By Lauren Jones
In New York City, top designers and fresh trends are found in shop after shop down 5th Avenue. But in North Carolina, that luxury is few and far between. Local fashionistas book shopping trips to the big city or follow top blogs for the latest trends to order online. But little do they know, there is a style haven full of designer picks, as well as the season’s top trends, hand selected by the buyers at Nitsa’s, with the guidance of NYC’s best buying office, right here in little old Winston-Salem.
Nitsa’s Apparel is on the forefront of fashion for the state, boasting great relationships with top designers including, Vera Wang, Pamela Roland and Tracy Reese to name a few. Started in 1964 by the store’s namesake, Nitsa Bambalis, as Nitsa’s 4th Street Tailors and Alterations Shop, the now full-service boutique has grown to be a destination for top trends and immaculate service. Throughout its history, Nitsa’s Apparel has continued to offer its services of alterations and special ordering semi-customized clothing (a rare touch in today’s boutiques). Nitsa’s has an impressive selection of sportswear, lifestyle clothing, day and special occasion dresses, and couture bridal gowns, as well as cosmetics and accessories. The newly renovated 10,000 square-foot Winston-Salem store has been in its current location, Stratford Village at Five Points, since 1995 and is run by George Bambalis, long-time business partner and son of Nitsa, along with his wife, Chris. They also have a second store in Phillips Place in Charlotte’s South Park area that opened in 2003.
Working with his buying office out of NYC, George, along with his buyers, keep their ears to the ground on the latest trends coming out of the world’s fashion centers. Equipped with buying office trend reports and analyses that recap the major fashion shows and designers, George and Chris, who oversees and manages their bridal salons in both stores, hand pick which styles will make it into the store for the season. “Many trends are happening simultaneously,” said George, of his process for picking what comes to the store. “You have to be careful. Just because it’s new, doesn’t mean it’s great.” George has taken the time to get to know his Winston-Salem and Charlotte customers. Over the years, he’s studied what sells and what doesn’t, what he sees on the street and what is only meant for the runway.
This spring, George says the mantra of the fashion world is currently, “everything old is new again.” Re-imagined styles of the ‘70s are hitting the shelves, including wide-leg and bell-bottom pants, loose silhouettes, and loud prints. Other burgeoning trends you’ll find on Nitsa’s racks include a lot of asymmetrical designs, off-the-shoulder blouses, and details like cording and sashes. He expects the popular trend in sheer fabrics to continue, and it has manifested itself not only into formal and bridal wear but into sportswear and casual styles, as well. This feminine accent will be adding a soft touch to another of this year’s top design genres: utility.
While George does enjoy trends and going to market to shop for product, it’s the details of retail that really catch his attention. “Fabrics fascinate me,” said George as he discussed the immense improvements in fabric technology, including sweat and heat wicking fabric found in some of the store’s products. “It’s amazing what designers can do with clothing these days.” Lighting is another aspect of retail that George has studied up on and implemented into the store’s newly remodeled space. “These are all LED lights,” he said pointing up to the boutique’s ceiling, where all-new recessed lighting has been installed. He goes on to excitedly explain in detail the benefits of his decision to use this lighting, as it gives a maximum number of lumens to ensure the best ‘true light rendition’ for clothing. Joking as he finishes his technical explanation, he remarks, “I’ve been in this business too long, right?”
But it seems he’s been in the business for a perfect amount of time and has the success to show it. The Bambalis family, which has a history of successful businesses in Winston-Salem (they also own the popular bar, Recreation Billiards, and its hidden, downstairs speakeasy, the Whisky Box, on Fourth Street, above which Nitsa’s began), also broke into the Charlotte market with Nitsa’s second location in 2003. The Winston-Salem store remodel in 2015 showcases the business’ commitment to providing the best for their customers. “It creates warmth and intimacy,” said George of the new details, including rustic wood floors and warm, peaceful colors throughout their casual sportswear section. Leading into the Social Life section which offers special occasion dresses, guests are greeted by a quote from Audrey Hepburn, which perfectly sums up the character and of this sweet and stylish boutique: “Life’s a party, dress like it.”
George, Chris and the Nitsa’s team have made sure to incorporate everything from the latest fashion and décor to the best of the best of retail and fabric technology, ensuring that this small city shop provides big city style.
Come experience Nitsa’s Apparel at 107 South Stratford Road in Winston-Salem, 336.725.1999. Hours are Monday through Friday 9:30am-6pm and Saturday 9:30am-5pm. Visit the website at nitsas.com/fresh, and follow Nitsa’s on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NitsasApparel?fref=ts for updates on styles and events. Visit the Charlotte location at 6700 Fairview Road in Phillips Place, 704.940.1999.