By all definitions, Couture Boutique founder Catherine Ansel embodies the French style mentality. “Growing up in France, I was always surrounded by fashion. I grew up embracing the French mentality of buying less but better quality,” she says. “Part of the reason for this quality-first mentality is the fact that living space in France is a luxury, so French women shop less because they rarely have the closet space. But for the French woman, once you have the classic pieces, those are all you’ll ever need.” Born and raised in Champagne, Ansel moved to the U.S. when she was 22 years old. Settling in first in New York and New Jersey, she then opened her first fashion boutique in Texas. “I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I grew up in an enterprising environment as my mother owned a dry-cleaning business back then and she passed on to me her knowledge of quality in fabric,” says the mother of two. Then, in 2002, while living in California, she walked into a luxury resale boutique for the first time. “That very moment, I fell in love with the concept of luxury resale and being able to buy and resell luxury fashion brands,” she recalls. In 2003, shortly after moving to Tampa in Florida, she opened Couture Boutique.
As an entrepreneur, what were the early challenges of the business?
Like any entrepreneur starting a business, I had to work long hours, but I wasn’t afraid to work hard. I wasn’t able to hire any employees then, so I did everything by myself and really had to build the business from the ground up. Fourteen years later, the hard work has paid off and Couture has been awarded “one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S.” by Inc. 5000 Award in 2015.
What was your first-ever luxury purchase?
My first luxury purchase was a Louis Vuitton Damier Ebene Petit bucket bag. When I bought it 20 years ago, the Damier pattern wasn’t very popular then. Today, it’s one of the favorites among many Louis Vuitton lovers.
Name your top three favorite designers of all time.
My all-time favorite designer for clothing and classic handbag is Chanel. For jewelry and watches, I absolutely adore Cartier. Hermes is definitely on the top of my list of designers, especially for their unparalleled workmanship in handbags and accessories.
How would you describe your style philosophy?
I believe in the power of dressing for confidence and wearing clothes that fit your lifestyle. No matter what the trend is, the clothes you wear should make you feel good, confident and attractive. I’m a big believer in alterations, especially in luxury apparel, in order to make sure clothes fit well. My personal style leans toward classic, elegant and flattering silhouettes. Because I’m petite, I prefer to wear fitted and tapered clothes, not unstructured shapes. I love timeless pieces that endure multiple seasons, so I tend to wear a lot of black, white and neutral colors but pick those with interesting details, like funky sleeves or necklines.
What’s the one fashion item you swore you’ll never wear?
I once swore I’ll never be caught wearing a fanny pack, but when all the high-fashion designers came out with really cute fanny pack designs last year, I caved in. I now own an adorable Chanel belt bag.
What’s the one luxury item that’s on top of your shopping wish list?
A Chanel gray Medium Boy bag with silver hardware.
What high-fashion trends are you seeing now that may spill into the streets in the coming months?
For Fall/Winter 2017, I’m seeing a lot of velvet and leather. Both cold-season staples are coming back because they are easy to wear, but designers are likely to add an exciting new spin to these materials.
What style advice can you give to other fashion-loving women considering of buying their first-ever luxury item?
When buying your first luxury item, make it a handbag or a piece of jewelry. In doing so, you will be able to wear and enjoy it as much as possible. Pick designs that fit your lifestyle and personal taste, but stick with a brand that keeps its value, such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Hermes for handbags or David Yurman and Cartier for jewelry. By investing in quality, you are assured of its return value once you decide to resell it later in a luxury resale boutique like Couture and only have to invest a little more in another purchase. Equally important, don’t settle for anything less. Get your dream piece by shopping in a luxury resale boutique that can offer heavily discounted prices to pre-loved luxury items. It is also a wise idea to wait and save for it or place it on layaway. Inquire about our layaway program as we offer this to help you afford your dream luxury purchase.