If there’s a recession-proof clothing boutique in Atlanta, Virginia-Highland’s Bill Hallman is it. The store has been open nineteen years—an eternity for an independent retailer that stocks emerging and offbeat labels. But even Hallman, forty-three, has had to bend his business to the times. Due to high rent on North Highland and affordable real estate elsewhere, he decided to shrink his original location by half and roll out a series of small neighborhood shops. In addition to Bill Hallman Flaunt, his Little Five spot that’s all glitz and glamour, he opened a third location in Buckhead, and it’s a novel concept: a combination retail store and design studio that houses the recently resurrected Bill Hallman line as well as an internship program for student designers.
Bill Hallman the man was a designer before he was a world-class buyer. A graduate of Atlanta’s American College for the Applied Arts (before that: Tucker High School), he launched a men’s shirt line while in college, then a women’s line. The Virginia-Highland shop carried his designs among others. In 1995 he opened a store on New York’s Lafayette Street. “I thought, ‘I’m a designer; I need to move to New York,’” says Hallman. “But the more time I spent there, the less I wanted to be there. I need trees. I need land.” He closed the New York location and, as his hometown venture thrived, focused exclusively on retail. But a stash of old Bill Hallman tags remained in his parents’ closet, and a decade later it’s these he affixes to his creations for the Buckhead store: a flounce-sleeve silk dress, a reversible faux mink jacket, a crisply tailored men’s suit in raw denim. “I’m in this whole recycling mode,” he says.
Hallman hopes to design about 30 percent of the inventory, which he’ll round out with looks from Rag & Bone and Naked & Famous for men, Eva Franco and Diesel Black Gold for women, and “mini collections” produced by the interns. Designing for the store is the main draw of the two-month internship program, but students will also get a crash course on buying and business ownership. Hallman, who’s tapped the Westside for his next venture, knows it’s wise to prepare for a change of plan.
3400 Around Lenox Road, 404-814-0030, billhallman.com
Photograph by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn