Featured Boutique: Bee Free Boutique
In a split-level boutique adorned with mini glass-drop chandeliers, jewelry trees, and a wooden rope swing—Bee Free Boutique owner Angie Freeman and staff welcome each customer into a friendly shopping environment where they can browse through inimitable clothing and accessories hand-selected to compliment women of all ages and styles. Check out the interview with Freeman to learn more about Bee Free Boutique.
BANGSTYLE: What was your inspiration for opening a boutique in Los Angeles?
Angie Freeman: I’ve always loved clothes and shopping, even as a little girl. When I was in college, I worked retail boutiques on the side. When I moved to New York from North Carolina, I worked at “Saturday Night Live” as a post-production coordinator, and any time I was on hiatus, I worked at small retail boutiques. I have always wanted my own because I feel like shopping in a boutique is a personal experience; it’s not like going to a department store. I love to entertain; and being from the south, I’m a very hospitable person who wanted to welcome women into a comfortable environment where they could shop—I even serve wine here. I want it to be a place where women can just have fun, feel good about themselves, and walk out with an outfit that looks great on them. I tell the truth; if something doesn’t look good, like the color or the size, I tell the truth so that they walk away feeling confident that they can come back and know that I’m not just going to try to make a sale, I want to make sure they look good in it. The inspiration, I think, has always been about loving fashion, loving clothes, and loving women and wanting to combine all of that together in a boutique.
BANGSTYLE: What made you choose Silver Lake as the location for Bee Free Boutique?
AF: Well I live in Silver Lake, and when I moved to LA, I lived in West Hollywood for the first three years I was here. I love West Hollywood, and I met my best friends there; but I was ready for a change, and I wanted something that had a little more of a community feel, but not with a small town feel because I’m from a small town. I chose to live in Silver Lake because I think it’s beautiful out here and the people are fantastic. I’ve been here for two years now, and I started thinking about opening a boutique and I thought, ‘You know, the style I want to do… Silver Lake doesn’t have this yet.’ I wanted to be able to offer it to the mommies of the neighborhood and also to the hip young women like me. I’m single; I still want to have something I can wear to work but also change into a nice, cute outfit to go to the lounge or club, if you will, with the ladies. I want to offer a place where a 20-year-old artist or club goer versus a 40-year-old working mom can all shop in the same store and find cohesive things but wear them differently. That’s why I wanted to open in Silver Lake. I felt like a lot of women were going to Bloomingdales, Beverly Boulevard, or Melrose and I figured, ‘Why not just keep it here?’
BANGSTYLE: In a Haute Living article, it says that you ‘come from a long line of beekeepers’ and that a photo of your ‘beekeeper uncle’ will decorate one of the walls near your dressing rooms. Can you tell us a little more about this?
AF: I have a photograph of my uncle who’s a beekeeper in North Carolina. The photo is of him beekeeping—so it’s him in the suit, dealing with the bees, surrounded by all this beautiful grass. I’ve done the tone of the boutique to look vintage; so I’m turning the photo of my uncle into black and white wallpaper to put [on the sliding doors that enclose the back stock room which is why I hung that swing right there. I just opened in February so there’s still little things I want to do, but I wanted to stay with the Bee Free theme.
BANGSTYLE: What was your inspiration for the interior décor of Bee Free Boutique?
AF: I wanted to bring glam into a home-spun bohemian. I wanted it to be warm and welcoming. I also love color and for things to be glamorous so I wanted to mix the two together. Hence, we have a rope swing with this glamorous wallpaper. I also got the upstairs couch, mirror, drapes, and wallpaper custom-designed by a furniture designer at Urban Colony. I told him the direction I wanted, and he helped me get there; he’s fantastic.
BANGSTYLE: Aside from Pray for Mother Nature, Work Custom, Top Secret, Aryn K, Amanda Uprichard, Brokedown, and Sugarlips, which other brands does Bee Free Boutique carry?
AF: I carry T-shirts and outerwear from Nation LTD. I also carry T-bags and Naven. This woman, who’s always been in the fashion industry on the publication side, started her own line. She takes vintage pieces and makes them custom. Her line is called Hexagon. I carry her handbags and necklaces. I also carry Hammitt handbags which is the only high-end bag line I carry. As for jewelry, I carry Whitley Designs, Alisa Michelle, Skinnie, and Ija.
BANGSTYLE: How do you choose which brands you want to carry in your shop?
AF: I like to feel the material, see the fit, and make sure it’s to my price point. I don’t really care what the label is; it’s really about the fabric, price point, and how it’s going to fit on a woman’s body.
