Almost five years ago, I moved to Charleston and met Kristen Armstrong. At the time, I was in high school and planning to attend college for fashion design. She instantly treated me as if we had known each other for years and I became her “right hand woman.” I ended up working fashion shows that Kristen organized, coordinated and produced for a few years and let me tell you, this woman can do it all! Her beautiful shows like “Film Meets Fashion” and “Surf the Runway” were very popular and gave me the opportunity to meet some of Charleston’s high profile fashionistas. Watching her go from fashion show coordinator to business owner was so inspirational. On top of being talented in every creative aspect, she is also an amazing individual. I had a blast interviewing Kristen about her experience in owning her own upscale consignment shop, Ensemble Boutique. Get to know Kristen like I have and then stop by her shop to grab some fabulous pieces. She will make you look like a million bucks, without spending it!
Get to know Kristen in our interview below:
CAROLINA STYLE MAG: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Kristen: I was born and raised in Northwest Alabama in the small town of Muscle Shoals. As a young girl I was very much a tomboy that eventually turned into a fashion fanatic. I moved to Charleston in 2005 and from there I have really been able to broaden my love and knowledge for fashion. I have 2 dogs – a chihuahua and a pharaoh hound, I live on James Island and am recently engaged to my best friend Steve. I opened my consignment boutique – Ensemble – in May of 2011 and am still as passionate about it as I was the day I opened it.
STYLE: Where did you go to school?
Kristen: I went to high school at Muscle Shoals High School and went to The University of Alabama for college
STYLE : What inspired you to get started with your own company/shop?
Kristen: I was a banker for 5 years and just grew restless with that career so I decided to choose a career path that allowed me to do what I love and open my creative side
STYLE: How did you know how to get started and run your own company/shop? Did you use any resources for help or just from experience?
Kristen: I dont have a good answer for this – I just jumped in and have learned along the way – no classes or books – you cant teach most of what I do – it just comes natural and from within – I’ve learned most from personal experience.
STYLE: How did you come up with the name of your shop?
Kristen: This was one of the hardest aspects- took awhile but I arrived at the name Ensemble because it’s another way to describe your favorite outfit.
STYLE: Do you follow any bloggers and if so, who and why?
Kristen: I do follow a few local and nonlocal bloggers on Instagram – but do I have time to look at them? Not normally so I really can’t honestly pinpoint a fave – they are all so great and talented.
STYLE: Is social media something you consider essential for businesses and stores today to have and use?
Kristen: Absolutely – its a definite must to grow your business, increase sales, and to stay current.
STYLE: What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own business?
Kristen: Be smart, but also have fun – make sure its something you really want to do and be prepared for the ups and downs.
STYLE: What are your top 4 places in Charleston that are a must see? Also, how did you decide on a space for your shop?
Kristen: the angel oak tree, boone hall plantation, the lighthouse on Folly Beach, the battery at sunset – the space for my shop was the first place I looked at and it just worked out – I knew I wanted to be on James island so it worked out.
STYLE: What are your go-to pieces in your closet?
Kristen: My JBrand dark wash jeans, my Equipment femme blouses, my sweater wraps, and of course my cowboy boots!
STYLE: What are your must have pieces for fall?
Kristen: My comfy Anthropologie sweaters and my amazing collection of boots and booties!!
STYLE: What can we expect from Ensemble Consignments in the next year? Any new projects?
Kristen: No new projects – well maybe, but don’t you know a girl never spills her secrets!!
STYLE: What do you love most about the recycling and consignment idea? Have you always been a fan of thrifting and shopping consignment?
Kristen: I love the concept of shopping through some of Charlestons most fashionable women and the idea of someone being excited about the endless possibilities of wearing an item you no longer want – a fresh start. I have always loved thrift/consignment – I always had hand me downs when I was younger which I didn’t love but as I grew up I learned to embrace finding a good deal and not paying full price for nice things.
Kristen is so good about showing her customers exactly how to wear and style pieces sold in her shop. She does this by posting on Ensemble’s facebook page with a picture of the item in store and the image from the actual designer beside it to show how it looks on. Her pieces are always fabulously styled and this gives her clients great ideas on what to pair that adorable dress or top with. You really can find anything from cocktail attire, jeans, casual tees, blouses, boots, bags and more at Ensemble. Check them out on Facebook and be sure visit them on James Island!