On any given day, the unmistakable trademark mane of raven hair and nude lips of Amaly Narong can be seen perched behind the wooden counters at Today You Are Special, her women’s clothing and accessories boutique. Neatly nestled between Vancouver’s Gastown and Chinatown districts (two of the city’s trendiest areas for fashion and culinary culture), the shop stocks easy-modern basics with a healthy dollop of campy, too-cool-for-school quirk–think Nasty Gal with less Coachella and more Club Monaco. The store interior–cool polished concrete walls offset by the warmth of untreated wood counters (built by Amaly’s boyfriend and TODAY co-founder, Dustin Hill) and accented with skulls of various woodland creatures–is a glimpse into the dynamic owner’s style essence. As nonchalantly cool as she is mischievously eclectic and silly (she named her Yorkshire Terrier Bacon and owns a collection of swords), Amaly’s infectious energy and business savvy is representative of this generation’s wave of young entrepreneurs out to redefine the landscape of our city’s culture. Here, she opens up about her splashy foray into fashion retail, the story behind the cheekily long name (ironically, surprisingly short), and her undying love for Homer Simpson.
(Pictured: Amaly Narong)
BLUEPRINT: You’ve probably explained this a billion times already but for our readers who don’t know, what was the inspiration behind your store name, “Today You Are Special”?
Amaly: When I made the decision to open shop, I made sure all the items I house are items I love. With that said, I want each and every person who steps in to fall in love with our items as well. I want people to feel special, hence the name, “Today You Are Special”.
BLUEPRINT: Have you always wanted to work in fashion? Did you envision yourself owning your own retail shop?
A: For the most part, fashion has consumed a large portion of my life. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve studied fashion design and worked in both design, wholesale and the retail side of fashion. I can’t say I have always envisioned myself owning a retail shop; however, all the experiences I’ve had along the way have led me to where I am now. I’m super happy!
BLUEPRINT: How did you decide on Gastown for your store location?
A: With so many new and emerging businesses in the area of Gastown, Chinatown, Main Street and the general Downtown East Side, we really wanted to be a part of that growth. It’s exciting! There’s a new generation of young entrepreneurs in these areas and being a part of the evolution just felt right.
BLUEPRINT: Okay, this is a multiple-part question…walk us through your buying process–a lot of people aren’t aware of the lead time/thought process/number crunching needed to buy for a retail clothing store. When do you start preparing yourself to place orders?
A: All our buying is done 6 months ahead of the season with the exception of accessories–some days I just get so excited when I stumble across local designers that I need to stock them immediately.
BLUEPRINT: How do you decide what to buy and in what quantities? Do you rely heavily on cold hard numbers (previous sales figures) or is it a combination of numbers plus your gut instinct?
A: Generally, when we stock a design I’ll stock one of each size, from extra small to large. This way, our customers aren’t walking the street to find several people wearing the same item that they once coveted. It’s just more special that way. We do look at previous sales figures and the feedback from our customers in regards to which styles and lines to focus on. Rarely do we re-stock the exact same garments though, you snooze you lose…
BLUEPRINT: The buying process must have been a pain in the ass when you first opened and had no previous numbers to rely on…what was that like?
A: You’re so right, it was definitely tricky. When we first opened I did my best with trusting my gut instincts, it was the best I could do. I’d constantly asking myself, “is this something I’d wear?” and as time went by and we got to know our customer better, it’s made the process a lot easier. And yes I’m still constantly asking myself, “is this something I’d wear?”
BLUEPRINT: Who is the ultimate TODAY girl? Can be a celebrity or someone you know. Someone who, to you, perfectly embodies the spirit of TODAY. Is it YOU?
A: The ultimate TODAY girl is your everyday girl, just like me! I’m fashion conscious, on-trend, and I value comfort and like to have fun with my clothes. Clothes are the most unique way to communicate without saying anything at all, let’s take full advantage of it.
BLUEPRINT: For those who follow you on Instagram and Facebook….it’s no secret that you are obsessed with Homer Simpson. How’s about a collaboration (hashtag: #dreamcollab)? What would that look like?
A: Homer Simpson will always own a piece of my heart. I feel like inside each and everyone of us resides a Homer. Sometimes we’re lazy, sometimes I just want a doughnut and most the time I make an idiot of myself. I’M OKAY WITH THAT. Homer’s and my collaboration would be filled with a variety of collared white tops–some woven, some jersey, and maybe throw in a few washed silk blends–some crisp, some distressed. Actually mostly distressed because–who am I kidding?– I’ll get a ketchup stain on it in 20 minutes. Everyone needs their go-to white blouse, right?
BLUEPRINT: Vancouver is a tough city for many things, and one of those things is fashion. Retail is a hard business to straddle to begin with and with the added challenge of presenting fashion to what’s considered a “fashion novice” city, how did you navigate that landscape?
A: Being an independent and locally owned boutique we focus on providing on quality, on-trend pieces that make a statement for themselves. Of course we have to give a huge shout out to all our loyal customers who’ve supported us along the way!
BLUEPRINT: Another thing about Vancouver is that it’s small and everybody knows everybody, especially in the fashion community. Did you experience a lot of support from the local businesses and fashion folk when you first opened?
A: I am overwhelmed with the support that our community, local businesses and fashion colleagues have provided since the beginning. I’m forever grateful for all those who have provided support along the way. The shop wouldn’t be here without them.
BLUEPRINT: Last one! You designed your own eponymous line of jewelry, but are there plans to eventually design your own clothing line someday?
A: That is a definite long term goal in mind, for now I just got to take one step at a time. I guess we’ll find out what the future holds!
TODAY You Are Special is located at 158 Powell Street in the Gastown district of Vancouver, BC. For more information visit their website or follow Amaly’s adventures on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
– Michelle Yu