Cal Poly attracts many different kinds of people to its campus, and consequently, many different personality types. Students often choose to represent their unique personality with their “style” and express themselves through their clothing (unless that expression says he or she just rolled out of bed). The challenge for clothing stores in San Luis Obispo is to pick stock that speaks to students and community members.
Maryalice Hamilton, owner of H&G Clothing on Higuera Street, said she takes many things into consideration before buying stock for her store, including magazines and San Luis Obispo itself.
“I look to see what showrooms are currently offering,” Hamilton said. “I also use my own personal eye to see what actual people in SLO would wear.”
San Luis Obispo has many types of clothing stores to offer students and community members. The city and surrounding areas contain everything from small boutiques to big department stores. With so many options, especially in downtown San Luis Obispo, stores need to be able to stand out from the competition.
Hamilton said she draws her inspiration from her favorite fashion magazines. She also looks at online shopping sites and sometimes browses designers for new ideas.
She said, unfortunately for H&G, sales were not what they used to be four or five years ago — she has seen a drop in the number of people shopping, not only in her store, but also in general. However, Hamilton said she is always hopeful that things will turn around.
“I’m forever optimistic,” Hamilton said. “It’s one of my positive and negative traits.”
This is not the case for Katie Cobler, owner of Retrofit on Monterey Street.
Cobler said when she opened her store two years ago, she was surprised there weren’t more like Retrofit, especially in a college town. She said she actually sees more people shopping at her store, and in stores similar to hers.
“I think people are getting tired of stores like Forever 21, where 50 people have it, and it falls apart in the wash,” she said. “I think more people are on the bandwagon for something different.”
Retrofit specializes in vintage clothing, and while she does keep students in mind (since she said students are her main shoppers), Cobler said her inspiration comes from looking at the past. According to her, vintage clothing has authenticity and originality, while things today just look like knock-offs. She also said clothes today aren’t made like they used to be.
“If it’s lasted 30 years, it’s probably going to last another 30,” Cobler said.
San Luis Obispo has a very young demographic, she said, and because of this she must be more proactive when it comes to trends. She used the example of how sheer blouses seem to be very “in” right now, but she has had them at her store for almost two years.
“Sometimes trends catch on really quickly here, but sometimes they take longer,” Cobler said.
Hamilton agreed that a trend’s “hotness” simply depends on whether people are willing to buy into it or not. Hamilton said she likes to carry a variety of clothing for that reason.
“A trend’s first season is usually slow in SLO,” Hamilton said. “People aren’t normally apt to buy it. The second season is usually stronger.”
Agribusiness junior Erika Rossi said she prefers shopping in San Luis Obispo because of the smaller stores the city has to offer.
“I like that there’s no mall here,” Rossi said. “Smaller stores are less overwhelming.”
Business administration junior Chelsea Winkler also said that she prefers shopping at boutiques, especially the ones in downtown San Luis Obispo.
“Crazy Jays, (Lucky Lulu’s or LuLu Luxe) and H&G all have great prices and such cute clothes,” Winkler said.
Winkler said she is excited for this season, seeing how fall is home to some of her favorite trends.
“I love cute, fashionable jackets with boots,” Winkler said, pointing to her necklace. “And big jewelry.”