by MIKE CHAIKEN
Fashion designer brand Saints by S.J. is a veteran on the Connecticut fashion scene.
Launched in 2012, Saints by S.J. has been seen on the runways at Hartford Fashion Week. It participated in one of RAW Natural Born Artists events held in Connecticut. It also has been featured on local television.
But up until now, the brand, which was formed by sisters Anise and Natacha Saint Juste, has focused only on custom fashion work.
However, the main drawback with custom work is that it takes more time to create an item, thereby keeping volume down.
So the sisters decided the time was right to open up its own ready to wear boutique in New Britain, explained Anise Saint Juste during the new boutique’s grand opening on Jan. 16.
Like the brand’s custom work, the ready to wear items, which are manufactured in China, are all designed by the sisters. But because there is more volume, Saints by S.J. can offer the items at the boutique at a lower price point.
Anise Saint Juste said a custom piece would run a woman $300-$400. She said the ready wear items at its store at 666 Arch St., New Britain, can be as low as $6 for some of the accessories by Saints by S.J. up to $100 for the garments.
Unlike a mall store, Anise Saint Juste said garments from Saints by S.J. are exclusive. She explained this mean that although thousands of people may wear a piece from a chain store, Saints by S.J. are still manufactured in relatively small numbers. She said it would be unlikely that customers will run into anyone at an event wearing the same garment.
Asked to describe the style aesthetic of Saints by S.J., Anise Saint Juste said it’s “very simple; it’s very sexy; it’s very chic, but also very appropriate (for more conservative environments).” Women can wear garments from Saints by S.J. to red carpet events, political events, birthday parties and dances.
“Pretty much anything,” said Anise Saint Juste. “They’re versatile.
As for how they selected the new location, Anise Saint Juste said they chose New Britain because they grew up in the city. Anise Saint Juste still lives there. “We wanted to keep it local.”
Saints by S.J.’s new boutique is facing a challenge new businesses historically haven’t had to contend with.
The store opened in the midst of a pandemic.
Anise Saint Juste was honest and said COVID-19 caused the sisters to ponder the wisdom of opening a store at this time.
“It’s been ridiculous,” said Anise Saint Juste of the hurdles the store had to overcome before opening this month.
The road to opening actually began before the pandemic when the sisters selected the Arch Street location.
When the pandemic forced all businesses to close last March, Anise Saint Juste said she and her sister panicked. “We’re not going to open. It’s not going to happen.”
They called their landlord with their concerns. “There’s no way we can do this,” Anise Saint Juste said they told the landlord.
“We have no funding. We don’t have any personal loans. Everything is literally from our 9-5 job. We’re paying for everything out of pocket,” said Anise Saint Juste explaining one of the issues they also faced.
Fortunately, the price of renovating the space was kept low because Natacha Saint Juste’s husband is an electrician and was able to handle most of the renovation work for the sisters.
“It’s been a miracle, almost, that we’ve been able to open,” said Anise Saint Juste. “We’re very, very blessed about it.”
Although COVID will make life complicated in the coming months, Anise Saint Juste said she and her sister are planning social distancing-friendly events as part of a community outreach. For instance, there are plans in the coming weeks to offer a seminar to help first time home buyers.
For information about Saints by S.J., visit Saintsbysj.com or call 860-990-7700.