What inspired you to open your boutique?
We met in high school and were roommates in college. We always thought about opening our own boutique, but we got distracted by other careers. One day, when we were in our 20s, we were appalled that fake rock t-shirts could sell for $100, so we decided to open our own store where you could find affordable clothing that was cute and fun.
How long have you been operating?
How did you come up with the name y&i?
Both of our names are Roby/in (one spelled Robyn and one spelled Robin) hence y&i.
How did you select the locations for your stores?
San Francisco was our first location and we chose that city because Robyn was living on the West Coast and I thought it would be fun to try living on that side too (I was in New York City at the time). We then opened Austin because it’s where Robyn and I went to college and we wanted to have a good excuse to go to ACL Festival every year and eat Mexican food. This year we opened Dallas. Robyn and I grew up there, so we thought it would be fun to have a store in our hometown. We always try to open locations in places that we love or want to go to.
What’s the vibe of your boutiques?
California casual. We like our boutiques to be open, airy and bright. We want them to be inviting—a place where you would want to hang out.
And the décor?
When we were picking our colors, we wanted it to be “poppy” but not too girlie, which is a lot like us. We went with blue and green because they seem bright and fun. We also wanted the boutique to look clean and simple, so white walls, light wood floors and industrial fixtures with pops of green and blue. With each store we’ve improved upon our look a little, adding plants and windows to make it more homey.
What is the goal for your boutiques?
We want to provide customers with an entire fun, cute outfit for under $300 that they can wear multiple ways. If you buy a $200 dress, we want to show you how to dress it up with jewelry and heels for a date or dress it down with a cardigan and flats for Sunday brunch. Or we want to help you pair a $150 pair of jeans with a $30 top and $30 earrings for a total look.
Describe your clothing in three words.
Fun, California, affordable.
Who’s the typical y&i woman?
We usually describe our typical customer as the Lauren Conrad type: high school age through 30s, casual California style, trendy but not too trendy.
What pieces or styles does she covet?
When we think about the y&i girl, we think about Lauren Conrad—casual California style, and that’s what our girl is looking for. Right now she is really into fun colored skinny jeans to pair with cute tops. And she’s also loving pattern mini skirts with sheer tops for night. Neon has been a big trend lately too.
What’s your curation process?
Robyn and I do all the buying for the stores together. We pick pieces based on what we think our customers want as well as what the current trends are. We want to give our customers things they love and things they haven’t seen before. Most of our pieces are either from US contemporary designers or our own label.
Why did you decide to carry your own label?
We wanted to provide our customer with options that were affordable and cute and we couldn’t find everything we wanted from our current labels. Our concept is an entire outfit for under $300, so most of our pieces fall in the $59 to $89 range for dresses and $29 to $59 for tops. We focus on casual dresses, tops, and mini skirts—easy pieces to add to your wardrobe.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned as entrepreneurs and fashion buyers?
Buy what you know. When we started our business, we were our target customer. Obviously we’ve gotten a little older, but we still embody the style of our store and try to find things that we love so our customer will love them too.
What does fashion mean to you?
Feeling good about what you are wearing.
Any boutique shopping tips or advice to share?
Try on lots of things! Even if it doesn’t look great on the hanger, it might be really cute on. If you are shopping by yourself, you will get a lot of attention from the sales staff, which can be great. If you select a few pieces you like, ask them what else might work for you. The staff sees people try things on all day long, so they know what the best fits are … and they can point you towards great pieces.
What are some must-have pieces in your wardrobe now?
As summer comes to and end, we are loving sheer maxi skirts with basic t-shirts. Robyn and I both just got candy-colored long skirts that are sheer with mini’s underneath. We are also on the hunt for cute, unique patterned denim for transitionng into fall—something that you can wear now with a tank top and flip-flops and later with boots and a sweater. And we are always on the hunt for the perfect day-to-night metallic flat sandal.
What do you love most about being boutique owners?
Getting to work with great people. Robyn and I have been friends since we were 16 years old, so the fact that we get to spend each day gossiping with each other about celebrities and style is amazing. Plus, many of the girls on our staff have grown up at our store. It’s a really rewarding experience for us to help them find their way to the careers they’ve always wanted.