Housed in the old Vogue theater space in Louisville, Ky., Clodhoppers Boutique provides a dose of high-end fashion to the bluegrass state. While they now carry designers like Alice + Olivia, BCBG, French Connection, Robert Rodriguez, Trina Turk, Max and Cleo as well as denim from Citizens of Humanity, J Brand, and Seven for All Mankind, the store originally started out selling used Levi’s and clunky Doc Martens in the early 1990s, hence the name. While the minimalist, street-chic era of 90s fashion is a thing of the past, Clodhoppers has evolved with the styles of their clients over the years and now offers a well-curated collection of sophisticated attire.
Co-owner Kelly McDonald spoke to us about her favorite part of Kentucky Derby season in Louisville and also revealed her style secrets for the perfect day at the races.
Mary Frances Dale: Since your boutique has been in Louisville for 20 years, the Kentucky Derby must be practically part of your blood. Tell me about your connection to Louisville and how you started your store.
Kelly McDonald: We opened in 1993 as a shoe store featuring lines such as Doc Martens (thus the name Clodhoppers). We slowly began to carry apparel and quickly realized the demand for dresses during Derby season. Now, Derby has become the most important time of year for us, and we offer custom-made hats by Britni Knable of Headcandi and local jewelry from Cindy Borders, Elva Fields, Coquettish and Rebecca Hook.
Mary: How have Louisville and its style evolved since your boutique opened its doors in 1993? Have people also changed their approach to dressing for the Derby?
Kelly: Louisville has stayed pretty consistent over the years in their approach to dressing for Derby-day dresses and hats. The biggest change I have seen is the fascinator. Clients have their individual style but most are willing to push it to the edge with their hats. It’s Derby!
The rise of fascinators added an “avant-garde” edge to Derby Fashion (Image courtesy of Harpersbazaare.com)
Mary: Describe your personal style in three words.
Kelly: If I had to describe my personal style in three words, it would be fun, unique and timeless.
Mary: Who is your fashion icon?
Kelly: My fashion icon is Michelle Smith (Milly).
Designer Michelle Smith of Milly in her studio (image courtesy of Haute Living)
Milly’s designs on the runway for New York fashion week (Image courtesy of Milly.com)
Mary: What do you look for when creating the perfect race-day outfit?
Kelly: When creating the perfect race day outfit, I like to make each woman look unique while staying true to her own personal style.
Mary: One of the best parts of the Derby is the dual nature of it. On one end of the spectrum, there is the world-class refinement of Millionaire’s Row and on the other end you have the raucous Derby Infield. How would you suggest dressing for Millionaire’s Row versus the Infield?
Kelly: For Millionaire’s Row, I would dress it up a bit - instead of a day dress with print for the grandstands I would recommend a day look that is closer to cocktail attire. For the infield I would recommend cute shorts and top or a romper.
Millionaire’s Row Style (Image courtesy of Elle.com)
Mary: What you are wearing to this year’s Kentucky Derby?
Kelly: I will be in Milly or a maxi dress!
Mary: How many times have you been to the Kentucky Derby? What was your favorite part of the experience?
Kelly: I have been to Derby many times and always keep comfort in mind when I choose my dress - it’s a long day!
Mary: Favorite fashion designers?
Kelly: My favorite designers are Milly, Alice + Olivia, and Trina Turk.
Mary: Since fashion is such an integral part of the Derby experience, does your boutique throw any special events leading up to the Derby?
Kelly: Clodhoppers hosts multiple trunk shows during April as well as hosting milliners in store for custom hats.
Mary: What current spring trends do you predict will be popping up at this year’s Derby?
Kelly: I predict we will see a lot of black and white, mint, coral and pops of neon. There will be a lot of peplum dresses and dresses with back detail and cutouts.
Milly dress with coral color block accents, available at Clodhoppers Boutique
Mary: Your biggest fashion dos and don'ts?
Kelly: I always tell clients to wear comfortable shoes to the track. The wrong shoe can truly ruin a great day, and I also encourage clients to be a little riskier in their choices than they normally would.
Mary: What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Kelly: The best advice anyone has given me about business is to not be afraid of change!
The Clodhoppers team shows off their style in the Louisville store.
Make sure to stop by Clodhoppers Boutique while you’re in town for the Derby (3725 Lexington Rd Louisville, KY 40207). Or you can check out their website here: http://www.clodhoppers.com/ and keep up with them on twitter (@clodhoppers)