When Jeannie DeMarco and Stuart Yochem opened Amina Rubinacci Charlotte in SouthPark, it was September of 2012, and the two were more than eager to shake up Charlotte’s fashion scene.
The line of Italian women’s wear, from one of Italy’s biggest fashion houses, is beloved: Amina Rubinacci is known widely as a line that’s classically and elegantly luxurious. There are only four flagship U.S. boutiques, so making this available in Charlotte was something both women saw as an important step for the city’s style evolution.
Jeannie, alongside daughter and business partner Stuart, has made it her mission to not only present the full Amina Rubinacci line, but to also make the shop a destination by sourcing unique accessories to pair with the Amina Collection. The two talked business ownership, style, and turning vision into reality.
What inspired you to get into the fashion industry?
Jeannie: I have always been into fashion. I can remember choosing a lamb’s wool dress at age five, so I even cared all the way back then. Since my jean and t-shirt phase in my twenties, my fashion has most definitely evolved. I am drawn to simpler designs with a slight edge.
How did you and your mother decide to go into business together?
Stuart: I grew up with two parents who always encouraged my brother and me to be our own bosses. Watching them run their two boutique furniture stores was very inspiring to me. I love the idea of creating your own vision, and with a small business you can do just that.
Jeannie: I was living in Boston when my mom presented me with the idea of opening Amina. I thought it through and decided after seven years of Northeastern winters, I was ready for a change. Plus, what better way to learn about the fashion industry than from someone I have always turned to for clothing advice? With my passion for journalism and photography and hers for fashion and design, we blended our creativity to make our store what it is today.
[In addition to Jeannie and Stuart, Brittany Alexander and Kendra Surface assist clients with styling and putting together that perfect ensemble.]
What is your background or training in?
Jeannie: I was an art major in college. After graduating from Georgia, I went on to channel my creative energy into graphic design. Shortly thereafter, my husband, Joe, and I opened our first furniture store, Workbench. We specialized in high-end Scandinavian and Italian furniture. At the time, it was something very different for Charlotte. From there, my passion for design was born.
What inspired you to start Amina Rubinacci in Charlotte?
Stuart: We hoped to fill a niche in the Charlotte women’s clothing business. Amina is a clean and uncluttered line that’s beautifully constructed. Each piece is an investment, meant to remain in your closet for more than just a season. One of the many fantastic things about Amina is that she understands how to design pieces that will never go out of style. Plus, The Specialty Shops location already seemed like home. We were incredibly lucky to find the sliver of space that we now occupy.
What are some of your earliest fashion inspirations?
Jeannie: I was overwhelmed early on by the clothing I saw in Italy. The style and attitude of the women wearing these clothes really stood out. They are the most fashion-forward culture of which I know. Every time I go to Italy, I focus great attention on what the locals are wearing. A year or two later, I see the same styles popping up in the U.S.
Stuart: As a young girl, I would tag along when my mom went shopping. One of our frequent stops was Perris, a locally-owned, mother-and-daughter-run Myers Park boutique. I clearly recall loving those days spent sitting on the couch and reading the current W Magazine while my mom tried on clothes. I was instantly hooked.
What is the most rewarding part of the job?
Stuart: The most rewarding part of the job, for me, is the buying trip. Putting together a collection based on color, style, and fit is difficult. Thinking about not only one specific piece but an entire outfit is essential. Our work is not only to find pretty things, but to find clothing that works together to create an entire look. I love when a customer can leave the store with an entire ensemble. It makes me feel like I’ve done my job!