Like many of us, Karina Drake says that having her first child completely changed her perspective. “We were living in New York City where I was attending a merchandising program at Parsons [School of Design] when we found out we were expecting Alexa,” says Drake. “Alexa was the inspiration behind the business. She was born in the city and as a new mom I was exposed to so many beautiful things that I really wanted to bring a piece of that back home with me.” By June 2018, Drake and her family of three had relocated back to her native Austin, Texas, and her store, Alexa James (James is Drake’s middle name) was “born”. Austinites are loving her carefully curated collection of children’s fashions, in a gorgeous space created by acclaimed designer Claire Zinnecker. We sat down with Drake to talk about business, family, and growing both.
How would you describe your business?
We are a family-owned, carefully curated children’s boutique. The shop was inspired by our daughter, Alexa James, and our time in New York City. By combining our passion for design, gifting and community we look to create a space that inspires creativity, warmth, and joy.
How would you describe your style?
Soft, modern while still carrying that childhood magic. I look for balance between cool and sweet. I love an adult silhouette, like a wide leg pant, with a childlike element, like heart shaped pockets (something I actually bought for Spring Summer 19).
What separates your store from others like it in the area?
We’ve always strived to be more than just a retail shop. Our space is just as much about community as it is a place to purchase items. A great deal of thought went into the décor and layout, which includes a play area for kiddos and an uncluttered shopping experience for moms. We also regularly host events like story time and yoga for the little ones, mom Happy Hours and pop ups for our out-of-town brand friends.
How do you decide what to stock?
From the beginning, I had a very strong vision of what I wanted the store to look and feel like. Our space is airy, soft and modern. I definitely look for brands that carry that modern yet whimsical aesthetic. I also tend to lean towards brands that use thoughtful materials like Pima cottons, muslin and organic materials.
Do you know when something is going to be a sellout?
As a mom I am also a consumer. Every once in a while, I’ll run across something that truly excites me and feels very special. That gut reaction tends to be right 90% of the time. As for surprises, they definitely happen! I recently kicked myself for not buying enough furry coats here in Austin. But that’s the beauty of this business—you’re learning every day.
Where would you like to see your business go?
Expansion is definitely the goal. Part of the thrill of opening this shop has been exposing these amazing moms to brands and items that weren’t here before. I would love to re-create this experience in other markets.
What advice do you give moms who are thinking about starting a business?
It sounds so cliché but follow your instincts and intuition. Be honest with yourself about your areas of weakness and seek support in those places. As for balance, this is something I still struggle with, but I’ve learned that if I am with my family everything else goes on the back burner. If I am at work I commit to spend my time not worrying or feeling guilty for being away.
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