Have you met Rachel? Well, you kinda gotta have to. One part pep squad and one part one-woman style council, Rachel Leggs, 33, is guaranteed to have you looking and feeling awesome the moment you meet her.
"Girl, you have no idea," Leggs says as she sits surrounded by piles and piles of vintage finds in her North Corktown digs called, appropriately, Rachel's Place
. She's talking about the positive reception she's gotten from the opening of her first store in a 100-year-old brownstone earlier this year. "This is the most fascinating thing that's happened to me," she beams.
Leggs studied fashion design and merchandising at Wayne State, but always knew it was vintage that had her heart. She started out doing garage sales in front of her current space selling everything from furniture to mattresses. With the money she made from those, she'd buy up little pieces of vintage she knew she'd be selling one day. "Everything in here, I would wear," she says with pride. "It's like a dream collection of everything I think is nice." She's also keen on getting quality merchandise, so 70 percent of her wearables are made in the U.S., while close to 30 percent are from Spain, Italy, or Germany. She's proud that very little of her stuff is made in China.
Even cooler, out of the 70 percent of U.S.-made merch, 50 percent comes from old-school Detroit retailers. It's the places like Himelhoch's and Jacobson's that help fill out her racks of Detroit fashion histoire. She's even got a whole room dedicated to menswear, so if you're looking to dress up your significant other in Detroit gear of yesteryear, head up to the second floor. If things aren't fitting the way you want them to, no worries. She has a seamstress on site to help with alterations.
Leggs finds her inspiration from old magazines and movies and often likes to bulk shop outside Michigan. She visits Ohio and New York for new finds. She's huge on coats and the Annis Furs Townley is one her personal faves. No wonder she dabbles in personal styling and shopping on the side. Whether it's a video, fashion show, or helping a client dress for a party, she finds her phone ringing off the hook with folks wanting to latch on to her own personal sense of style for their big event.
And just who are Leggs' clients? She says go-getters, artists, musicians, up-and-coming politicians. "These people are magnificent. I don't have normal customers," she laughs. She goes on to talk about the people in her neighborhood being a huge inspiration to her, too. She even goes as far to call them, "the smartest people in the world." She cites things like people riding bikes and hanging their laundry outside as some of the reasons why.
For Leggs, simplicity is smart, and you can hear it in the warm way she greets customers and the thoughtful way she stocks her shop. "Our merchandise is really affordable, yet there are lots of one-of-kind pieces here," she says.
Next for Rachel's Place is a store next door that will sell vintage furniture and home goods. Leggs already has the place full up to the ceiling, so look forward to summer 2010 when she hopes to have her newest baby up and running.
And that, friends, is how another very important piece of the Detroit retail story is born.
Rachel's Place is on 2124 Pine Street off Rosa Parks and I-75. Visit her Tuesday through Saturday from 12 to 6 or Sunday between 12 and 4. Jennifer Andrews lives in Midtown and writes for Model D. Send feedback here.