Casual Or Classy? Mack And Mack Urges Women To Dress Up

By Jonnelle Davis News & Record, Greensboro, N.C.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) In an effort to gain more shoppers at her Greensboro Clothing boutique, Robin Mack Davis is rebranding. Davis fears she's been losing shoppers to an American culture that simply dresses a lot more casually these days.

GREENSBORO

Robin Mack Davis is convinced that no one looks in a mirror before they leave home anymore.

From the view of her South Elm Street shop, Mack and Mack Clothing, she sees knits and jeans everywhere.

"I'm not fighting jeans," Davis said recently in her store. "Jeans are fine. But how do you dress jeans up? With a great jacket."

Davis has been dressing women in Greensboro for more than 20 years. But she fears she's losing them to an American culture that dresses a lot more casually these days. And that's affecting her sales, she said.

So in an effort to gain more shoppers, Davis is rebranding her business. She reopened her shop Thursday after being closed for two weeks.

She hasn't yet revealed to her loyal customers all the details of the changes she's making because she's still figuring it out.

There will be some new merchandise, and customers will be able to buy more accessories, such as vests and scarves.

She'll do more marketing and use different packaging for her clothes.

And Davis is developing a loyalty program, common among the larger, national retailers.

All the while, she hopes to educate women on the importance of paying attention to how they dress.

"I want everyone to look at their closet," Davis said. "If you're not wearing it, why keep it? Build a better closet."

Davis, a Greensboro native, has been making her own clothes since she was in junior high school. She worked out of an incubator space at the Nussbaum Center for five years before opening her shop downtown more than 16 years ago. Her business model is that of a fashion factory. She and her team make all the clothes at the South Elm Street location.

"It's my own fast fashion," she said. "We can make it and you can have it in two to three weeks."

Davis said when she was growing up, people had three sets of clothes: church, dress and play.

Today, she said, there are two sets: workout wear and sportswear.

"Everything has been sportswear," Davis said. "And what we do is dress wear."

There has been a shift in America to casual dress, from the classroom to the boardroom.

In an interview last year with The Washington Post, Deirdre Clemente, a historian of 20th century American culture at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, said that culture in the United States is associated with casual dress on a global scale.

"On sort of the world stage, where American culture is so prominent, many countries emulate the way people in the United States dress, and that's almost inevitably more casually than the way people dress in those places," Clemente said. "The version of casual elsewhere, in Europe especially, it just never gets as down and dirty as the American version. Their version of casual is still a scarf and a stylish leather jacket, whereas ours is a starter jacket and jeans."

Davis said special events are what's keeping her in business these days. That's what most women shop with her for: outfits for weddings or workplace events. And she admits her clientele is primarily older women, but she said her clothes are for all women.

Davis boasts that she has great taste in fabrics. With some of her pieces, she uses what she calls "magic" fabric, coined for its drape and feel. It's more comfortable than jeans, she said.

Davis believes the easiest way to get dressed is using one color -- black, green or blue -- and accessorizing the outfit with other colors. Minimalism is a theme for Davis. She encourages her customers to buy three pieces: a pant, tunic and shell.

"You could practically use those forever," she said.

It's a way of dress she calls classy, classic and simple. But her pieces are pricier. Think $175 for a shell and $215 for a pair of lined pants.

Davis said it's a better investment than buying some other cheaply made items from big box stores. She said her customers tell her they still wear items they bought from her 20 years ago.

Compliments, she said, will be guaranteed.

Davis said the various changes in her store will happen over the next few months.

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