By Jessica Ghilani
Steel City Pride highlights local creativity and stylish ingenuity within Pittsburgh’s own fashion community. Each column selects one local person or brand to profile. This time I chatted with Nicole Couch, the owner of Crazy Hot Clothes.
Crazy Hot Clothes is a Pittsburgh-based vintage boutique and online retailer that focuses on fun, flirty, feminine options for retro enthusiasts and timeless style mavens alike.
CHC founder, Nicole Couch, was kind enough to answer some questions about the store and the ways that Pittsburgh inspires her. Read the interview below:
CBS Pittsburgh: Tell me the story behind Crazy Hot Clothes. What are your long-term goals for the store?
Nicole Couch: I was working in a small office and decided to move on in my career to something I was truly passionate about. I did some research about starting an online business and CHC was born.
Our long-term goals are to make the CHC name an exclusive boutique brand, while continuing to distribute to boutique partners, offering unique and one-of-a-kind pieces to shoppers.
We also want to make our retail store a go-to for fashion lovers. There are sites that I love to visit while killing time during a lunch break or on a weekend morning. I really want CHC to become a site where you can go and see something different, get fashion news, and pick up a great deal.
CBS Pittsburgh: Describe the CHC customer experience. What should shoppers expect from the different shopping options you offer (online, in person, trunk shows, private parties, etc.).
NC: At CHC, we strive to make every shopping experience unique. We add new pieces every day and have a blog, Facebook and twitter account all linked to the homepage. We hope that our customers will come and hang out, interact with us and have fun while shopping.
We also sell through boutiques via our partners program. This gives boutiques access to exclusive collections not available to retail customers. You can find our wholesale lookbooks online. In addition, we also offer trunk shows to boutiques whether they carry our line or not.
CHC also does private home parties. These are a really fun way to get your girlfriends together and have fun with fashion. We offer our CHC photobooth, which are professional pics of you and your friends trying on our pieces and can be accessed through our Facebook page to be shared. All of the pieces at each party are sold at prices under the list price and there are prizes and gift card giveaways. The hostess of the party also receives 25% of what her guests spend total in free merchandise at the end of the night.
CBS Pittsburgh: What drew you to fashion? What inspired you to start this type of business?
NC: Even as a child, I have always been interested in fashion. I loved to dress up Barbie dolls and go on thrifting hunts for the best deals. I studied Business Marketing and Management at Penn State and always wanted to own my own business, so this seemed like the perfect time in my life to go for it. I love vintage and the uniqueness that it brings to any woman’s closet. In my opinion, there is no better way to create your own personal style than to add one-of-a-kind vintage pieces to your wardrobe to make each outfit your own. I wasn’t sure that Pittsburgh had caught on to this concept yet, so opening a storefront was never an option in my mind. I was drawn more to an online business model.
CBS Pittsburgh: How do you find/buy merchandise for your store?
NC: We source our pieces from all over the US and I have vendors that give me great pricing on unique vintage finds. Everything we carry is genuinely vintage (meaning 20 years old or older) but our pieces also follow current fashion trends.
CBS Pittsburgh: What are the benefits of buying vintage?
NC: Vintage items can totally make an outfit. They are statement pieces you can collect to help define who you are through your wardrobe. Every vintage piece is one-of-a-kind because it has been out of production for over 20 years, so when you find that perfect dress or unique coat, you can be sure that no one else will be wearing the exact same thing.
Another benefit is the quality of vintage clothing. We only carry pieces in like-new condition. Some places may carry vintage that has some flaws but we check and re-check each of our pieces and hand select only those that are flawless. That being said, when you come across a great dress from the 60’s that has been perfectly preserved, it can last you way longer than something you buy at the mall. Most of the time, these pieces have been made in the US or handmade and come from a time when women didn’t have thousands of options in their closets. They had just a few high quality items.
CBS Pittsburgh: Describe your personal style.
NC: You can see a lot of my personal style in the merchandise of the store. Dresses are one of our biggest sellers and I love dresses, so we have quite a few at all times. I am also big on accessories. Scarves and tights are 2 of my favorites. I am a firm believer of taking an item and dressing it up or down, wearing it both to the beach and to a wedding and getting the most of every piece in your closet.
CBS Pittsburgh: What three pieces do you think every woman should have in her closet?
NC: A great, versatile dress- something that you can wear from work to happy hour, add a sparkly cardigan and make it a special occasion piece, or add a denim jacket and wear it on the weekend. A fitted jacket or cardigan for layering to add warmth and polish to an outfit. A pair of boots. Whether they are ankle boots or over the knee boots, I think boots should be in every woman’s closet. I am a big fan of boots as a year-round staple as well. I think that boots with a sundress is a great look and also serve well on cool summer nights.
CBS Pittsburgh: Describe Pittsburgh style.
NC: I think that Pittsburgh style is very practical and laid back, especially in the winter months. You see a lot of hoodies, sports attire, and Ugg boots in Pittsburgh. I think that Pittsburghers are very proud of their city and its accomplishments and this comes out in the unique Pittsburgh themed attire that we choose.
CBS Pittsburgh: How does Pittsburgh inspire the way you dress?
NC: I definitely love sports, so on any given Sunday I can definitely be found in a Penguins hoodie or Steelers jersey. If I’m watching the game out somewhere, I try to add a little bit of my personal touch by doing leggings and high boots as opposed to jeans or maybe a headband and scarf. Just something to switch it up a bit.
CBS Pittsburgh: Anything else you’d like the readers to know?
Learn more about Crazy Hot Clothes, by visiting the website at: Stores.CrazyHotClothes.com
Read the previous Steel City Pride column by visiting this link.