Q&A: Parc Boutique Owner Thao Nguyen

Parc Boutique debuted in 2008 with a curated, collection-oriented approach. Whether shopping in the store’s brick-and-mortar location in Northeast Minneapolis or its well-styled, seasonal lookbooks online, the thoughtfully-edited, laidback style of the boutique lends itself to a mix-and-match, individualized approach to shopping that has won the shop dedicated shoppers in the Twin Cities and beyond. (We even named it the Best New Boutique in our October 2008 issue.) Owner Thao Nguyen recently announced plans to open a second location in the 50th and France shopping district of Edina in September, in the space currently occupied by Paperista. This week, the boutique celebrates six years of business with a day-long shopping party.

I chatted with Nguyen about the inspiration behind Parc, its signature seasonal lookbooks, and what to expect at the new location.




Above: Parc’s summer 2014 lookbook


Q: Parc has a very specific, curated aesthetic–yet manages to be flexible enough to appeal to a diverse group of shoppers. What influences you to select the items you sell at Parc and how do you maintain that balance?

A: When I first started, I built around the idea of “casual chic,” or basics that can be worn to work and on the weekend–basics like a great boyfriend V-neck T-shirt.  Now when I go to the trade shows, I always think about my customers–the price point, the quality, the colors–and I keep up on what’s happening in the fashion world, but our roots are with our basics lines that can be mixed with versatile pieces, like adding a blazer to a sleeveless dress for work.

Q: You cut your teeth as a distribution analyst at Gap corporate in San Francisco. How did your experience with Gap and living in San Francisco affect how you run Parc?

A: I would say the West Coast vibe is a big part of it–pieces that are really easy to wear, and a more relaxed, casual vibe: loose T-s and separates that go well from work to the weekend, or the beach. At Gap, I learned a lot about the business side of things, but what really inspired me was checking out boutiques in San Francsico on the weekends.

Q: How do you combine West Coast inspiration with Minnesotans’ needs when it comes to dressing according to our seasons?

A: Obviously winters here are a lot more harsh than California, so I pick brands that lend themselves to layering–a sleeveless dress, for instance, that can be layered over or under. For outerwear, I look to brands from Canada and other northern places.

Q: Parc is known for its gorgeous, stylized seasonal lookbooks, which you style in collaboration with photographer Wing Ta of Canary Grey Photography. Why did you decide to showcase your merchandise in this particular way?

A: I started doing that when we launched our website two years ago. I wanted to stay current, and instead of just posted images on a hanger, I wanted to have fun with showcasing our merchandise in a different way. It’s something designers do, so I thought it’d be fun as a store to showcase our latest items in a lookbook. Since we have four seasons in a year, it’s a great way to keep my creative juices going throughout the year. I love being at the shop and working on the retail side of things, but I also love putting the lookbook together.

Q: How will the new location be similar to the Parc your customers know and love? How will it be different?

A: It’s going to be kind of the same vibe—white walls, a fresh, airy feel, and similar price points, but slightly smaller in size. As far as brands, I’m going to bring some additional ones over, with more of a focus on apothecary items, jewelry, accessories and gift items. Herbivore Botanicals will be a big part of the apothecary.

Q: Will you be introducing any new brands?

A: We’ll do a collaboration with (Minneapolis clothing line) Hackwith Design House, and we’ll be bringing in Nashville designer Elizabeth Suzann to both stores. We’re going to market this August, so I’ll know more then.

Parc’s new location opens in September at 5023 France Ave. S., Edina. Parc also hosts Sip & Shop for a Cause, 3-6 p.m. Fri. Parc’s 6-year anniversary party includes giveaways, sangria, small bites and 25 percent off everything all day, available both at its Northeast location and online with the online code “SIX.” 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat. 320 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, 612-353-4966, parcboutique.com.


Indigo & Snow's Organic Shibori Tunic, $75 at etsy.com

Indigo & Snow’s Organic Shibori Tunic, $75 at Etsy.com


More local shopping events for this week:

Indigo & Snow Anniversary

June marks the two-year anniversary of local designer Annabella Sardelis’ clothing and accessories line Indigo & Snow. The line, handmade by traditional shibori-dying techniques, is celebrating with two new designs, the Organic Shibori Tunic and the Weekender Bag. (etsy.com/shop/indigoandsnow & indigoandsnow.com.)

