Fashionistas Joan and Ellen Shepp

Who they are: Walk along the urban mecca of Walnut Street in Philadelphia and be sure to stop in to visit Joan Shepp, a clothing store that is sure to satisfy your craving for exquisite style.

What they do: The creative energy of this fashion museum engulfs you the minute you walk through the doors. From the eclectic, clever art adorning the walls—including a giant mural by Alexander Stadler, author of “What Willie Wore: Scenes from the Life and Wardrobe of a Very Fashionable Dog“—to the elegantly coiffed staff, this fabulous fashion establishment stimulated all of my senses.

Why they do it: “When we look at a collection in London or Paris, we always have a couple of customers in mind who I know will love this outfit, or that,” says Ellen, who grew up in Lafayette Hill and graduated from the Philadelphia College of Textiles & Science in 1986. “But when we bring the new pieces back to Philadelphia, it never ceases to amaze me that dozens more love the collection—women from 20 to 80. Having done this for years, I am convinced that fashion truly knows no bounds.”

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What’s most impressive about the high fashion Philadelphia-based boutique, Joan Shepp, is that in addition to high-end designers, owners Joan and Ellen also offer high-quality basics—from traditional black trousers and the perfect little black dress to the most fabulous shoes and handbags that I have seen outside of New York.

And yet, it is the über-high-fashion pieces that took my breath away. I was thrilled to leaf through the latest by such notable designers as Dries Van Noten, Rick Owens, Junya Watanabe, Ann Demeulemeester, Balenciaga, Martin Margiela—as well as Elizabeth and James from the Olsen sisters, among dozens of others.

One of my favorite pieces in the shop was the sheer long-sleeve top with light brown leather cuffs that circle the wrist. I’m already saving up for that, as well as the charcoal-gray gathered dress by Thakoon that caught my eye.

A Philadelphia Landmark

Joan Shepp didn’t start here in Rittenhouse Square, however. The Philadelphia native opened her first boutique in the suburbs of Lafayette Hill in 1971. There, she developed a loyal following of women who were hungry for fashion and original designs—many of whom continue to be her customers today.

After several years, she opened a new shop in Elkins Park, which also featured home furnishings.

Then in 1999, Joan and her daughter and now business partner, Ellen, opened the Rittenhouse Square location—making the boutique a fashion destination for locals and travelers alike.

Today, the mother-daughter duo takes annual trips to Europe, New York, and beyond, to find the most exceptional collections.

“When we look at a collection in London or Paris, for instance, I always have a couple of customers in mind who I know will love this outfit, or that,” says Ellen, who grew up in Lafayette Hill and graduated from the Philadelphia College of Textiles & Science in 1986. “But when we bring the new pieces back to Philadelphia, it never ceases to amaze me that dozens more love the collection—women from 20 to 80. Having done this for years, I am convinced that fashion truly knows no bounds.”

Their hard work and instinct for what their customers want have paid off.

Harper’s Bazaar named Joan Shepp a “Style Leader” in 2004, 2005, and 2006. It was voted one of the Top 10 boutiques in the United States by the editors of Lucky magazine in the fall of 2007. And Joan Shepp’s was voted “Best of Philly: Shoes 2007” by Philadelphia Magazine.

Y-3

Also exciting is that Joan Shepp is now the nation’s first fully licensed “Y-3 shop within a shop.” (The “Y” stands for designer Yohji Yamamoto’s name, and the “3” represents the three signature stripes of the Adidas sportswear brand.) Step upstairs to the store’s second floor, a loft that overlooks the large main shop, and you’ll find a buffet of the hip, funky, beautifully designed collaboration of Yohji Yamamoto and Adidas.

“These are some pretty fantastic styles that include some of the hippest, softest, bomber jackets, pea coats, track jackets, and more,” Ellen explains.

“What I also love are the Y-3 sneakers, which are sporty and fashionable and feature bold colors. I love the women’s line, which offers buttery fabrics. You have to touch and try on this line to truly appreciate how functional and well-structured it is. We’re really excited to have it in our fall lineup.”

Fashion Victims Unite

No matter where you live, women—and men—struggle to know how to pull together fabulous outfits because they lack the basic pieces to create them, Ellen says.

Fortunately, she and her team are fashionistas, who understand what it means to develop and cultivate a personal style. Best of all, they have all the pieces at their fingertips to do it.

“Shopping for clothes is a very emotional experience,” Ellen knows. “Maybe you just lost 50 pounds, or gained 20, or just had a baby and want to reclaim yourself as a mother and wife. We are here to help make the process fun, effective, and exhilarating. It’s the best part of the day to help a customer find the perfect pieces for their wardrobe.”

The team at Joan Shepp knows their stuff.

While some of the members of Joan Shepp’s creative team bring new ideas to the shop after having worked for other retail outlets, others have been a part of the Joan Shepp family for 26 years.

“We think of our clients not just as shoppers, but as family,” says Ellen, who also is available to do closet makeovers. “We want our customers to know that they have a team of professionals who want them to look and feel their best. We pride ourselves on making a trip to Joan Shepp’s a personally fulfilling experience.”

Be it Antipast handmade socks from Japan, or Henry Beguelin’s printed ankle boots with a heel, this fantastic boutique is worth putting on your list of shopping destinations.

If you can’t get to Philadelphia this season, shop at Joan Shepp online at www.joanshepp.com.


The Women