The perfect wardrobe is one tailored to your lifestyle that reflects where you are in your life and career. The impact of personal style goes beyond making a good first impression; it’s about feeling comfortable and confident in what you’re wearing. Providing this type of shopping experience for women is what Luceo Boutique & Styling Co. in Middleton is all about.
“The store is purposely a little off the beaten path,” says owner Katie McKenzie. “I wanted less customer traffic to have more time to get to know my customers’ wants and needs. The small specialty boutique is really more about relationships and being an alternative to a department store known for scripted customer interaction. I’ve created an inviting space for women to feel free to experiment with clothes and not be self-conscious about trying to find a look all their own, understand what looks good on them, and add to their existing wardrobe. I understand high-end fashion, but have chosen to sell clothing for a woman’s everyday lifestyle similar to what you might find in your own closet. My desire is that women can simply relax into their next favorite pair of jeans or go-to dress.
“Luceo’s customer is looking for clothing they love without being obsessive about what they wear. They want to open the closet, mix and match, then get dressed in just minutes. Typical customers are in their 30s or 40s, but the store’s versatile clothing lines can be worn by a lot of different women and styled in a lot of different ways. Women of all ages shop at Luceo. For example, my top seller is a basic cotton sweater, which could be purchased by my 16-year-old cousin to wear with leggings or by a 90-something grandma who would wear it with trousers. I try to have a mix of familiar brands with those not seen online so women have a brand-new shopping experience.”
To get to know the vibe and style of Luceo Boutique & Styling Co. is to get to know Katie and her journey. “I always knew I had a creative flare and love for clothes. It started with playing dress up as a child. As a teenager, I realized I wanted to own a boutique. So, at age 16, I worked at Macy’s Department Store and other retail jobs so I could learn how to operate a store by working in a variety of retail environments.”
Katie graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design with a degree in fashion marketing and fashion design. “While the schooling provided me with the needed background and knowledge of the apparel industry, it was through internships that I got to try on different aspects of the fashion industry. My first internship was at Custard, a small specialty boutique owned by Tara. She was a great mentor who taught me the ins and outs of providing exceptional service, and took me on buying trips to familiarize me with clothing lines that couldn’t be found at just any retailer. My time there stood out above the rest and truly formed my understanding of the importance of a specialty boutique.”
Tara advised Katie to intern in New York City. It was a big leap that catapulted her career and gave her a new confidence. “I interned at Harper’s Bazaar and several big-name brands and retailers, such as French Connection and Otte New York. When asked in interviews what department I wanted to be in, I always said I’d work anywhere because I sincerely wanted to learn everything. I gained experience in visual merchandising, sales, e-commerce, web production, styling, buying, how to put on a fashion show and do magazine photo shoots, as well as how to operate a store and be a good boss. While I adored the high-fashion apparel I worked with, I quickly realized I missed the payoff of seeing the customers enjoy the clothes. The moment when a customer tries something on that just works, and they immediately stand taller, is my favorite part of the industry.”
With fashion and retail industry training and experience in hand, Katie moved back home to Middleton to pursue her dream of opening her own small boutique. As she readjusted to the Midwest, she took what she thought was going to be a short-term e-commerce job at Duluth Trading Company in Mount Horeb. “The people were so wonderful, it made it hard to leave.” An unexpected long-term impact was that Katie learned the value of work-life balance, a concept that doesn’t exist in New York City’s high-fashion industry. “I’m grateful I learned the importance of this before opening Luceo. I’m tech savvy, but also love to go offline and not have my phone and technology around me all the time. I live outside Cross Plains with my fiancé on secluded acreage, so I can hit reset by taking walks through the woods with my Saint Bernard dog and picking away on our fixer-upper house.”
When selecting a name for the boutique, Katie discovered the Scottish MacKenzie Clan heraldic motto, luceo (pronounced lu chay o) non uro, means “I shine, not burn” in Latin. This can be interpreted in many ways, but to Katie, the store name speaks to work-life balance and how Luceo allows women to shine in the apparel they purchase.
Luceo Boutique & Styling Co. opened in August 2017 to offer great apparel and accessories combined with exceptional customer service. Katie launched e-commerce this summer, so women can go online at luceoboutique.com to be introduced to the clothing and boutique. If they love what they see, they can check out the store.
“My satisfaction comes from watching women transform when they find the right garments,” says Katie. “It’s a simple and quick moment of time, but it’s the payoff of the very long process apparel goes through before it reaches the store. Many people are involved to conceptualize, design, cut, sew, showcase, sell, transport, steam, tag, and so much more before a Luceo customer takes it home.”
Lauri Lee is a freelance writer living in Madison.