In Knoxville, the line between local and corporate fashion options is usually set right through UT's campus – downtown veers more towards the homegrown, and west Knoxville takes the commercial side.
Fortunately for the Knox community, this line is starting to blur."Knoxville has grown up a lot more than it used to be," said Kristen Watt, junior majoring in public relations. "Being in a college town, you see a lot of young people dressing in a way that best represents themselves." Watt, a Knoxville native, finds southern elements in a lot of the fashion choices she sees around campus. "If I had to sum up Knoxville's own style, I would say it has a lot of Southern style mixed with a lot of natural colors and tones," she said. BlueTique Cheap Chic opened a Knoxville location in Market Square on Wednesday, August 14, bringing a fresh look to East Tennessee from the original location in Lexington, Kentucky in 2011.
"BlueTique opens up in college towns," said Courtney Marchuck, the manager for the Knoxville location. "And of course we're very connected with the community, so we support the colleges." Located in Market Square, the store offers a number of clothing, shoes and jewelry for women. So far, the only advertising for the store's opening has been a few flyers.
"It's pretty cool," said Caitlin Hairrel, an incoming freshmen majoring in animal science. "I think it's in a great location and I like that they have a lot of orange. It's very up-to-date and it's got a lot of different stuff, like patterns that you don't see everywhere." This BlueTique store is slightly different from the BlueTique locations in other college towns."I think the experience in Market Square has been the best part of it," Marchuck said. "It's a very exciting experience for us. The rest of the stores are on campus, so this is their first experience being detached from campus but still being accessible to the college student. We're excited to be here and we're very blessed to have this location."
Another new store downtown is Style of Civilization, which opened in March. The shoe and accessories store is located on Gay Street.
"The merchandise is ever-changing, like style," said Nina Phanlen, owner of Style of Civilization. "The woman who shops here likes to be in touch with what is going on in the fashion world, but also likes to have something wearable." Phanlen considers Knoxville style to be more relaxed and laid-back compared to cities like New York. "I try to cater towards the person who can wear a cute pair of shoes to work and also go out to dinner in the same pair," Phanlen said.
Small boutiques aren't the only stores opening in Knoxville. The much anticipated Urban Outfitters was introduced to downtown Knoxville in May and Anthropologie is opening in Bearden soon. "At first I was a little hesitant," Watt said. "I thought [the store's opening] would change Knoxville style altogether from what it used to be. However, it hasn't really made that large of an impact on the way people dress."
Phanlen stressed the importance of small boutiques that are locally owned, as a lot of Knoxville's economy emphasizes these kinds of specialty stores.
"While big box stores such as Urban and Anthropologie at value to the market, I think a lot of the fashion is being tapped by local business which I think is super important," Phanlen said. "But certainly, big box stores highlight the fact that we are gaining ground in the fashion world."