The entire IB Precalculus class heard it, the telltale vibration of an iPhone against the hard metal of a desktop. Junior Eden McKissick-Hawley, the owner the sound, waited a few moments until the teacher’s disapproving eyes were no longer upon her and then swiped across her phone’s screen to open the distracting Twitter notification.
McKissick-Hawley’s hands started shaking. She was no longer worried about getting caught with her phone. She just kept refreshing her feed over and over again to make sure it wasn’t a mistake: Elle Fanning had favorited one of her tweets.
This is important, not because McKissick-Hawley is a particular fan of Fanning’s role in “Super 8” or her involvement with designer Marc Jacobs. It’s not because she regularly tweets pictures of her stylings at celebrities. McKissick-Hawley works at Her Majesty’s closet, a couture consignment shop in Corinth Square. As a student, her involvement in both the aesthetic and business side of Her Majesty’s Closet have resulted in her unique task of revitalizing the store. McKissick-Hawley’s job as a stylist and PR representative developed her interest in ethics that digs farther than her involvement in debate, a feeling of responsibility for her job and a love of fashion that spans from vintage hatboxes to $12,000 fur coats to the individual styles of celebrities like Fanning.
“It made it really meaningful that she took the time to do that,” McKissick-Hawley said. “Little things like this have given me motivation to try and make it in the fashion industry— something that has always felt nearly impossible.”
“Hair ties off wrists, everyone! Lean back, like put your arm behind you. Pretend you’re in your room naked, dancing around or something!”
McKissick-Hawley stands on the torn, maroon vinyl cushion of a rickety wicker chair, shouting out orders to her impromptu models, friends from East. Junior Maaike Slosse wears a strapless velvet gown with a length of fur around the waist and poses for McKissick-Hawley’s camera against a white sheet of paper. A sign reading “WPA by Her Majesty’s Closet” lies on the floor. The unfinished space that will soon turn into a bigger Her Majesty’s Closet is filled with racks of tweed jackets, velvet and fur dresses and plaid scarves, but the floor is littered with stray heels and half a dozen makeup bags. It’s as if a vintage couture shop has exploded in an all-girls slumber party.
These photoshoots are McKissick-Hawley’s favorite thing to orchestrate when it comes to her job as a stylist and a PR representative, and are just one example of the accountability she holds as an employee at Her Majesty’s Closet.
“It’s great for me in terms of creativity, but also responsibility,” McKissick-Hawley said. “Here I’m respected because I care about the store and care about what I do. And if I make a mistake, then it affects not only me and possibly my paycheck but the company and the customers.”
McKissick-Hawley feels that her job holds more weight because of the nature of Her Majesty’s Closet. The consequences of losing or damaging a piece of clothing are different because each item is one-of-a-kind. Mistakes McKissick-Hawley makes in selling or buying pieces affects the company deeply due to its nature as a small, family-owned business.
This department that she oversees hasn’t always been hers to take care of. McKissick-Hawley started by doing inventory and other basic jobs around the store. Over the six months that she’s been there, she has gained control of a section of the store dedicated to high school girls as well as her job as a PR representative.
“We’re very happy with her because she’ll be here two years and can grow with the business,” owner Barbara Bloch said. “Over time, she’s shown that she wants a bigger role within the company— and that role has been bringing in a different demographic of teenage girls.”
McKissick-Hawley didn’t originally expect the amount of creative freedom that comes with her job. The 25 to 40 hours a week she works are spent not behind a cash register, selling designer pants to 50- and 60-year-old women, but coming up with new ways to revitalize the store. Within a week, McKissick-Hawley hopes to have the online store up for Her Majesty’s Closet— a task that requires taking photos, writing copy and putting online thousands of pieces. McKissick-Hawley hopes that this will expand their market by allowing the beauty of their clothing to be more accessible to girls here in Kansas City and customers around the country.
“A consignment store is not a thrift store.”
McKissick-Hawley is adamant about the nature of Her Majesty’s Closet. Unlike Goodwill or Plato’s Closet, Her Majesty’s Closet puts an emphasis on the history of a piece and the client who sells it to them. McKissick-Hawley attributes her interest in history to her job. To her, there’s something fascinating about touching and wearing an item that has its own story and origin.
And this is what McKissick-Hawley truly loves about the store— she loves asking the clients about where the clothing is from. Sometimes, while she is working, clients’ tears spring up as quickly as their memories do when giving away a sentimental item.
According to McKissick-Hawley, these moments happen at least once a week. Despite the frequency of these occurrences, some items stick in McKissick-Hawley’s head— items such as a vintage Oscar de la Renta gown, a Degas sketch or almost two dozen old hats in lavish pillboxes.
An older lady and her husband brought the hats into Her Majesty’s Closet. And as she opened them, one by one, she told McKissick-Hawley about them: where they had been worn, who made it, how old it was. All of them were different, yet shared one thing in common: her husband had given all of them to her. And as the she took one of the last hats from its box, not her, but her husband broke into tears. He had watched the other ones go— the hats from the honeymoon, from balls, from symphonies, from birthdays— but this was the hat he had given her before he proposed. He couldn’t bear to see it go, but they in their old age, they felt that there was no room for them— in their house or in those of their children.
“We’re not here to take your things and just make money off of them,” McKissick-Hawley said. “If the customer cries when giving something to us, we don’t take it.”
That day, despite his previous assurances that he would be fine, McKissick-Hawley put the engagement hat in a bag and gave it to him just before he left.
McKissick-Hawley’s job at Her Majesty’s Closet has not only given her an appreciation for history and clients’ stories, but for the fashion industry as a whole and the issues that come with it— from environmental concerns about manufacturing to sweatshops where goods can be made cheaply to intellectual property theft. This has piqued her interest and created a focus for her in law— and in fashion. McKissick-Hawley believes that reusing clothing and appreciating the ideas and fabrics are dynamics that most people don’t realize.
“People either get it, or they don’t,” McKissick-Hawley said. “Someone will walk into the store and either they’ll pick up a beautiful leather Prada shoe, look at the price sticker and gasp and walk away, or they’ll gasp and say ‘I have to have to have these.’”
And fashion, according to McKissick-Hawley , is understanding the meaning behind pieces such as 40-year-old hats and the process of creating something new out of a mishmash of vintage and modern, couture and dollar-store. She hopes that she can be a part of the fashion industry in the future, even if that means simply that she will continue to visit consignment stores in other towns or have a love of fashion.
“What I love is law and fashion, so why can’t I do both? I want to change the industry for the better; it doesn’t have to be disgusting and superficial,” McKissick-Hawley said. “Fashion is going to be something I try to talk about and write about and be a part of any way I can. And Her Majesty’s Closet is a place where I feel I can be a part of it.”