The Whilden Fashionista Staff  with owner Courtney Whilden second from the right.

Got an afternoon to indulge and need some ideas? Take a ride down Elliott Road in Chapel Hill and pull into the Galleria Shopping Center at 400 South Elliott. After you get pampered at Mina’s Salon, stop in Purple Puddle to order those Valentine’s flowers and pick up that overdue baby gift at Puddle Baby. If you’ve got the time, a light bite of lunch at Olio & Aceto Café hits the spot. Next stop? Whilden boutique, to get your style on!

Whilden Grand Opening Soiree in October 2016

One of the most recent additions to the Galleria is Whilden, where you’ll find women’s clothing, accessories and a lot of unique style. Whilden opened its doors to fashion enthusiasts everywhere in the fall of 2016. I caught up with Whilden’s owner and fashion curator Courtney Whilden for a behind-the-scenes chat.

The Fashion Plate: What is the story behind the birth of Whilden?

Courtney Whilden: “I have always loved fashion. After graduating from Appalachian State with a degree in interior design, I moved to Atlanta and worked as a buyer in a women’s boutique. It was there I fell in love with the business. Since I am from High Point, I wanted to move back and settle into a career. I took a wholesaler job with Two’s Company and worked my way up to become one of the two Regional Sales Managers in the state. Traveling around North Carolina and visiting clients who owned and operated their own stores gave me the knowledge and confidence I needed to start my own. It was my dream.”

FP: How many names did you juggle before deciding on Whilden?

CW: “Actually, none. I wanted a name which made a statement, but was simple and straight-forward. It needed to be original, yet have the perception of tradition and style.”

FP: How did you decide on Chapel Hill and your Elliott Road location to launch Whilden?

CW: “We love Chapel Hill. It’s a great mix of loyal-longtime residents, young families and college students. We felt there was a growing market which would be receptive to our brand and sense of style. Both of our families are really close by and we’re happy to call Chapel Hill home. The Elliott road location was all timing. We had a very short list of potential spaces, including some of the new developments in the area. The Galleria is a perfect location and easily accessible from anywhere in Durham and Chapel Hill. I think we’ll see an increase in foot traffic as the area around Elliott Road grows and is renovated. It’s an exciting time.”

FP: What sets the store apart from other boutiques or big box retailers?

CW: “Being smaller gives us the ability to fully curate the lines and looks. We want to carry lines which are unique. There are a lot of designers out there! We want to bring some of these hard to reach lines to Chapel Hill. The trend in retail is moving away from the big box and department store models. People want to shop local now more than ever.”

FP: How do you decide on brands, labels and over-all inventory?

CW: “Many are lines I’ve loved for years, going back to my time in Atlanta. From there I searched for designers I thought would be a good fit along with our core lines. It could be as easy as walking into a store in New York or seeing Jessica Alba sport a pair of jeans on Instagram.”

FP: Could you share some of your current labels?

CW: Rebecca Taylor, DL 1961, Petersyn, Love Shack Fancy, Sundry and many, many more.”

FP: What can shoppers expect from Whilden in the future?

CW: “Spring fashion is coming! This season we want to expand our collection of lines which have never been sold locally. One of these is a new shoe line, which we love, that’s due to arrive in March! We plan to host several events this spring to feature new pieces. Instagram is a great platform for us and we will continue to promote events and looks @shopwhilden.”

Courtney perfectly described her dream and direction for Whilden.

“We want to create a fun and relaxing atmosphere where someone can walk in and instantly be excited about finding a piece which will make them more confident.”

The Fashion Plate can attest to achieving that goal! I walked in Whilden recently and now have a wishlist. I found a tote with colorful pom poms, plus a jumpsuit with the perfect pattern and pom pom detail. I’ll be back before you know it! Find Whilden on Facebook and Instagram for the latest arrivals and events.