by Lou Mancinelli
At the lower end of the hill on Germantown Avenue near Willow Grove Avenue, at Statement Consignment Boutique, owner Deborah Flynn stands as a woman whose career has evolved alongside larger changes in American culture.
Now, after leading a high-octane career as a lawyer, first in the corporate world and later at her own firm working multi-million-dollar deals from home in East Falls and in Paris, Flynn now runs Statement, her high-end boutique that carries some of the world’s most sought after fashions — Chanel, Prada, Armani, et al. And she still runs her law firm as well.
Flynn’s first face-to-face confrontation with the changing hand of history came when she entered the workplace as a lawyer in the late ‘70s, after graduating from Temple University Beasley School of Law. It was a time, she explained, when it was more rare for women to practice law.
“The women who were lawyers had to be men,” Flynn said during a recent interview. “That didn’t work for me.”
Even before high school, Flynn dressed in a way that was markedly different from her peers. She never wanted to look like everyone else. This continued early into her career, when many women often dressed in “androgynous blue suits.” Women were put in a box and supposed to act a certain way, she explained.
“I said ‘screw that.’ I will be taken seriously.”
Flynn’s zest, confidence and personality, along with her sense of fashion, are statements in themselves. Flynn, who turns 60 this month and has lived in East Falls for 30 years (minus five in Paris), never married, never wanted to. That would have stopped her from doing her own thing.
Which is one major reason she opened Statement at 7942 Germantown Ave. in February, 2013. Flynn’s always considered herself as more of a businessperson. That’s why she chose the negotiating route in commercial transaction and real estate law, as opposed to litigation.
“I wanted to bring stuff in that allowed people to stand out,” she said about Statement. “To walk into a room and have people say, ‘Oh, wow. I’ve never seen anything like that.’”
After working for 30 years in the high-pressure world of law, and all of that time being a woman with an eye for the high-end designers (as long as there is no emblem on the clothes) and even unknown European designers, Flynn had lots of clothes.
But she didn’t wear them over and over. She wore them, wore them well, made her statement with said outfit and moved on. Style can be a window to our true selves, offering us a chance to dress ourselves with color, fabric and pattern, and she took advantage of and dressed by this freedom.
It was with her array of clothes and an eye for fashion and interior design as well that Flynn opened Statement, with its bright tones, airy open feel and high-ceilings. When she opened, most of the clothes were Flynn’s and her sister’s. Now most of the clothes she sells are other consigners.
Flynn herself must have been a standout. After Temple, she served as senior law clerk to the Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. Then she took a job with the Philadelphia office of Dechert LLP, a leading global firm that worked in various industries. Six years later she was on the partner track when she felt her possibilities there had been exhausted.
Her next job was as senior vice president and general counsel at Scannapieco Development Corporation, based in New Hope. Now she was participating at the negotiation table, working in land acquisition, zoning, planning, infrastructure, etc. “Most lawyers work with their egos,” she said.
Flynn’s approach to negotiations was to be aggressive but not step on people’s toes. It was to give each side what they wanted and to get what she wanted without it entirely seeming that way. She was more like a point guard, happy to assist.
Her position was that negotiation is different from litigation, where there is a clear winner and loser. In negotiations, “in business,” she said, “everyone has to be a winner.” Both sides need to come away feeling good about the result.
When Flynn left Scannapieco after four years in 1991, with plans to finally have some time to herself, old clients started calling. They’d been tracking her career, heard she’d left the big firm. Would she be their lawyer?
“I wanted to be an artist,” she said about her plans for time off. “I wanted to paint, to draw, to do something creative.” But the old clients kept calling her. So she decided to start her own firm from her home. She jokes now, “I woke up and had a practice.”
A few years after opening her firm, the market crashed in the mid-‘90s, so Flynn finally did get her chance for time off. Only, instead of really taking time off, she took up jewelry making and began selling her jewelry to various shops in and around Philadelphia.
But her clients eventually started buying again, and Flynn took to the world of traveling. She’d fly to Paris for a few months, submerge herself in the city and fly back to East Falls for work. Then, in 2004 she moved to Paris and started to work digitally. She moved back to Philadelphia in 2009 when her mother became sick.
Flynn has never really taken time off. She’s taught at various schools and served as an adjunct professor at Rutgers School of Law. At one point, she worked for various legal institutions teaching entry-level associates. She has also published a real estate law textbook, teaching all the skills she never learned in law school.
Now she’s in Chestnut Hill, working every day at Statement. The shop is growing through word of mouth. Her biggest challenge is utilizing social media. Visitors to the shop will meet an articulate, sharp, confident woman who never wears clothes that display a label because she always makes her own Statement.
Statement Consignment Boutique is located at 7942 Germantown Ave. More information at 215-242-2990.