“If Chanel and Jimmy Hendrix had a baby…” That is the thought-provoking tag-line of West, an edgy boutique located on the Post Road in downtown Westport. “It’s such an eclectic idea and it’s so spot-on for the store,” says the owner of West, Kitt Shapiro, a visionary full of positive energy and daughter of the iconic performer, author and activist, Eartha Kitt.
Kitt was always interested in fashion. “I started out in the fashion industry,” Kitt says. “I modeled for a bit. I went on to work for my mother—I did everything from producing her tours to albums to merchandise and branding and everything like that.”
After her mother passed away, Kitt created an accessories line called Simply Eartha in her mother’s memory. “I use her words as well as her hand-drawn heart on jewelry, t-shirts, blankets and things for the home.” Kitt’s Simply Eartha line brought her into the world of retail, so when she had the opportunity to take over West, she gladly rose to the occasion.
Kitt loved West for years and was a big fan of the founder and previous owner, Laura Maged. “Laura was going to move to Los Angeles and close the store,” Kitt recalls. “I said ‘You can’t close this store...It’s where I shop!’ I put my money where my mouth is and bought the store.”
Although Kitt was fairly new to the other side of the fashion industry at the time, she had overwhelming support from her peers. “I have incredible role models in this town,” Kitt proudly states. “Other women who own businesses have been incredibly supportive and it just feels right.”
Kitt’s fearlessness is a core part of who she is, and she is thankful she decided to take ownership of West. “I started a business and a new chapter in my life that I would have never envisioned,” Kitt says. Her advice to others who are faced with similar opportunities is: “You just have to go for it. Life is all about trying new things.”
She recalls a special piece of her mother’s advice, “My mother taught me to appreciate all the curves the river of life takes. You learn from and appreciate the beauty in all the little spots that appear in your life that you’re not expecting.”
Kitt is inspired by the spirit of community in Westport. Despite what some say about the future of retail, she is excited to persevere downtown shopping. “I think retail is certainly evolving, but I don’t believe that it’s dying,” Kitt says with confidence. “[Retail] is sort of going back to a focus on community. People want to feel comfortable and have conversations - you can’t get that on the internet. You want to be able to connect with people and support each other.”
Kitt describes the store as cool, funky and a hidden gem in town. “The previous owner wanted to bring the West Coast vibe and style to the East Coast,” Kitt says. “We’ve got people here who want to be a little edgy, but also comfortable and… laid back. We’ve got moms, professionals, creatives and lots of other different types of customers and I think we are able to provide everybody with a sense of being an individual.”
Kitt’s styling advice is to put pieces together that you love but you wouldn’t necessarily think go together at first and, of course, have fun with it. “When we feel good and like how we look in the mirror, it sets the tone for our day and we feel it,” Kitt says. “I think that is what fashion is really all about. It’s feeling it, being who you are and appreciating who you are.”
Follow West on Instagram: @west2westport