Milo & Lily Boutique a good fit for owner Crystal Bland

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Cape, $78, at Milo & Lily.
Handbag and hat display at Milo & Lily.
Crystal Bland, owner of Milo & Lily Boutique in Collonade Shopping Center.
Jeans are a staple in many women’s closets.
Milo & Lily offers women’s clothing in all sizes and accessories.

Milo & Lily Boutique a good fit for owner Crystal Bland

By Linda Miller

In less than a year, Crystal Bland opened two doors to a new career.

The first was in January with Milo & Lily, her online women’s boutique. It was so successful that in August she opened another door and stepped into her own retail store, a light and airy space filled with clothing that women have come to love online.

Milo & Lily is at 9612 N May Ave. in the Collonade Shopping Center in Oklahoma City. Bland continues to have an online presence and ships across the country, but the physical store allowed her to bring in a select offering of girls clothing and a large assortment of hats and accessories.

Bland, an Oklahoma State University graduate with degrees in fashion merchandising and marketing, always envisioned her own store.

“I think a lot of that came from my parents who were entrepreneurs,” she said.

Selecting clothing that won’t be in your store for months and hoping it appeals to women can be nerve-wracking. And many owners would agree it’s easy to get caught up in a dizzying blur of colors, styles and numbers and blow the budget. But Bland enjoys scouring apparel markets, seeking out clothes that are a perfect fit for her store and customers.

“It’s my dream job,” she said. “It’s kind of nerdy, but I also like to crunch numbers.”

As one of this year’s 30/30 Next Gen group of creative and inspiring young professionals in Oklahoma, Bland believes in sharing the blessings. Milo & Lily carries Banded, which for every headband sold provides three meals for a child in Uganda. She hopes to carry more brands that give back.

Recently Bland shared more about the store and her feelings about fashion.

Q. How do you feel walking into the store each morning? To be honest, I still have to pinch myself that it’s reality. Owning a store has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl, so to walk into the store each morning, I feel excited, happy and extremely grateful to be doing what I consider my “dream job”.

Q. What’s your philosophy about fashion and how does that influence the clothing you select for Milo & Lily? To me, fashion is wearable art. It’s the easiest form of self-expression and what we wear says a lot about ourselves. My philosophy on fashion is simple. Wear the clothes that make you feel good. People shouldn’t succumb to trends, they should interpret them. Fashion is always evolving and revolving. It continues to recycle looks and styles from decades before. I buy what’s on trend but I also look at the silhouette of each piece and ask myself, would our girl feel good in this? I have three major values that I take into consideration when buying pieces for the store: creativity, individuality and intelligence. That’s the woman I shop for.

Q. What one clothing item or accessory do you reach for again and again? I have a small obsession with rings and jewelry. I think accessories are the easiest way to make a look completely your own. I am also a hoarder of boots and booties. I think my favorite boots are deep purple suede that I bought at a thrift shop in New York City.

Q. Share some of the fashion trends for fall and extending into the holidays? I love fall fashion and this year’s trends have me really excited. From bohemian silhouettes to detailing with fringe and embroidery and fabrics such as denim and suede, this season is full of effortless style inspired by the ‘70’s. You can easily add dimension to any outfit with a blanket scarf or top your look off with a hat.

Q. What has been most challenging about the shift from online only to a store front? The most challenging experience so far has been deciding what goes on the website and what pieces (if any) are strictly for the store. Having a system that integrates the inventory for both locations is vital.

Q. Anything you would have done differently? I am a firm believer that all things work out in God’s perfect timing. With that being said, no I would not have done anything differently. This journey has been an amazing adventure and Milo & Lily is just getting started!

Q. What advice would you give others wanting to open their own store? Do your homework. Owning a store takes a lot of dedication, determination, and drive. The store might only be open from 10 to 6, but the work day starts much earlier and ends much later than the store hours. In retail, you must be creative, have a love (or like) for numbers and enjoy helping people. It is the perfect job for anyone who likes to multitask.

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