Michelle LeBlanc opened Mille, a lifestyle boutique in Minneapolis, MN, after having her shop exclusively online, two years ago. And while the fashion scene is Minneapols leaves a bit to be desired, LeBlanc is definitely doing her part. Her shop carries hard-to-find (even in New York) small designers: Ulla Johnson, Caron Callahan, Ryan Roche, and Lauren Manoogian. Quite the lineup for a small shop in the upper Mid West!
When did you open your store in Minneapolis?
I started my shop 5 years ago and was exclusively online until moving into our studio space 2 years ago. It’s been fun to have the brick and mortar shop…the people here are doing really interesting things that can kind of be underground, but the shop has become a de facto clubhouse for a lot of my favorite creative women in the city.
When you opened, what did you feel the city was missing from a retail perspective?
Hmmmm….Minneapolis does some things really well, but the boutique scene is definitely not its strong suit. No one was carrying any of the small women’s designers that were intriguing to me…from my perspective it was a pretty wide open playing field. Coming from Austin, TX, I really crave warmth, color, light and wanted to create an oasis of pretty, interesting, organic, feel good things. We do about 90% of our business online so its nice to have the freedom to order what I like and not be tied to the aesthetics of a specific city and clientele but also have a beautiful space where people can shop in person.
What’s your average customer like?
Creative, interesting, cool, complicated, a little eclectic, a little undone.
Someone who’s interested in the stories behind the collections, who has an appreciation for things that are a little unconventional.
Do you do all the buying? Are you traveling constantly?
I do all the buying but don’t get to travel too often – I have 2 little girls at home so leisurely buying trips are not in the cards right now but I get to NY about 4 times a year…short, quick spurts.
What’s your preference visiting designers in their showrooms or tradeshows?
I like visiting showrooms…less hectic, less distraction. But, I have a soft spot for the nutty randomness of the gift show.
How much of your store is home decor and interiors?
I’d say a good 30-40% is usually home decor. One of my best friends, Nadia Haddad, is an amazing interior designer so having her around to collaborate with has really helped grow that side of the shop.
Which designers in your store are bestsellers?
Ace & Jig, Kathleen Whitaker, Martiniano, Lauren Manoogian, Ulla Johnson
How would you describe the lifestyle Mille offers?
Beautiful, simple, useful. I’m always trying to edit down to things that I want to wear a million times, things that are easy, things that make me feel good. Those favorites that you wear/use for years…elevated basics…and I think what I bring to that is a soft, organic, feminine perspective…and pink is my neutral!
Can you describe the fashion scene in Minneapolis?
Oh man, it’s hard to get any perspective on a scene when we are all bundled up in our parkas & snow boots…but I’d say that the women here who’s style I admire the most all share an expertise at layering, know that winter requires a few bright spots of color, and embrace interesting shapes & textures.
What are common misconceptions about Minneapolis?
It’s a very cultured, arts-driven city. No one is running around saying “you betcha” or “uff-da” (although I kind of like that one) and people are super fit…they’re out walking the lakes in sub-zero temps while I’m huddled inside eating Tex Mex all winter!