W.Va. native opens fashion shop in Myrtle Beach

The Charleston GazetteJuly 20, 2014 

— On your next trip to Myrtle Beach — one of West Virginia's most popular vacation destinations — you might want to check out a new pop-up store created by Charleston native Bee Borromeo, a fashion designer and businesswoman.

Borromeo lives in New York City and is a trailblazer in the hot business trend of short-term retail shops. She just opened design U, a fashion do-it-yourself concept store at Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The shop will remain open until Aug. 17.

"Design U is about bringing out the fashion designer in you," said Borromeo, chief executive officer and founder of design U.

"Our line is fun, flirty and a little bit edgy. . You can come in and shop our contemporary line of tops, dresses, handbags, hats and more, and then enjoy the experience of designing it yourself by adding embellishments such as metal studs, spikes, beads, flowers, etc. The store is a studio with workspace and tools for you to stay, work on your designs on your own, or enjoy with your friends and family. You can also buy any item as is or purchase something that we've already designed," Borromeo said.

With a pop-up store, Borromeo said she is able to "cast a wide net" with her business idea by opening in various locations across the country. Charleston may be a location for a future pop-up store.

"There are several areas that I am looking into for the next pop-up. This winter I will try the idea in a popular skiing destination. In 2015, the plans are to pop up in the New York City metro area and the West Coast. And, of course, I would be proud to bring this idea back home to Charleston," Borromeo said.

Borromeo, 37, grew up in Charleston and graduated from George Washington High School. She moved to New York City after graduating from West Virginia University.

After spending 10 years in marketing for MTV and Adecco, Borromeo decided to pursue a career in fashion — her lifelong dream. She went on to earn a degree in fashion design from New York's prestigious Parsons The New School of Design in 2011.

"Going to art school was unlike anything I've ever experienced. If you've ever seen the show 'Project Runway,' what they show is pretty true to the life of a design student . trips to Mood for fabrics, long hours in the workroom and then gut-wrenching critiques that either make you feel on top of the world or want to crawl under a rock.

"I didn't take into account that I would have to face very tough critiques multiple times a day. They tear you down to build you up and ingrain their philosophy of 'professional' technique. Even the smallest mistake and it's no good. Overall, my experience at Parsons taught me to believe in myself even when others don't, to dust yourself off and go make something beautiful," the designer said.

After gaining experience with such iconic fashion brands as Badgley Mischka, Tommy Hilfiger and Coach, Borromeo earned an invitation to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's accelerator program, designed to assist entrepreneurs with launching new businesses.

"This was a priceless experience in getting to where I am today. I started with a little seed of an idea and they helped me formulate a plan to put into action. Having a comprehensive business plan is imperative. And having mentors that are entrepreneurs themselves made the difference in moving this forward," Borromeo said.

"Working at Badgley Mischka was one of my favorite experiences. I had direct access to both of the designers, Mark Badgley and James Mischka. The brand is known for glamorous red-carpet gowns, and this is where I got to learn about embellishing clothes. I spent a lot of time designing layouts and patterns for beading, sequins, rhinestones, etc.," she said.

"At Tommy Hilfiger, I worked with the technical design team . I completed my apprenticeship in handbag design for the Madison and Poppy lines at Coach. This solidified my love of handbags. It's so different from designing clothing. It's very architectural and technical. I also love that handbags have such a long life. They are like pieces of art. And since we don't drive in New York City, our handbags replace fancy cars," Borromeo said.

She came up with the idea for the business from her own experiences.

"I always alter my clothes one way or the other — cut them, add beads to them, etc. I thought it would be fun to have one place where you could go and do everything. Shop for the piece you want to design and then have all of the embellishments and the tools to create it . most of the designers stay and work on their designs here in the workspace studio. All of the tools are available to make their creations and are free to use. We can also hold group events and parties here. It's all about friends and family enjoying a fun, creative and fashionable experience," Borromeo said.

Design U is located near Bully's and Ultimate California Pizza at Barefoot Landing, North Myrtle Beach. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

For more information, visit designUblog .com/PopUp. Follow design U at facebook.com/designUfriends.

Information from: The Charleston Gazette, http://www.wvgazette.com

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