Milan’a’Stile & Post- Accessories Summer Party

Uptown boutique Showroom hosts a night of summer jewelry and accessories by local lines Milan’a’style and Post-, complete with sparkling wine, truffles and strawberries. (5-8 p.m. Tue. Showroom, 615 W. Lake St., Minneapolis, 612-345-7391, showroommpls.com.)

Fabuliss & Cocoon Pop-up Shopping Event

Shop a curated collection of locally-made goods ranging from clothing and accessories to gifts and beauty products at this pop-up shopping event hosted by personal styling company Fabuliss and clothing line Cocoon by Elizabeth Geisler. Shop handmade hats by Ruby3 by Anna Lee, jewelry by Vikse, skincare by StormSister Spatique and 3waybeauty and more, plus the first 50 attendees will receive a swag bag. A portion of proceeds benefits Dress for Success Twin Cities. (6-9 p.m. Thu. $15. The Commons, 540 Lake St., Excelsior, eventbrite.com.)


Macy’s Pride Month Event

Celebrate Twin Cities Pride week in style at this shopping party hosted by Macy’s downtown. The event includes complimentary styling by an on-site stylist, refreshments, informal modeling, enter-to-win prizes, and a performance by the Minneapolis Gay Men’s Chorus, plus the chance to shop Macy’s exclusive Human Rights Campaign merchandise. (5:30 p.m. Thu. Macy’s, 700 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, 612-375-2200, macys.com/celebrate.)

Bibelot Summer Sale

The Bibelot is hosting its semiannual storewide sale at all four of its metro area locations and online this weekend. Take 20 percent off everything, and for the first time includes its REwear consignment offshoot at the Como location. (Fri. & Sat. 4 metro area locations plus bibelotshops.com; call 1-817-379-9300 or visit bibelotshops.com for locations.)

The Great Minneapolis Blogger Sale

Score fab finds from the closets of local fashion bloggers Babes in Thriftland, Being Zhenya, To Live for Style and two birds at this home sale. Plus treat, giveaways and photo booth. For a sneak peek, go to #mplsbloggersale on Instagram. (9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat. 5609 12th Ave. S., Minneapolis.)

Flirt Boutique’s Semi-Annual Sale  

Parisian-styled lingerie boutique Flirt is hosting is popular its semi-annual sale this weekend, with 40 percent off nearly half of the store. (Sat.-June 29. Flirt Boutique, 177 Snelling Ave. N., St. Paul, 651-698-3692, flirt-boutique.com.)

Velvet Moon Pop-up

For the month of June, Minneapolis-based e-retailer, Velvet Moon, has transformed a 50th & France storefront into a pop-up shop. Like its online counterpart, the shop carries mostly U.S.-made, independent lines from all over the country, curated with owner Gina Marie Landes’ signature “modern bohemian” aesthetic. [Read more: “Velvet Moon E-shop Pops Up at 50th & France”] (Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wed.-Sat. & noon-5 p.m. Sun. through June 30. 3922 W. 50th St. (enter at alley), Edina, shopvelvetmoon.com.)

Now open: Shinola & Filson

Shinola’s first Minneapolis shop (its third brick-and-mortar) carries much of what you’d expect if you’re a fan of the e-store, or visited any of the company’s other locations: Shinola’s beautifully-crafted bicycles, leather-bound journals and leather accessories, watches galore, and quirky-cool giftables like a brass coaster set and bottle opener. A doorway connects Shinola to Filson, which carries reclaimed waxed-canvas bags, outfitted with new leather straps and hardware, as well as new bags, sturdy wool and flannel shirts, jackets and other essentials that are both timeless and au courant. [Read more: “First Look: Shinola’s and Filson”] (Now open. 228 Washington Ave. N., Mpls., 612-338-5493, shinola.com & filson.com.)

Niki English Handbags Kickstarter

Two University of Minnesota alumni have joined forces to launch a new handbag line–with the help of Kickstarter. Their debut “Vertigo Collection” is said to be inspired by the streets and lifestyle of New York, offering a balance of function and style. [Read more: “Minnesota native Niki English “Kickstarts” new handbag line”] (Now available at nikienglish.com. Donate to the Kickstarter campaign through July 11 at kickstarter.com.)