In an era of cheap, disposable garments with shadowy origins, Richmond boutique Verdalina focuses on sustainability and personal connection.
“I love to look at the inside of clothes and see everything so beautifully finished,” said Deborah Boschen, owner of the clothing store Verdalina. “This is the stuff that excites me… I love something like this that’s crisp and classic.”
As Deborah Boschen holds up and explains her current favorite pieces of clothing from her store, you can tell that she not only has valuable fashion experience but is also passionate about the clothes she is selling.
Every piece inside of Verdalina has been carefully curated by Boschen and her team to present a clean and calming aesthetic that still is shockingly beautiful. With a variety of clothing ranging from simple and clean pieces made with linens and cotton to stunning sequined dresses, Verdalina has an undeniable wow-factor.
Boschen has been working in retail for over 30 years, and Verdalina has been her passion for the last six years. Verdalina is a boutique clothing store located at the corner of Broad Street and North Monroe Street in the Richmond Arts District.
Boschen was bit by the fashion bug when she was living in Los Angeles in 1980, and since then, all of her business adventures have been inspired by the emergence of small boutiques on Melrose Avenue. “I loved the idea of a speciality boutique that was intimate in that way, as opposed to going into a department store,” said Boschen.
Upon moving back to Richmond in 1987, Boschen met Suzanne Hammes, the manager of The Pink Cadillac, a women’s clothing and gift boutique in Carytown. Together they began to plan the opening of their own women’s clothing store. When Hammes went to resign from The Pink Cadillac the owner offered to sell his store to them and they jumped on the offer.
Hammes, Boschen’s original business partner, sold her share to Libby Sykes in 1992, and Boschen and Sykes changed the name to Pink and continued to run their business out of that Carytown location. Over the 25 years Boschen was running Pink, she witnessed Carytown blossom into its current form. She also saw her own style grow and evolve. After leaving Pink, Boschen set her sights on a new emerging neighborhood for her next project. “I didn’t want to be back in Carytown,” said Boschen. “That felt like going backwards, in a way.”
When Verdalina opened in the Arts District almost six years ago, most of the neighborhood’s activity was coming from local art galleries. As with Carytown, the neighborhood has really evolved in the time she’s been there. “It was fun to be part of Carytown’s growth, and I thought this would be the same,” said Boschen. “And it has happened — retail has moved in, lots of restaurants have moved in, and I found this beautiful corner space with lots of light.”
Boschen created her store for a particular type of customer. Verdalina has been designed to fit a more mature woman, and represents Boschen’s personal style and needs. Her ideal customer is typically older than 40. “She still looks good and wants to dress fashionable, but she has different needs than when she was younger,” said Boschen. “She wants her arms covered, she wants her legs covered.”
Boschen allows her personal taste to guide her as she goes to market looking for pieces to sell in her store. Boschen’s closet is entirely composed of clothing from Verdalina.
In addition to her own instincts, she works with her team to determine what she should carry, and always keeps her best customers in mind. Verdalina’s customers are given Boschen’s cell phone number, and she keeps them updated with texts and pictures of new things coming into the store. She wants all of her customers to love what they buy and love wearing it.
Verdalina is not a store that follows trends; instead, it focuses on high quality and a “slow fashion” model. Fast fashion is cheap and rapidly produced clothing for mass production; slow fashion focuses on high-quality goods that last. Slow fashion is a more sustainable production model, and also allows designers to work directly with manufacturers.
Boschen became aware of the stark contrasts between fast and slow fashion six years ago when she visited an H&M for the first time. She had come across a completely lined and tailored jacket being sold for $29 while her completely lined and tailored jackets at Pink were being sold at around $450. “I knew there was a problem,” she said. “Someone wasn’t getting paid, and I figured of course it has to be the workers. It shocked me, because I had never witnessed that.”
The clothing sold at Verdalina all comes from sustainably-sourced brands. “I like clothes that are designed well, made well with the best textiles, and built to last,” Boschen said. “They’re not throw-away clothes.”
Photos by Emma North