September 2016

Birdie James: Taking Flight

Author: Kitty Bartell | Photographer: Krisztian Lonyai

For owner Michelle Taylor, her lovely new boutique, Birdie James in Shelter Cove Towne Centre, is about being easy, chic, and authentic. “I want this experience to be about making women feel comfortable.” And with a heart for Southern hospitality, she said, “This space is an extension of my home; it’s not just a store.” Opened Memorial Day weekend of this year, Taylor and her husband John have created a space that hits the mark—relaxed, light, easy, and brimming with all the fashion, jewelry, shoes, and accessories necessary to help their client maybe step a little out of her comfort zone, while finding her authentic fashion voice.

For Taylor, the path to Birdie James often took her out of her own comfort zone. The St. Louis native lost her father at an early age, and while growing up, life imitated art. “I was raised by the Golden Girls. It was my mother, my aunt, and my grandmother. I have strong memories of the time we spent together.” Describing her late mother as “one tough cookie,” Taylor was encouraged to have dreams and to want to do great things.

Taylor first met her husband in St. Louis outside a sushi restaurant. The couple moved to Richmond, Virginia in 2009, where she pursued a career in mental health and he worked as an energy consultant. After buying and renovating a home, getting involved in a local non-profit, and having a daughter, Taylor acknowledged an internal pull toward something new. “I went back to work when Hattie was four months old. I noticed a change in myself emotionally,” she said. “My interest in style and dress was kind of bubbling to the surface.” She started a small personal styling business, helping women audit their closets and create a new plan for themselves. It was a logical merging of her design sensibilities with her counseling background.

Megan Gordon models transitional wear from Birdie James.
Hair & Make-up by Bride’s Side Beauty
Photography by M.Kat

Inspiration for a new path found Taylor during a visit to her in-laws’ home on Amelia Island where she came upon a darling shop that excited her. “It felt like something I would have done,” she said, and after experiencing the loss of her mother after a 10-year battle with cancer, she was ready to take a risk..

Moving to Amelia Island in August of 2015, the couple was generously mentored as they learned a great deal about creating the type of store that spoke to Michelle’s creative soul. “When my husband said we can do this, I almost felt like I was a freshman in college again. He believed in me, and that was life-changing,” she said. Networking led her to the developer of Shelter Cove Towne Centre. “The moment I stepped on Hilton Head I said, it feels like home here; it feels like a place I would want to raise a family.”

The stunning 2,400-square-foot Birdie James shop is the result of John’s ability to envision and create the space that occupied Michelle’s dreams. “My husband worked to get the original plans out,” and then Taylor brought the treatments and touches to the space. From the color selections, to the uncommon ceiling treatments, the sparkling chandeliers, wood flooring and accents, inviting furnishings, and artwork from Muse Gallery (available for purchase), the effect is homey and elegant all at once. With ample space, Taylor is looking forward to playing host to events of all kinds—from charitable fundraisers to fashion shows to dinner parties—where guests will be able to dine and imbibe in the welcoming space, all while doing some shopping.

John and Michelle Taylor with their daughter Hattie.

The Birdie James Collection anchors the shop’s offerings; their best-selling collection that is on-trend without looking too trendy. It was designed by a collaboration Taylor is proud of, to meet the desires of the 40-and-over Birdie James woman who is looking for smooth lines and slimming construction, high-quality, packable, loveable fabrics in a variety of styles and solid colors – at the right price.

“Price point was important to me, because I didn’t want it to feel exclusionary,” Taylor said. Taylor takes the Birdie James woman from Krazy Larry pants (a phenomenally fitting, no hardware pant) to the extraordinary fabrics and knitwear of Hale Bob, well-priced Hiho shift dresses, to the luxurious floral gowns and tops, and not-to-be-missed jumpsuits (Taylor calls them “onesies”) by Ripley Rader. Her selection of Gold Hawk Clothing, the ultra-feminine, soft, lingerie-like pieces, currently trending in a big way in Europe, brings a refined level of fashion acumen to Birdie James.

Formal wear is an important aspect of her client’s wardrobe, Taylor said. Pairing luscious wide-legged pants with an elegant halter in black or even shimmering sequins, she delights in finding just the right look for any occasion, often surprising her clients with a unique vision that takes them to the next level in their fashion sensibilities.

With an eye for what’s new, along with what will maintain its classic appeal over time, Taylor is forging relationships with designers and artists to bring extraordinary fashion, jewelry, shoes, and accessories to her clients. “Women will say that I’m a little out of my comfort zone, but I’m having fun with it. They’re starting with pieces where they’re true to themselves,” Taylor said. The Birdie James woman is an authentic woman—a woman you really want to know.

If there have been any surprises so far, Taylor says it is how the community has embraced Birdie James and her family. “I feel like I have hit the jackpot, and I don’t mean by numbers. I mean by how the community has been excited for us. In early May, I met [Realtor] Shannon Sheehan for coffee. She brought along [Realtor] Sheri Nixon. They asked if I had thought about a grand opening. I said I’d thought about it, but being new here and not having a marketing background, I hadn’t really done anything. They said, ‘Let us help you with that.’ I had over 100 people at my grand opening.”

The Taylor family was taking a walk on Amelia Island, discussing what to name their business, when Hattie saw a bird and said, “Look, a birdie,” Michelle said. “I looked at John and said that’s it.” Birdie had long been a nickname John called Michelle because of her penchant for learning, and growing, and taking flight, no matter the obstacles. When combined with “James”—a nod to having moved from the James River in Virginia—their shop’s moniker felt like the perfect expression of Michelle’s dream. “Honestly, I feel free. I feel like I’m doing what I was always meant to do,” she said. Truly authentic.

Birdie James is located in Shelter Cove Towne Centre, 28 Shelter Cove Lane, Suite 111, Hilton Head Island. Find them on Facebook at Birdie James Boutique; follow on Instagram at birdiejames; or for more information, please call (843) 842-2622 or visit

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