With over 150 independent designers of architectural, angular, and often pleasingly asymetrical womens wear designers, Sandy Lew-Hailer keeps Sandylew, her First Avenue boutique, stocked with lots of options. It's a more-is-more philosophy that works with her overall motto. "You have to get dressed every damn day," she told us, "so you might as well have a good time doing it."
What song or album is playing on your store’s sound system right now?
Just now, Ray LaMontagne’s “Can I Stay” came on after Alison Krauss. We do Pandora, and I love John Legend. John Legend and Stevie Nicks are my absolute favorites. I also love Annie Lennox; it’s really about the rhythm and how it matches the rhythm of the store.
What was your first job in retail? What did you love or hate about it and how does it compare to what you do now?
When I was a freshman in college at UC Santa Barbara, I had a job in a little boutique where I did the windows. I did window displays and I just made stuff for merchandising. There, the owner gave me a lot of creative freedom, and I loved that. I still do all of the windows at my store. I love it.
What’s your favorite thing in the store right now?
Something that just came it, it’s a Lauren Vidal black wool vest with a dot pattern. At the Seattle Art Museum right now, they have that Australian aboriginal art exhibit and this dot pattern is really reminiscent of that. We got the pattern in the tunic and the vest, but I love the vest because it looks just as great on a perfect, petite size 4 as it looks on someone who is, well, not a size 4. I love it when I hit that note: a piece that works on all people of ages, sizes, and preferences.
What is your most popular or sought-after item? Is there anything people routinely come to Sandylew for?
There are three lines. One is a range of equestrian pants made in Santa Barbara; they are staple pieces. Then there is a line of mesh from Florida that comes in all different colors, called Petit Pois. For layering, I carry an awesome line of tank tops and great basic, lightweight jackets from a crazy wonderful woman in New York named Sophie Finzi. Those lines have been here since we opened. They're not the most unusual, fun things in the store, but they're the every day basics that customers return for and they keep the store balanced.
Where do you shop when you’re not at your store?
For shoes, I go to Clementine in West Seattle. I love it there, it’s small but she gets really interesting stuff. For glassies I go to Ottica. I wear contacts, but sometimes I wear glasses.
What do you love about your store’s neighborhood?
I waited for this location, and then I opened in 2008. I love this part of First Avenue because it’s not corporate. There’s still a lot of rock n' roll—which is a plus and a minus—but it still doesn’t have that cold, corporate feeling, which I love. I love being near the museum and the market.
What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened in your store?
Not necessarily the strangest thing, but a great thing: the other day, the Chelsea soccer team came into the store in their uniforms. They were staying at the Four Seasons, and they were just walking around. We went out to look at them, and they came in and took some water. We took pictures with them, it was great. They are drop dead darling, and so sweet. It was the most fun, because—excuse me—to have your store invaded by some really cute men from England? It was really nice.