Gail Rothwell opened
her East Hampton
boutique to offer
On August 9, Rothwell’s
boutique will donate a
portion of the profits to
The Retreat as part of
Shop at Sunset.
Cream patent Brogves,
Jason Wu ($625).
Silk ruffle top,
The idea of leaving a high-stress corporate job and moving to the beach may have crossed many people’s minds. But Gail Rothwell actually did it. The former president of Nine West left her post at the helm of the shoe empire in 2005 after 17 years of service and relocated to her home in Bridgehampton in 2006. But a life of leisure got old quickly, so she decided to open a boutique in East Hampton. “After a few months, I realized I needed to discover the next chapter on my journey,” Rothwell recalls. “I wanted to get back into business and saw a void in the marketplace and a need to offer popular, high-end designers to consumers out East.” To also cater to the community of the East End, Rothwell founded East Hampton Shop at Sunset in 2011, a charity event in which some 30 retailers opened their doors for a summer evening of shopping. The event benefited The Retreat, the only Hamptons agency to offer comprehensive services to women and children who are victims of domestic violence.
East Hampton seemed the appropriate location for Gail Rothwell, the exclusive boutique that carries upscale women’s clothing, high-end handbags, and posh accessories, because it had the retail space that Rothwell was seeking, as well as a larger shopping area nearby. A frequent shopper of luxury boutiques in New York and LA, Rothwell started off carrying designers such as Bottega Veneta, Lanvin, Marni, and Rick Owens, among others. She has added designers to the roster, as well as edited it down as needed through the seasons. With her own style that’s clean and simple, Rothwell’s goal is to dress the sophisticated woman with an eye for fashion and an aesthetic that’s timeless and ageless and to deliver a retail experience that’s “enjoyable, challenging, and unpredictable.”
Looking forward to the upcoming season, with fresh styles in the store, Rothwell informs, “Early fall from The Row features great leather sweaters and blazers. Céline continues to impress with beautiful simple silhouettes—the color combinations are terrific.” She says she can’t choose just one must-have piece for fall, as so many of the designers she carries are offering to-die-for styles to suit any elegant woman summering out East. “Jason Wu dresses are flirty—the fabrics and workmanship are tremendous,” Rothwell says. “J. Mendel sculpts the body with both pattern and fabric.”
In addition to stocking her boutique with the most fashionable womenswear for fall, Rothwell is preparing for the second-annual East Hampton Shop at Sunset event. On August 9, Gail Rothwell and other leading area retailers will remain open until 8 PM and donate a portion of the night’s sales to The Retreat. “After speaking with The Retreat—which is the only domestic violence agency in the region—I felt that working with the organization would be a great way for me to be more involved in the community,” she offers. “Shop at Sunset brings together both the year-round and part-time residents as one for a cause that affects all walks of life.”
Jennifer Palmer, development director for The Retreat, explains, “Gail got the idea from a similar event [in Manhattan] but infused her own energy and ideas on how it would work locally. We had roughly 30 area retailers participate last year, which was extremely impressive considering many of them are corporate giants—J. Crew, Ralph Lauren, Elie Tahari, etc.” The inaugural event helped raise $20,000 to benefit The Retreat, and this year Shop at Sunset has expanded to Sag Harbor, with Life’style boutique owner Debbie Rudoy as its ambassador. “She is helping us rally the retail owners in that hamlet,” Palmer says of Rudoy, adding, “Gail pounds the pavement, visiting each store individually, seeking their participation. It is very powerful to have a store owner do this, as she sets the example for others. She can go into a store, tell them what she has committed to do, and ask them to do the same.”
This level of commitment to Shop at Sunset from Rothwell, Rudoy, and other East Hampton and Sag Harbor boutique owners is a testament to the work that The Retreat does to combat domestic violence in the East End. In 2011 alone, The Retreat responded to more than 3,100 calls to its crisis hotline (a figure up 35 percent from 2010). Proceeds from charity events like Shop at Sunset, and also from sales at its two area stores—The Retreat Boutique in Bridgehampton Commons and the newly opened The Retreat Boutique Too in East Hampton—helps the organization to meet the increasing demand for its services. Hamptonites are encouraged to “transform their used treasures” by donating clothing, shoes, furniture, and other household goods to The Retreat Boutiques and to frequent participating retail venues on Main Street and Newtown Lane in East Hampton and Sag Harbor on August 9 to support this year’s Shop at Sunset, an evening that will include trunk shows, gifts with purchase, hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, and music. 66 Newtown Lane, East Hampton, 324- 6666. The Retreat Boutique, 110 Bridgehampton Commons, Bridgehampton, 537-3845; The Retreat Boutique Too, 30 Park Pl., East Hampton, 604-5675