October 2014

Taffeta: European Fashions for Women at Shelter Cove Harbour

Author: Linda S. Hopkins

If the mere words “European fashion” seem a bit off-putting or intimidating, hold onto your golf hat and relax, because you may be missing out on one of Hilton Head Island’s most exciting shopping opportunities. Located on the corner to the right of the Neptune statue at Shelter Cove Harbour, Taffeta is an exquisite boutique that brings a bit of Parisian élan to our casual island paradise.

No, this is not where you will buy your T-shirts, shorts and flip flops. But it might just become your go-to source for looking and feeling good when you’re not knocking around in your sports attire. Whether you are the prissy girl or the practical woman, it’s a place where you can discover your personal style, establish a unique look, experiment with new and different fashions, or simply enhance your current wardrobe with unusual accessories and shoes.

Founded in 1989 by Gianna Landwehr, who passed away in 2010, Taffeta has long-established relationships with designers from Paris and Milan. “We have exclusivity in our area and have pride in being a little different from everyone else,” said Sonia Landwehr Hunt, Landwehr’s daughter and current owner. “The collections we carry are well-known in Europe and rare in the U.S.A., which makes our store unique.”

Besides a distinctive look, Taffeta customers know that they can count on personalized customer service. Staff members get to know your style and taste and keep you updated on new merchandise, especially if an item comes in that “has your name on it,” so to speak. If you live elsewhere, they are happy to send a selection of clothes and accessories to try on approval. In-store assistance is accommodating, not overbearing. No one at Taffeta wants you to walk away with something you don’t absolutely love, and they certainly won’t sell you an item that isn’t a good fit. That’s not to say that you won’t be encouraged to think outside of the box.

“The European styles are really different from other markets,” Hunt said. “I am encouraged to open my mind by visiting cities like Paris. Seeing the new styles sometimes scares me, and then I see the way they are worn by women of all ages. European fashion is a cultural evolution. It gradually infiltrates society. It takes time, but eventually it spreads and everyone wants it.”

Ease and elegance from Lauren Vidal, Paris

Hunt, who holds a master’s degree in art, compares fashion to the art world. “Art can affect one person or millions, for an instant or for centuries. Fashion is the same way. It is a form of expression, and everyone has the possibility to do just that. It’s our job to help—to encourage the customer to try new things. It can be a challenge, but when someone feels beautiful in our clothes, it’s a beautiful moment. She smiles and sometimes dances out of the dressing room.”

When you shop at Taffeta, don’t expect to see yourself around town or across the room. Taffeta offers a limited number of the same item—sometimes only one and rarely more than one in each size—making it unlikely that you will ever run into another woman in your exact outfit or even the same skirt or top. Sizes range from U.S. 4-16, and the sales staff will help you translate the European sizing.

Along with exclusivity, a certain timelessness pervades. Quality fabrics and workmanship elevate the clothing beyond today’s passing trends and make for lasting style. “Customers tell us that they still wear and love things they bought here 10 years ago,” Hunt said.

Roberto Naldi top, “Made in Italy with Love.”

While Taffeta continues to evolve under her stewardship, Hunt is proud to continue what her mother started. “It keeps her spirit alive,” she said. “When I stepped into my position as owner six years ago, I had 15 years of traveling with her under my belt. We shopped till we dropped in many cities, and at the end of the day, we always ate well. One piece of advice she shared with me was this: ‘Don’t be afraid to try new things; and remember, you are always going to make some mistakes.’”

Landwehr also encouraged Hunt to find and express her own personal style. “My mother’s sense of style could be elegant and casual at the same time. She was glamorous every day,” Hunt said. “I love to dress things down—wearing a beautiful dress or long skirt and making it casual enough to be worn during the day. I enjoy getting dressed and feeling beautiful, even if I’m in jeans.”

Prior to taking the reins at Taffeta, Hunt worked in gardens alongside an amazing designer who taught her about flowers. She went on to teach art for three years at an at-risk boarding school for teenage girls.

“I have worked alongside many brilliant and beautiful women and enjoy this part of my job today,” Hunt said, referring to her employees and customers. “Life is about relationships—whether with material things like pretty clothes, the earth and its bounty or with people. They are what make our lives interesting.”

From the magnificent doors, designed by Landwehr’s late son Aldo, to the exquisite selection of fine European fashions her daughter continues to make for the store, the legacy of artful living is evident at Taffeta. Stop in for an unparalleled shopping experience and see why customers remain true for life. 

Taffeta is located at 17 Harbourside Lane, Hilton Head. For more information, call (843) 842-6767.

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