On a warm July night in 2007, I was at Fenway Park, watching the Red Sox with my friend Taylor Blaisdell, who owned a boutique in Concord, MA, chatting about a way to honor my mom’s breast cancer journey. Taylor shared an idea about a fundraiser fashion show she had been part of recently, and we started brainstorming what it could look like to honor women and families experiencing breast cancer through a fashion show format in Concord. The Runway Show was born that night, and the rest is history. However, the real story began years earlier when I had popped into Taylor’s new shop during a winter break home from college. The store, Maggie Taylor, had all the hot brands that were “fashion-forward” for town at that time — Tibi, Milly, Sevens jeans, and fabulous big chunky jewelry. I loved it all.
What brought me into Maggie Taylor on that first day was the same thing that keeps me shopping locally today as well: I love “dressing up” for the day. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved the idea of an outfit and a style. My forever patient husband can attest that it takes me about 32 minutes to get ready, and my very fashion conscious sister, Kristin, will be happy to tell you about the “misses” that I’ve had. I am not “high fashion,” nor will I ever be. That is not my goal. Instead, I love finding the items that keep working and keep transitioning. I like navy stripes (for the boys and me), I love great shoes, and I love reasonable shoes. I love big jewelry. I love simple pieces that can be restyled a million times over. And I love coming home from work and changing one thing so that I can “mom” and still appear pulled together.
Local boutiques and emerging brands have become such an integral part of the Runway story. While the Runway Show is primarily about telling the stories of our models, the fashion that our models and guests wear is an integral part of ensuring that our community feels empowered and beautiful. As I was shifting my closet over for Fall this week, I was reflecting on the brands that I love most in my own closet…
Olivia’s Favorite Brands & Shops
- STIK — while not clothing, STIK can transform any outfit. Thankfully, Christina and her team have found ways to incorporate their genius beyond the winter, but even if you just start there, the options are endless. Their winter hats are the best on the market, ask Katie Couric — my favorite is The Campbell in white or OG orange with a natural pom-pom. Their earrings are year-round and add the color pop that one needs — the Clementine earrings in orange have gotten the most wear in my closet thus far.
- Holiday — no store could ever replace Maggie Taylor; however, the one that has gotten really close is Holiday. When I look at my closet, I find that all of my truly special pieces come from Jessika (and probably helped picked out in their old Beacon Hill location by Damon). They have those spectacular stand-alone pieces that you wear again and again, and the ones that you wear once and become instantaneously classic — the black and white dress from 2016 and the Runway 10th Anniversary show when I am holding the boys. Now Jessika’s online store has me so happy because her blend of truly spectacular pieces along with everyday numbers are on point. And rumor has it she is opening up another location in a favorite home town of mine…
- Erin McDermott -— Erin knows me too well, and she knows that I love big pieces. In fact, she designed a piece of jewelry for all (and I mean all) of my “breakfast club” girls who were in my wedding. I love pieces that have different materials at play, and I love color. She took all of the dresses chosen by the “breakfast club” girls, and she made a perfect piece for them to wear that day and have forever.
- Dudley Stephens — I bought my first last fall, and now have so many pineapple points, I don’t know how to explain it, except to say, they are incredibly durable and easy to wear tops. I’ve always loved the preppy look — their high neck has brought that preppy style in to the 2020s. They keep you warm in the winter, add color to every outfit, stay structured through the wash, are female owned, American made, and, oh, made from recycled fleece. They are so good, you can even wear them with gold sparkle pants and look fancy.
- Spanx & Commando leggings — I embrace them for almost every occasion, and I have a pair for every day of the week for when it becomes winter time and you need to be in winter boots and long Dudley’s every day. I know that these are two competing brands — but I truly do love them both.
- Crush — when you want to really invest in a piece that will stand the test of time and trends, or when you really need the newest trend, you need to call the ladies from Crush. Now that they have their online store, you will have everything at your finger tips; however, just for kicks, call Laura & Rebecca and let their energy and kindness wash over you, and you’ll leave with fabulous clothes and nothing but good feelings. They are my go-to for jeans, gowns, headbands, bags, and party dresses.
- French Lessons — Equally as amazing when it comes to brands, French Lessons in Concord (and Wellesley) has the brands that we’ve all come to love. And on top of gorgeous forever pieces, like the Halston jumpsuit I wore in 2017 (with the big white bow in the back), the French Twist ladies will also work with you (for hours it seems) to help you find that pair of white and dark jeans that will work with everything. My white Tibi dress from Runway 2013 is a beloved number in my closet to this day (watch the Virtual Event…)
- Artemis — Make an investment in truly amazing shoes. I think we all got that message in the early 2000s from Carrie Bradshaw to buy fabulous heels— all time favorite show, wrote a college thesis on SATC and Feminism. I would argue that Carrie invented the movement for great shoes. Artemis is also telling us that flats are essential and need to be part of your closet (and investment). Get home from work, change your Sarah Flint heels for Artemis flats, your oversized Crush sweater for a Dudley, and you’re ready to “mom-it” with style.
- Rothy’s — My Saturday style almost always includes a pair of Rothy’s. They are so easy for jumping in and out of the car and carrying toddlers around. I throw them on the side of the sand dunes on Plum Island, and slip them back on heading into the farmer’s market. You can also wash them — truly — with all of the kids’ stuff.
- Kate Spade — Kate Spade really holds a place in my heart for actually introducing me to a full, complete look. Those black bags were my “backpacks” in college. The years that a Kate Spade has been on the Runway goes back a while…the black dress with pearls (under the Maggie Taylor lepoard coat) from 2009, the purple dress from Runway 2010, the black and white from 2011… and all of their shoes that have always allowed me to dance.
- Mint Julep — Nestled in Harvard Square, I found this spot when I was getting my Master’s from Harvard in 2007. I have so many amazing pieces from Mint Julep … ones that I will never give away as they are such timeless dresses. One Milly green & white dress that will literally never get old. Remarkably, in an incredible twist of 2020 fate, they reached out letting us know that they are selling an amazing Survivor and F*ck Cancer sweater that are totally gorgeous. I just did a mini shoot with a new model rocking these sweaters. AND if you buy one, 20% of the proceeds come back to Runway. Even beyond the sweaters, however, their brands are incredible, and never disappoint.
- Chappy Wraps — These blankets are insanely amazing. I have never had an item live on my couch as a blanket, come on a boat ride, accompany my kids on a picnic, and go through the wash weekly and still look stylist enough to drape about my house (really, cover the kiddo stains). It is worth every, single, penny. I need about 3 more so that I can bring out a different one for each season … hint, hint, Andy. And the headline with this amazing mother/daughter duo is that they have agreed to give one away to every mom who makes a Runway Legacy Video, forever.
Runway wouldn’t be what it is without the brands and stores that I’ve loved becoming partners for our organization. We are all so grateful to have the backing of so many who continue to support us this year — our Silent Auction is set to be incredible, again. Thank you, thank you, thank you.