With 110 Couture, owners Stacie Maier and Carrie Aubrey have hit on the true meaning of retail therapy.
By Carmen Nesbitt
Photography by Derrick Martinez
Walking into 110 Couture is like falling into high-fashion wonderland. The shop’s butterfly ceilings and eclectic décor transport shoppers to a world full of sequined jackets, animal print stilettos and clothing hard to find anywhere else in Michigan. But for founder Stacie Maier and her partner Carrie Aubrey, the Birmingham-based shop is a home rather than a business; it serves as an homage to the tragedies that brought them together and a tribute to the people who inspire them.
Maier, a Birmingham resident in her 40s, says she was driving home from her then-retail job in 2003 when she saw a “for lease” sign in a window. She had always dreamed of opening her own fashion boutique, so she called the number and bought the space on the spot. With a loan from her brother, she flew to Italy for fashion inspiration and one-of-a-kind clothing. Before 110 Couture had completed construction, Maier had sold every item.
One year later, Aubrey, 44, of Bloomfield Hills, started visiting the store as “retail therapy” to cope with the stress of her father’s passing. “The store had such good energy, and Stacie made it that way. It was a comfortable place for me to come and chat with her,” Aubrey says. In 2008, Aubrey lost her mother, too, something Maier says she couldn’t relate to at the time. But between February and May 2010 — only 89 days — Maier lost three of the closest people in her life. “We formed this bond that we couldn’t have with others; not many people our age understood death,” Aubrey says.
After suffering so much tragedy, Maier needed to leave. In 2010, she and her son moved to Miami, but he later convinced her to move back so he could finish high school in Michigan. Upon hearing that Maier was returning, Aubrey suggested she open another store. “I said, ‘If 110 was available,’ meaning this exact space, ‘it’s meant to be,’ ” Maier says. “I called the owner, which I still had his number from 15 years ago. And he said, ‘As a matter of fact, it is.’ ” She brought Aubrey on as partner to manage operations, and the two reopened the boutique in November 2018.
Creating an Experience
Every item at 110 Couture is selected for its authenticity. “When I worked at the department store, everything was the same,” Maier says. “I wanted something that was attainable, that people could feel special in. So, I never buy more than four pieces, one in each size.”
To ensure all their pieces are special, Maier refuses to carry popular brands. “I had Alice + Olivia before anyone knew who they were. The reason I stopped is because it became so oversaturated where everyone else had Alice + Olivia.”
Maier and Aubrey discover new designers and clothing at fashion shows and in Italy. For Maier, selecting merchandise is all about passion. “When you’re passionate about something that you buy, you’re going to sell it,” she says.
Customers like Bonnie Laurens, 59, of Commerce Township, appreciate 110 Couture’s pieces. On a recent afternoon, she stopped in to find an outfit for a charity event. “(Maier’s) got unique things,” she says. “I needed something green to wear … and I thought there may be something here.”
A New Life
Butterflies mean transition and transformation, Maier says. She explains that death made 110 Couture what it is today. “We don’t take things as seriously.” Often, if a customer is uncertain about an item, Maier says she allows her to take it home, think about it and come back to pay once she decides. Both women strive to emulate the kindness they saw in their lost loved ones. “If we didn’t continue the legacy of being good people, then they all died in vain,” Maier says.
Despite the tragedies, Aubrey and Maier have harnessed their pain for the betterment of others. “We put a lot of perspective into people’s lives,” Aubrey says. Maier adds that their mission isn’t about selling clothes: “The clothes are great, but we don’t do it for the clothes. We do it for the relationships that we’ve built.”
SHOP: Lip handbag, $480.
SHOP: Lightning butterfly v-neck tee, $92.
SHOP: James Twiggy ankle jeans, $210.