Within The City Exists A Secret Garden: Meet Raquelle Stiefler & Donna Baxter, the Founders of Darling

 Raquelle Stiefler & Donna Baxter, Co-owners of Darling

Raquelle Stiefler & Donna Baxter, Co-owners of Darling

I remember the day I heard that Raquelle Stiefler and Donna Baxter were opening their own store in the West Village, it was called Darling. In my mind I couldn’t imagine any retail space available. However in NYC fashion I was surprised and immediately taken when I saw the space for myself. Nestled on a corner in the West Village, the boutique oozes flirtiness and sophistication I haven’t found elsewhere. The store itself is a treasure trove with smaller brands like Dagne Dover and a whole floor dedicated to Vintage Clothing. My personal favorite highlights of the boutique are the “secret garden” with twinkling lights that feel like you are in a different world and the playful wallpaper that lines the lower level. Read on to learn about their journey of creating their Darling boutique. 

1. In a day where real estate is in high demand and retailers are creating environments that are uninviting and sterile, you all have somehow managed to land and create the most “Darling” (pun intended) store in the West Village. Can you tell us more about your vision for Darling and how you found your space?

Our space is all about creating a fun, happy, experience.  Besides carrying the best local + international designers, (including our own house label,  Kisses by Darling), we offer a ‘secret’ garden where our customers are always welcome.  We’ve strived to create an environment that is is fresh + modern, yet retains the charm of the old, beloved West Village.  You could say it’s ‘Paris in the 20’s meets a modern-day New York City.’

Our quirky spot nestled between a gas station and a psychic just happens to be the perfect place to showcase our beautiful collection in the window, which has become known for dresses blowing and catching people’s attention as they whizz by in a cab.  They come back the next morning exclaiming “I just had to come try on that dress I saw last night’.

Our gold couch in the center of the store is a place for stories, where our customers often find themselves relaxing after a long day while we serve them a glass of champagne, before finding them the perfect outfit for their special occasion…or a unique treasure just because.

That’s not all!  We have a lower salon level filled with a curated collection of designer vintage and modern one-of-a-kind pieces. It’s a true discovery, complete with wallpaper designed by a London based artist perfect for taking that West Village photo to upload immediately!

2. Some of the products at Darling are designed by both of you. How do you curate what you sell? Where do you find your vendors?

Our house label, Kisses by Darling, is about creating simple, flattering, fun pieces you can mix into your wardrobe and wear over and over.  As years being designers and boutique owners, we took feedback from our customers and created the simple pieces that just were impossible to find.  The best part is everything is made in New York City!

We expand our offering with everything from local to international designers.  They could friends or simply designers we admire, but we understand that fashion should be both functional but also fun, so we love pieces that are both.  Above all else, everything must have a great fit and be of the highest quality.

We spot designers on the subway, in showrooms, in magazines, and we take our customers requests into consideration as well, of course!

3. What’s been your biggest “pinch” me moment since you opened your doors? What’s been your biggest challenge?

Pinch me was our 1 year anniversary party!  See the video here, and you’ll see what we mean 🙂 

Not only was it a huge and surreal accomplishment, but it was so lovely to celebrate with all of our treasured friends and customers.  We really partied until the sun came up, and didn’t forget to feed each other cake…

Biggest challenge is constantly adapting to a world where retail is changing so fast, where people are spending a lot of their time online, and where we are trying to maintain the truly personal shopping experience.

4. Tell us about the name Darling and how it’s been being partners running the business?

The name Darling speaks for itself.  Flirtatious, affectionate, dear to our hearts.  Who doesn’t love having a Darling in their lives!

As two people who were dear friends before this endeavor, we can’t imagine ever doing something like this alone.  Shared creative vision, mutual support of each other’s strengths, and lots of laughter are the keys.

5. Your garden is SO beyond special and perfect and I’ve been to a party or two there myself. You mentioned it can be rented? How has hosting events for outside brands changed the landscape of your business?

We only work with brand we feel share a common vision, and those whose customers we think can appreciate our brand and vice versa.  We love collaborating and supporting other amazing businesses and sharing our space in the heart of the West Village which is a great opportunity for all.

We are thrilled to be partnering with Darling for a Goodbye To Summer, Hello Fall event on August 31st featuring Brazilian cocktails by C51, styling by Phoebe Elizabeth, professional photography by Phillip Von Nostrand and a rocking good time. 

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