May 1, 2006 – On Sunday, Constance Wallace and her two longtime employees spent just a few hours sorting through and packing up the remaining merchandise, along with 22 years worth of memories, at the Clothing Studio in Mongoose Junction.
The merchandise was the easy part. At the end of the day Wallace ended up donating all but her Anne Cole swim suits to the St. John Safety Zone thrift shop.
The memories will likely linger on for awhile.
Wallace, who bought the hand-painted clothing store from Linda Smith Palmer in 1984, was conflicted about her decision to close the store, but market changes and increasing competition leading to "lackluster" sales in recent times fueled the decision, she said.
For nearly 30 years, the Clothing Studio, which faced the entrance to the original Mongoose Junction, welcomed visitors and locals alike into the traditional West Indian design mall, built almost entirely of native stone.
Wallace said it was Mongoose builder Glen Speer's idea to have artisans and artists creating art in plain view of visitors.
The Clothing Studio, R.I. Patton jewelry store and Donald Schnell's ceramic and pottery studio were the first tenants.
Over the years, dozens of artists hand-painted everything from hibiscus to angel fish and a lot in between on the Clothing Studio's high end resort wear.
"I think I bought more original V.I. art than anyone ever," Wallace says. She provided the clothing canvases, and then purchased the art from the artists.
Along with the artists, who painted the pieces while standing at a counter in the back of the store, Wallace's team also included Chrystal Christy and Angela Jean-Charles, who have been with her for six and nine years respectively.
Wallace said it was the customers over the years who actually came up with the ideas for the paintings.
"Someone would come into the store and say, 'I was snorkeling today and I saw the most amazing angel fish' and we would tell them, 'We can do that for you.'"
Wallace, who as a business woman and entrepreneur is what you might call a "feminine feminist", says, "It's all about the classic feminine process to get involved in how you look … and the effect the clothes have on you and others."
Anne Cole swim suits, specifically the Lingerie Mio, was one of Wallace's specialty items. The classically styled, solid color suits were perfect canvases for the art, but equally suitable and saleable on their own in a multitude of colors.
Dresses, beach cover-ups, classic collared button-down shirts, T-shirts, baby's creepers and rompers, beach bags, hats and even baseball caps for children all became potential canvases over the years.
The Anne Cole suits will continue to be available at Wallace's Web site, www.ClothingStudio.com, for a time.
The Clothing Studio Web site is not Wallace's only cyber venture.
Way ahead of the local Internet curve — in 1996, just after Hurricane Marilyn, when as Wallace put it "nobody else was doing anything, but we were up and running on St. John" — she launched stjohnusvi.com, which she says she plans to spend some time working on.
In the future, Wallace said, "I plan to concentrate on my thriving international wedding photography business."
Wallace does 50 weddings a year, she says, mostly on St. John in the winter and Maine in the summer. But she has also traveled to London, Santa Barbara, New York and elsewhere to photograph weddings. She mentions, with a smile, "I don't have any closed-toed shoes, so that is a consideration," when taking on a wedding.
But knowing Wallace for her spirit of adventure, it's not hard to imagine she might consider purchasing boots and a stylish faux fur coat if the opportunity were interesting enough.
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