BANGSTYLE: Was it your intention for the boutique to carry relatively affordable clothing? If so, why?
AF: I’m pretty moderate to high, but mainly on the moderate side because I think that’s really important in the economy—for women to still be able to afford nice things. I like to mix things too—I have some tank tops here that are $20 that I put together with $100 pair of pants—you walk out looking like a million dollars, but you didn’t spend that much.
BANGSTYLE: What are some of your favorite brands that you carry in your boutique?
AF: I love Aryn K; Aryn K’s my top fave. I also love Amanda Uprichard and Work Custom is great. I love them all; it’s hard for me to choose one.
BANGSTYLE: What has it been like opening your own boutique?
AF: It’s been really challenging and exciting; it’s been a roller-coaster. It’s been the pinnacle of excitement down to, ‘Why the hell did I decide to do this?’ At the same time, even if someone doesn’t buy anything, I meet so many interesting, brilliant women here on a regular basis that that alone is like, ‘OK, this is why I did this. I love people, I love to work with them and I love clothes.’ I get this little mix of everything and it makes the bad days, when I’m freaking out about how I’m going to be able to make enough money for this month to lead us on to the next, worth it. It’s really liberating and challenging all at the same time.
BANGSTYLE: What kind of advice would you give to someone trying to open their own boutique?
AF: You can never be prepared enough. I mean, you just can’t. You also have to be able to roll with the punches regularly, pick yourself back up, dust it off, and keep going. If you have the nerve to start your own business, then you have to be strong because it’s a gamble; it’s like going to Vegas because you don’t know if it’s going to work or not, and you’re relying on the outside forces to bring things in. All you can do is focus on yourself, focus on the product, or whatever it is that you’re bringing to the table, and put good energy toward it and you’re good to go.
BANGSTYLE: Do you feel that Bee Free Boutique has a style of its own?
AF: Yeah, I do. I feel like there’s definitely a Bee Free woman in here. It’s about a level of confidence, independence, and authenticity which is what I think shapes the store. You can wear different things in here, but it’s all in how you wear it out. I think that’s the kind of woman who shops here.
BANGSTYLE: Can you tell us a little about your website?
AF: The website is still coming along. We are going to sell online within the month, hopefully by April. It’s still in the works right now.
BANGSTYLE: We noticed you have a section on your website where women can come into the store and get styled by appointment. Can you go into detail about what one should expect when scheduling a styling appointment?
AF: Well, for example, the woman that was just here, I styled her completely. She came in and said she wanted comfortable clothes and that she needed to leave with whole outfits, so that’s exactly what we did. That’s why she was here for so long. Obviously, you don’t have to make an appointment; that’s only if you want to come in, take your time, sit back here on the couch, and have wine.
BANGSTYLE: Many have commented on your friendly and helpful staff. What do you do to ensure great customer service?
AF: The girls I’ve hired are fantastic. I think really it’s about being communicative and hiring people who are willing and able to work with others, even the not-so-friendly customers. That’s rarely the case in here; however, you always have that one in a hundred who comes in and is having a bad day. I think to ensure it, you have to make sure you’re open with your staff and that you use your instinct to hire people that you would want to work long hours with. If you can be in this store for 8-plus hours together and get along, then they’re going to be fine in customer service.
BANGSTYLE: We know that you opened February 2. How did you feel when you first opened the boutique?
AF: When the doors opened, I was ecstatic. It’s still sort of surreal that I have my own boutique. I live up the road and when I drive by and it’s like… words can’t describe it; it’s just so exciting. I’m a first time business owner so it’s exciting, overwhelming, and huge.
BANGSTYLE: Bee Free seems to always have sales. You’ve even offered 10% off for shoppers who took pictures of themselves using their reusable Bee Free shopping bags. What are some of your sales right now?
AF: We’ll be offering 50% off our winter rack.
BANGSTYLE: Have you had any celebrity shoppers since you’ve opened?
AF: Yes, we’ve had a few.
BANGSTYLE: What is the next event you have planned for Bee Free?
AF: We’re hoping to do our grand opening, red carpet event some time in May. Of course, that’s open to the public.
BANGSTYLE: Where do you hope to see Bee Free Boutique in a few years?
AF: I want to start carrying a men’s line and see how that goes and eventually even have a men’s store somewhere. I would like to expand to maybe the San Francisco area, start moving through a couple places in California, and elongate to New York at some point. Since I’m from North Carolina, I would want to open a store there as well.
Bee Free Boutique is located in Silver Lake at 1639 Silver Lake Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026. You can call the boutique to make a styling appointment at (323) 663-0629 or follow Bee Free on Facebook and Twitter for updates.