by Jeremy Jones
When Style Camp pulled up stakes after a year in business at 8232 Germantown Ave. and moved up the Hill to a more spacious site at 8433 Germantown Ave., quicker than you can say “s’mores,” they received Philadelphia magazine’s Best of Philly 2014 award for “Best New Women’s Boutique.”
The Best of Philly review noted, “Style Camp is sort of like an Instagram filter: The clothes and accessories in it from both revered and indie brands … make you look chicer than you might actually be.”
This enterprise could serve as a role model for anyone in business who aspires to walk the walk they talk when it comes to advertising, marketing and branding.
Everything, from Style Camp’s business card with the tag line “fashion scouts” to their engaging and fashionably campy website homepage to their curating and buying style to their rustically sophisticated décor, translates their branding tool, their philosophy and their inventory of clothing, accessories and gifts.
Along with their talented eye for style and a signature look, a lot of hard work, dedication and retail experience earned mother and daughter fashion-scouts team Bitsy and Natalie Rhoda their Best of Philly merit badge.
Natalie currently teaches fashion design at Philadelphia University, where she received her B.S. in fashion design in 2007.
Bitsy has lived and worked in Chestnut Hill for 30 years. She is on the board of the Chestnut Hill Business Association, and is a well-known face in the profile of local businesses. Longtime Hillers may remember her from Serendipity fashion boutique back in 1977. Through the years she has worked at various stores and restaurants, including Paul Roller’s Flying Fish, The Hill Company and Artisans on the Avenue.
“I learned so much from all my bosses,” said Bitsy. “Especially Linda Moran [Hill Company owner], who always maintains a positive attitude about her business. I remember that and try to do it.”
Another positive influence in her life and in the decision to move forward with Style Camp is Bitsy’s husband, David, with whom she raised their three children.
“David gave us the final push,” Bitsy said. “He encouraged us, had faith in us and our ability.”
That ability runs deep and is strengthened by a mother-daughter symbiosis that provides for a natural-born fashion force. When talking about Style Camp they practically finish each other’s sentences. They have a similar sense of style, each with her own citrus twist which is flavored and tailored to the customer’s preferences, needs, body type and age.
“We agree about pretty much everything,” Natalie said.
“But we style the items differently,” Bitsy said.
“You pick the look,” added Natalie. “We style the pieces together. So much of what we have can be worn multiple ways.”
Finding what works for a customer is second nature to Bitsy and Natalie. It’s blazing the trail at the front end of their mission that’s most intense and challenging: finding the one-of-a-kind resources who speak Style Camp.
“We blend a variety of small independent designers to appeal to a large number of people,” said Bitsy. “Our search takes a lot of time to find unique, small companies and a good mix of apparel that you can piece together.”
“We want people to love what they have and wear it a lot,” said Natalie.
In addition to their trademark selection of jeans, top on the best-seller list is an oversized button-down shirt from London-based MiH, priced at $188.
Scarves are big at Style Camp and come in a delicious array of styles, fabrics and prices. Bitsy and Natalie are happy to tell customers the stories behind the scarves’ designers and the techniques they use for creating them.
Pocketbooks – a generous selection, from clutches to shoulder-bags, range from $122 – $325.
Mark your calendars for Style Camp’s upcoming trunk show featuring Waltzing Matilda. Based in Wayne, this independent designer handcrafts fine leather goods, including luggage tags, sandals and wine bags reminiscent of those from the finest purveyors of leather goods in Italy and Argentina. The trunk show is Thursday evening, April 23, 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.
My picks: “Drip Bracelets” made of a base metal dipped in paint, $72 for a set of three; Distressed button-down denim vest by James Jeans, $194; All-weather rubber ankle boots. Great for walking the dog or dodging spring’s mud puddles, the boots come in black and brown, originally $90 – on sale for $72.
So, when Taps is played at dusk and the embers take on their furnace glow, it’s inviting to know that when Style Camp was but a rough sketch in her mind, Bitsy Rhoda’s most important goal was “to create an environment where everyone felt welcome.”
The Hospitality merit badge is what true retail success is all about.