no reason why you should change who you are. You can push the limits and challenge yourself, but at the end of the day, we are who are. Confidence is your best accessory, and if you are doing something that isn’t indicative of who you are, it is way more transparent than you think.
Lets talk about your brick and mortar. Why did you move from Atlanta to Charleston? How does the style of these two cities compare?
I moved the store because of my family—my boyfriend started an oyster company last summer. When we found out that we were pregnant, he asked if I wanted him to stay and find a job in Atlanta, but I know what it is like to have a dream and no matter how hard it can be at times, I would never have traded it for anything. I didn’t want him to look back and always wonder what if. I wanted to support his dream, and I was in a position that allowed me to take that risk and move.
I love Atlanta, and I didn’t leave because I disliked it, so at every turn I’m not comparing the two and while they have some similarities they really are so different. Both cities are inherently Southern—there’s a conservative element that will always be here that is rooted in these cities. On one hand, it’s nice, because it weeds out the bizarre. Some things will never fly down here—which is good. Just because it goes down the runway, does not mean it is good. But it can be difficult to push people outside of their box, appreciating style and not being scared of it. Having said that, one difference between the two cities is that Charleston is more of a tourist town, so it definitely has forward thinking people when it comes to style because you have people from New York, California, Europe, etc. Another huge difference is that Charleston is a walking city where as Atlanta is not. More effort is made here because you are going to see and run into people. In Atlanta you could go the whole day without seeing anyone you knew.
What was your inspiration for the design of your store? How do you think the décor relates to the clothes?
In both locations (Atlanta and Charleston) the interior of the store is part of the experience that you get when you walk in the door. The interior is definitely cohesive with the clothes on the racks and the brand as a whole. My mom is a decorator—so growing up with that, I’ve always understood the importance of your surroundings and how it can have just as much of an impact on your mood as anything else. Just like the clothes and the buy, the décor is very reflective of me, which makes sense.
A lot of the décor here is for sale. It’s a clothing store at the end of the day, but the interior is another creative avenue that I can dive into. Whether or not you buy anything, I hope Morgan Kylee is a nice place to be. I put a fair amount of thought into how things are displayed and each detail speaks to the store’s character.
What pieces so should be key this summer?
I really don’t follow trends—I tend to think more of what pieces are going to be great for you every summer. I think it’s really important to have some sort of a shirt dress—button up classic dress, great lightweight cotton, easy to throw on, breathes well, something you wont ever get tired over.
A great pair of flat sandals, something you can wear with cut off jean shorts, boyfriend jeans, your bikini, or your summer dress—they’re hard to find, but those are worth spending a little more money on.
Cross body bag—people are going to concerts, walking around. They’re easy to style, you’re not overloading them with stuff you don’t need, you can take them to the beach, you can do anything and everything with them.
Caftan–this is something you can throw on over your bathing suit, wear it to dinner. I’m usually in my bathing suit all day long when I go on vacation. I can go to lunch and throw a great caftan on and still feel cute but I can also go to the beach and be comfortable.
Racer back tank. I think they’re pretty on women’s shoulders and you can style it different ways, but having the right one is key. It’s crazy to me how hard it is to find a great basic!
One of my favorite lines right now is Dodo Bar Or–they’re one hundred percent cotton and I love throwing their dresses on for work or going to the beach in them. That is one thing that I’ve had so much fun with this summer. They are special and really pack a punch, while also being super versatile.