Beloved Oakland Boutique McMullen Turns 10

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Inside the McMullen boutique in Oakland
Inside the McMullen boutique in Oakland

Photo Credit: Kristen Loken Photography

Ten years ago, Sherri McMullen was tired of having to go to San Francisco to shop. The Oakland resident and former buyer for Neiman Marcus and Pottery Barn Kids decided to take matters into her own hands. “My friends and I were going into San Francisco and shopping. There really were no shops in Oakland, and I thought Oakland has such a sense of community where people really want to support local businesses, but there was just no places to shop,” McMullen told Haute Living by the phone last week. “Thinking about that and writing my business plan, I decided that this was the perfect place to open my business. I remember even when I was working with designers and talking to people about my plan, people would say ‘Oh, you know you’re opening in a recession—why not San Francisco?’ Well, I live in Oakland, this is my community and this is where I really want to have my business.” In 2007, she was able to realize that dream, and open her namesake boutique, McMullen.

Sherri McMullen
Sherri McMullen

Photo Credit: Kristen Loken photography

In the past ten years, it’s become the place to shop for emerging designers in the Bay Area. “I would say that I’ve always been interested in supporting those small, up-and-coming designers and working with them and partnering with them and watching them grow,” McMullen explains. “The customers here really appreciate those designers.” At McMullen Bay Area fashion lovers can find labels—like Maki Oh, Nomia, and Dodo Bar Or—that they can’t find anywhere else along side beloved favorites such as Aquazzura, DVF, Tibi, and Carven. Since starting her business, the fashion industry has changed drastically—thanks to the internet and the rise of Instagram and ecommerce. “Fashion in general has just become more individualized. Customers are more interested in an individual style versus chasing trends, and chasing the big brands,” McMullen says. “It’s more about what are the cool, emerging designers and how can I make that work with my individual style.”

Shoes at McMullen
Shoes at McMullen

Photo Credit: Kristen Loken Photography

McMullen travels the world to ensure that her customers, who she specializes in building relationships with, can always find unique pieces at her shop. She’s in Paris and New York four times a year, attending the shows, and on the hunt for the next big thing. “My clients are really interested in those hidden gems that you’re picking up when you’re in London, New York or Paris. It’s important for me to find those cool emerging designers and get them in before anyone else gets them, even in the entire San Francisco Bay area.”

To celebrate her decade in business, McMullen is hosting a sold-out panel called Celebrating Influential Women in Fashion. The event takes place tomorrow at the store and will feature McMullen alongside some of her fashionable friends. “ I’m bringing in some friends and colleagues of mine,” she says. “Amy Smilovic is the creative director and founder of Tibi. Tibi is one of the brands that we carried 10 years ago, that we carry today. It’s really special to have her in the store and also to see how her business has grown and evolved over the last 10 years. We’ve sort of changed together. Tamu McPherson is an international fashion influencer, she’s based in Milan, she’s a dear friend of mine, and she is coming.” The panel is being moderated by Rajni Jacques, the fashion director for Teen Vogue. “I thought it was important that we have this conversation about our journeys and be able to share the lessons over the last few years. To be able to talk about how we got into the industry because I think, so many times young girls want to start a store, but they just don’t see enough women in roles where women are actually making decisions.”

A velvet gown at McMullen
A velvet gown at McMullen

Photo Credit: Kristen Loken Photography

McMullen is also throwing a private trunk show for her top and regular customers and a public trunk show with Smilovic on Thursday, November 16. Smilovic has created three exclusive pieces—a cashmere sweater, poplin top, and silk pullover—for McMullen which are available this week. The official anniversary party is going down on Friday, November 17 at the boutique. All of these celebrations might seem like too much, but for McMullen the anniversary is a milestone worth honoring. What she would tell her past self, the person who was starting out with the boutique? “I would definitely say to celebrate those milestones. Those moments when you say ‘okay, I set a goal.’ Once I reach the goal, to take a moment to actually be in that moment and appreciate it. Because, so many times we just check the box. Okay, we’ve done it, move on to the next goal, or move on to the next thing. So when you achieve something, to actually be in that moment, be present and appreciate it. And not just move on to the next.”

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