In need of last-minute holiday gifts? Look no further as I introduce you to a Park Slope favorite of mine, Poppy. I discovered this boutique while on a mission for a classy-yet-sexy date dress. After finding the right frock, a friendship began with Poppy’s owner, Leslie McKeown. A creative force, Leslie immediately gave off a welcoming and whimsical energy. I knew I wanted to interview her for JBD. Almost one year later, the timing is right. Enjoy our conversation and pop into Poppy any time!
You have a passion for fashion. Tell us about your background.
I grew up in a very small town in Canada and was a bit of a fish out of water. In a teeny town in the early ’80s without internet or cable television you really had to search for a connection to something more. Fashion and music were my portals to the outside world. On my turntable was Duran Duran, The Smiths, Echo & the Bunnymen; basically all new wave. Fashion-wise, Vogue was a major inspiration. In my last year of high school, I did a research project on designer Christian Lacroix’s first haute couture collection, referencing Christian Dior’s “new look” from the ’50s. Needless to say I was the only one with that topic. Also, when I was 14 my mom opened up a clothing store of her own. From very early on I was working on the floor, doing window displays, book keeping and gaining an understanding of the industry.
When and where did the idea for Poppy come about?
Leading up to 9/11 I was working, not very happily, in the dot com industry. As with many people, that event shook up my world and I began to examine what I really wanted to do. There was the aha! moment when I realized that fashion was what I was really interested in. I dropped everything for an opportunity to work with an up and coming fashion label. After a year or two I was ready to do something of my own. Despite being in the fashion capital, I had never found my own go-to boutique. I wanted to create a shop with a homey, comfy environment. One where we would know customers by name and grow with them, where I could curate an edited selection of small known contemporary brands and introduce new ones. Thus, Poppy on Mott Street in Nolita opened in the fall of 2003 and had an amazing ten year run!
Your Park Slope store is so welcoming and well-curated. Are you constantly keeping an eye out for new designers?
Yes! Buying for the shop is probably the thing that takes up the most of my time. I see so many collections each season. In fact, there is probably not a day that goes by that I am not looking at something. Good buying makes or breaks a boutique! You can have the coolest looking store but if its not stocked with things people want to buy (when they want to buy them) it does not matter.
Which designers are your go-to’s?
Lauren Moffatt has been one of my main go-to designers pretty much since the beginning. Her aesthetic is a perfect match for Poppy. I love her as a person and every season she blows we away with what she does from the cuts to the fabrics…
Christmas is around the corner. What five items are perfect for gift-giving?
You can never go wrong with gifting someone a gorgeous, yummy sweater. This season there are so may great sweaters! There is a Paris brand called Fine Collection where all the styles are loose in the body and fitted in the arm, a personal favorite cut. Jewelry is always an easy gift like this inexpensive necklace from Tomboy.
One of the great things about relocating to Park Slope is that the store is bigger. I am able to offer more gift items which is something I have always wanted to do. Going super luxe, this alpaca blanket from Jonathan Adler is amazing.
Accessory every woman should own?
I generally tend to dress in wardrobe building blocks. On the bottom: skinny jeans or boyfriend jeans. On top: white tees or tanks, silk blouses, black blazer, slouchy v-neck sweaters. Fitted leather or denim jackets. A trench in the Spring, a cargo in the Fall, a parka in the Winter. A couple of good dresses for good measure. Very basic. So accessories-wise, it is all about a shoe that makes you feel amazing as well as a great scarf. Oh, and a bunch of necklaces all jangling together.
What will never go out of style?
Jeans, a white tee, great shoes and a great bag! And wearing them with confidence!
If you could meet any designer, who would it be and why?
If we are talking wish lists, it would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall during the heady times of Yves St. Laurent’s career in the ’70s and ’80s.
What are your favorite blogs and magazines for style secrets and inspiration?
Much less into magazines these days. Vogue,etc no longer resonate with me. Style magazines I do buy are more home and design related. House and Home from Canada is awesome, Living Etc from the UK is so inspiring. I visit so many blogs. Some include Miss Moss, Garance Doré, Design Love Fest and Le Catch.
What are your regularly visited Brooklyn spots (aside from Poppy, of course)?
Since I live four blocks from the shop, this ‘hood is my world! Faves include Prospect Park and Annie’s General Store for gifts and unique home pieces. For restaurants: Blueprint and Stone Park Café both on 5th Avenue and for bars it’s High Dive on 5th Avenue and Mission Dolores on 4th Avenue. Cycle Bar has crazy hard cycling classes just around the corner from my house. Another favorite is The Community Bookstore on 7th Avenue.
Best advice you’ve received?
In terms of business, my mom always said that her approach was to treat someone coming into her store as if they were coming into her home. Not only is this being welcoming and warm to everyone that enters, it extends to creating an environment and an attention to detail (music, décor, lighting, scent) that would make someone enjoy being there and to return.
When in doubt…?
Notes: For more details, check out Poppy here. // This interview has been edited & condensed. // Images courtesy of Leslie McKeown.