Woman sitting on a cushion on the floor.

In Conversation with Rebecca // Hughes Clothing

Name: Rebecca Burrows
Shop: Hughes Clothing
Address: 564 Yates Street, Victoria, Canada
Instagram: @hughesclothing

A fashion book opened a top a grand piano.
Elegance throughout the shop at Hughes.

What is Hughes? Can you tell us about the name? Any special meaning?  

Hughes is the last name of the building owner and a close family friend.

You’ve been an entrepreneur for a long time. Can you tell us about your background? What made you decide to go into retail?

I come from a long line of entrepreneurs; it’s in my blood. My dad was the first person to bring stone-washed denim to Canada. I’ve loved retail, clothing, and jewellry since I was a kid. I told my kindergarten teacher that I was going to work at Tiffany’s & Co one day! My background in retail started when I was 12 and got a job at Le Château. I then went on to work for a jewellry designer, Hilary Druxman. I always had a foot in my parents’ companies, working at their denim plant, trucking companies, and coin operating business. I knew at an early age how to navigate business in tough times. There were years we travelled and there were years that I had to work in order to be able to dance.  

Hughes has been around for many years and has been a key retailer in Victoria. You recently purchased the store. How did that come about? Do you have any plans for the store?

I have coveted Hughes since I was 19. When the opportunity presented itself almost a year ago, I couldn’t resist. I love fashion and putting clothing on people. I’d like to keep Hughes just the way it is but put a little of me into it.

A mannequin wearing a colourful dress.
A mannequin strikes a dramatic pose.

If you had to describe your shop to someone who hasn’t seen it, how would you describe it? How has the store evolved over the years?

I would tell people that we are a higher-end fashion store with a diverse selection. Truly, something for everyone! Hughes has not really pivoted over the years; that’s what retail is calling for, especially now. I believe that there is a huge wake-up needed and an evolution for retailers as a whole.

Can you tell us a bit about your personal style and aesthetic? How do the store and the designers you carry fit into that aesthetic?

I am a classic dresser. At home, it’s jeans and a white T-shirt. At work, I’m in black. I love black. It’s this beautiful canvas for me to put with a pair of beautiful shoes or one of my purses. I love fabrics. Cashmere, cotton, silk …

Inspiration is all around us. What or who inspires you?

Audrey Hepburn, hands down. She exudes class and simplicity with a smidge of bitchiness. Can I say that? 

Woman walking in long dress in an apartment.
Rebecca modelling one of the dresses from her shop.

Each season represents new trends and new products. How do you evaluate what is working and what isn’t?  What guides you in your choices?

I am constantly evaluating and looking at numbers. I have a math degree in finance (some don’t know that about me!) so I’m always looking at that. I need to feel like I have my finger on the pulse. If it’s not selling, I try to not take it personally and I move on. Simple as that.

Where and how do you source your designers and products you carry in your store? Has that changed? What do you see happening in the future?

I listen to my people: friends, clients, the community. Reps don’t know. They don’t live here. I see a lot of re-evaluating happening. As retailers, we are really going to have to listen, now more than ever!

You recently opened an online store. Can you tell us a little about that? What do you think is next for brick & mortar stores and the future of the retail market?

Wow! Online is tough! Maintaining the site, exchanges, returns. It’s not the same as being one-on-one. I have a hard time sitting in front of the computer for that long. I am so happy I did it though and so grateful to my clients that have supported me, but man oh man … it’s a tough business, online. What’s next? It’s what we make of it. The hustle is going to be harder more than ever and it’s whoever is the hungriest will survive.

One of the many beautiful men’s suits and shirts at Hughes.

What are some of the hardest lessons you’ve had starting your business? How have you overcome them?

Hmmm … finding a different balance. I owned a pub before and a that was a balance. Hughes is my new baby. I’m finding the kids are a little jealous and I’m having to remind them that Hughes is a part of the family.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to open up a shop?

Patience. Be prepared to put in a lot of love and patience. It’s truly like having a child.

As we write this, we are in a pandemic. Have you made any hard decisions to get you through this difficult time? Where are you finding strength these days to make decisions?

Oh god, laying off my staff. We are a small team, and one that I laid off is my mother in-law and my best friend. That broke my heart. I’m finding strength with my father’s advice and of course my kids’ snuggles. I always have my dad’s words rolling through my head. My drive comes from there. My calmness and the ability to be still and content come from my children.

Dress on a hanger in a store.
Charming pink and black designer dress.

We are being told to let go of a lot right now and adapt — it’s overwhelming and we’re all trying to cope as best as we can. How are you coping? What’s been working for you?

I’ve set a routine for myself and the kids. Easier said than done, and we deviate on the weekends, but Monday to Friday we have a routine. Also, finding some alone time. I go for a morning walk with the dog every morning for 30 minutes.

As we navigate our new reality, what advice would you give to your fellow shop owners on what keeps you moving forward?

Let’s keep talking to each other. Do things in unison. We can’t give up. Downtown needs all of us and if one goes down, then more will follow.

A necklace sits on display at a clothing store.
Fine jewellry on display.

If you were looking back to this moment in time, what do you hope to gain in personal and business growth? 

I hope to gain acceptance, and the ability to not take any of this personally. I have this knack to always make things like they are my fault. Ha!

What three words best describe how you’re feeling today?

Survival, strength, integrity.

Woman sitting on stairs.
Rebecca on the stairs leading to the second floor of her space.