By Meoghan Swain
Wildheart Boutique in downtown St. Augustine hosted their first time fashion show event on Feb. 9 to showcase their new spring line. The show also highlighted the Hopefull Handbags organization, a company that uses fashion to help survivors of domestic abuse.
This event promoted Wildheart’s multi-functional pieces which included anything from cool tones to sparkles all while emphasizing the importance of Florida lightweight fashion.
Susan Swearingen, owner of Wildheart Boutique, prioritizes the idea of being both comfortable and fashionable, especially for women 40 years and above, which can be seen in her own fashion choices.
“I like to show how you can be on trend, especially as women move into the middle age. You can be awesome. You don’t have to feel like you have to wear boxy clothes or just a T-shirt,” Swearingen said.
Fashion aside, Swearingen’s reason for opening Wildheart Boutique four years ago was to help empower women in terms of self-confidence, as well as give back to her community.
Working with women is something of great importance to Swearingen. Although she had never worked in retail, she knew working alongside women was something she could prioritize when starting her business.
“Wildheart means to embrace life with an open heart and a fierce soul, and that is how I live my life. So I felt inspired to see if I could bring that into a community of women.” Swearingen said.
In addition to the unique styles of Wildheart Boutique, bags from Hopefull Handbags, a company in association with Wildheart, were highlighted during the event. These bags help to provide for domestic abuse survivors in many ways.
Hopefull Handbags, an organization started by Cathleen Miner who modeled at the event, began as a program that donated fashionable handbags to survivors filled with women’s necessities such as makeup, shampoo and conditioner, nail kits and much more.
The organization has grown immensely and now helps domestic abuse survivors in 10 different countries. This growth has invoked change within the community and opened up the conversation about domestic abuse.
“I always say two things: One, together we are stronger, that’s like our motto. The other thing is the more adults we can get to safety, the fewer children that have to grow up in abusive homes,” Miner said.
Wildheart Boutique and Hopefull Handbags work hand-in-hand to support women under any circumstance. This collaboration works so well because these women have like minds about self-perception and self-confidence.
“I love that they’re collaborating together because, Cathleen and Susan, they think so much alike. So being able to bring in Wildheart and bring in this idea of Hopeful Handbags — it just goes so well with their ideas and what they stand for,” said Katera Frazier, a retail assistant at Wildheart Boutique.
Because Swearingen has gone through special training, a sticker on the outside of the boutique designates Wildheart as a safe space for people struggling with domestic abuse.
“If somebody was to come in in trouble, she knows what to do…she’s always been empowering women which has been a great collaboration all along,” Miner said.
The sticker also identifies Wildheart as a collection point for donations to Hopefull handbags all year round.
Wildheart’s fashion show was the first of many upcoming events for the boutique. Swearingen plans to hold similar monthly events that show off the boutique as well as bring together the community.
“The next one is for March because it is International Women’s Day and it is Women’s History Month, so we are going to be celebrating women. It will be all about just feeling great about yourself, self-care, and how you really amplify your own self,” Swearingen said.
Swearingen also plans to continue collaborating with Miner and hold more events that highlight the Hopefull Handbags organization.
To find more information on upcoming events at Wildheart Boutique visit their Instagram at wild_wildheart or Facebook page at the WildHeart Boutique.