Style, Savvy & Savoir-Faire

WHEN LUXURY RETAILER JANET BROWN—who brought high-end fashion designers to her small Port Washington boutique for 24 years—died suddenly in 2007, devoted customer Julieann Stark vowed to continue her legacy. The following year, Stark opened her own retail store, Julianne (using the more common spelling of her name), just a stone’s throw away from where the Janet Brown boutique once stood. She recruited Brown’s expert staff, led by her sales associate of 20 years, Randi Newman, who in turn brought long-time customers with her.

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Now the sales director/buyer and stylist at Julianne, Newman sees Brown as her teacher and Stark, a former bathing suit designer, as her muse. “Janet was a master who had great insight into women’s fashion,” said Newman, who began her career as an assistant buyer at Bloomingdale’s. “She taught me how to work with clients and gave me a lot of confidence. And Julieann is so elegant with a wonderful aesthetic. She inspired me to step out of the box.”

The customized shopping experience that was Brown’s legacy is alive and well at Julianne. The independent fashion boutique caters to women over 40 who appreciate old-fashioned service and cutting-edge style. “I have an amazing rapport with my clients who come from places like New York, Connecticut and England,” said Newman, who does the store’s buying in New York and Paris with Stark. “I look through all the collections to try to build on [the clients’] wardrobes each season. Whether [they’re] twenty-five or eighty-five, a size two or a fourteen, I am their eyes.”

The store carries high-end clothing, handbags, shoes and some jewelry, but most items are cherry-picked for clients and go straight to their homes without ever hitting the floor. Newman’s memory of their purchases guides her in curating for each one uniquely. “I will mix a new sweater with a dress or a pair of pants they’ve had for four years. There are a lot of women who feel very comfortable wearing an older Chanel jacket. This is a woman who has tremendous self-confidence and is given a high-quality modern piece to enhance it.”

Why would someone want to shop at Julianne instead of Barneys or Bergdorf’s?
It’s off the beaten path. This is solely personalized. It’s a warm, wonderful atmosphere. We want customers to feel like they’re in their own living room. We offer them coffee, food or beverages. In a department store you need somebody to open and close a fitting room. We have the greatest selection of collections. We give them the fashion that fits—whether it’s embellished or practical.

Who are some of your favorite designers?
We firmly believe in [Belgian fashion designer] Dries van Noten. He does not have a freestanding boutique on Madison Avenue. He makes his own fabrics and has a wonderful, modern aesthetic. And Maison Margiela is another favorite of ours. The French line has great style, from a pant that has snaps down the side to multi-patterned sweaters and elegant evening wear. One of the lesser-known newcomers is Sies Marjan. The designer, Sander Lak, has a beautiful color palette. His showroom is in Chelsea and some of the products are actually made in New York City.

What is your go-to brand for a night out?
If one of my clients asked me to style them for an evening out—not black tie or cocktail—Yves Saint Laurent is my go-to. YSL makes the perfect button-down silk blouse…it’s always modern. The tops can be paired with leather pants, stretch pants or even as casual as denim.

What trends are you seeing for spring?
Every woman wants to wear something that’s happy after the divisive election. Sometimes clothing can boost your mood and there are lots of bright colors—like pink—and floral prints. There’s also a lot of fuller leg pants. And seersucker fabric is making a comeback with some whimsical tops and dresses.

lisa heffernan

Lisa Heffernan received a master’s in Communications from Emerson College before moving to New York. She has worked for publications such as: Details, Nylon, Rolling Stone, Time Out, Newport Mercury, American Songwriter and W magazine.