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Nathalie is in stunning Santa Fe, New Mexico, on historic Canyon Road, the stretch of the city known for its amazing art galleries, restaurants and chic shops and hotels. It’s the kind of store you should come to when you’re not in a rush, because there is so much to take in.
Owner Nathalie Kent made her way to the “Land of Enchantment” from her childhood home in the North of France via pit stops in Paris, Waxahachie, Texas, and Los Angeles. As a child, Kent says she was fascinated by the American West and Native American culture. She spent her free time after school reading about it and watching television shows like Black Eagle and Broken Arrow. “I was totally enamored with it!” Kent exclaims. Very early on she started learning how to weave Navajo rugs, even building her own loom at one point. In the 70s, she began collecting Native American jewelry, and she still owns a teepee.
Kent cut her teeth in the fashion world at French Vogue, where she started working when she was only 17 years old. After impressing the editors by successfully organizing a fashion shoot in her hometown, Kent was asked to cover for an editor in Paris who was going on maternity leave. She stayed with the magazine for almost 15 years.
During her tenure at Vogue, Kent says she was very lucky to work with some big-name fashion photographers, including Helmut Newton and Guy Bourdin. “I had a lot of interesting experiences between the fashion shoots, fashion shows, the couture and the trips,” Kent reminisces. “I didn’t even know how to speak English! At lunchtime, I’d take English classes instead of having lunch. It was a lot of fun.”
Nathalie has successfully married her love of fashion and the West at her store, which has a decidedly French flair. “It’s great for me to mix it up; that’s what makes it different, and I want to stay different,” explains Kent. “The fact that I’m mixing Southwest and French is what makes it modern. It’s a different twist than what most people do.”
Kent carefully curates and masterfully merchandises the high-end clothing, accessories, jewelry, boots, home goods, art and furnishings. Much of what she carries are one-of-a-kind finds. People of all ages come from all over the world to shop the selections. Kent says the essence of her success is simple.
“I only buy what I love, and because I love it, I can sell it to people that it fits,” she says. “If it is not for them, I tell them–I always tell the truth. I don’t want anybody to walk out the door with something that’s ridiculous on them or that they’ll put in the closet and never look at or wear again.”
Kent adds that she tends to buy things that last forever. In fact, she says the biggest compliment a customer can give her is that they are still wearing a piece they bought from her 15 years ago. “I have people come and say the one thing I’ve never separated from is the thing I got from you. I take it everywhere and I’m always wearing it.” Kent says that she is interested most in helping her clients find their own personality.
Her best advice? Be willing to stretch, but stay true to yourself when you’re picking a Western piece to add to your wardrobe, and don’t buy anything on a whim. “I’d rather you buy something you’ll be able to mix and match with a lot of things you already have,” says Kent. “What’s fun for me is that when people come in and say they love what I’m wearing, but they would never be able to wear this.” She laughs, “That’s all in your head! Only your head is going to keep you from doing anything. It’s a question of having the guts to do it.” She continues, “The biggest thrill is to look at people leaving the store and they went two notches higher than the guts they had when they came in. It’s really cool because they leave and they really like the way they look, even though they came in never thinking they would try or even dare. That’s so much fun for me!”
Nathalie’s is open year-round, Monday through Saturday (except for most major holidays). Chances are if you shop at Nathalie you will get to meet this hands-on owner who is equal parts interesting, warm and engaging.
“I’m not doing it for the money,” Kent concludes. “I’m doing it because of the passion I have. I have a dream to be the Hermès of the West–I want to stay very flashy, but subtle.”