Corliss Elizabeth Williams is the Owner and Creative Director of The Lowry Estate, a premier boutique in Farmington, Michigan. The shop sells vintage clothing and shoes, specializing in festive looks from the 1970s-90s that can be integrated into your modern day wardrobe. Williams uses her distinct eye for culling striking, yet timeless apparel for clients aiming to enhance their individual style.
“That’s it’s all about, striving to encourage comfort, confidence, and empowerment,” says Williams.
Named for Williams’ grandmother, Mabel Lowry–a professional and independent woman who traveled the world in Ferragamo and fur – The Lowry Estate empowers individuals to “own the room” with colorful statement pieces they will cherish forever.
LMAC: How would you describe yourself to someone who doesn’t know you?
Corliss Elizabeth Williams: Loving, giving, a connector–I love connecting people and helping people out.
LMAC: What is your most favorite fashion piece?
CEW: I love anything fun and funky with Animals, color, unpredictable patterns and colors, and textures! Things that are unique and cute… but also love the beauty of a Little Black Dress. You can never beat that.
LMAC: How long have you been been interested in vintage clothing and accessories?
CEW: Ever since high school!
LMAC: What do you like to do in your spare time?
CEW: I love spending time with my Little Lady of Lowry, aka Amelia Elizabeth Williams Olu. She is 2 years old and is the light of my life…she does something new every day!
LMAC: She’s adorable! Does Amelia like fashion too?
CEW: She loves fashion! And now that she’s talking more than ever she is able to articulate her likes and dislikes. The best was when I took her thrifting with me recently, and this amazing rainbow sequined mini dress caught her eye from across the store–and her eyes got huge and she pointed at it, and that’s how I knew that I had my little shopper partner in crime.
LMAC: What is something you never leave home without?
CEW: My big cup of ice water and my phone!
LMAC: Name something really important to you.
CEW: Friends, family, and maintaining friendships from near and far. Especially my dear friends back in New York. And Pozzo, our 16 year old ginger cat who has been by my side since graduating from Pratt.
LMAC: What is a favorite memory or experience that you have had?
CEW: This is a difficult question for me to answer at this time. I’m also an open book, so I can tell you that this has been a rough year for me emotionally…. So a favorite memory or experience doesn’t pop in to my head immediately. I guess, my favorite recent memory has been opening up my boutique, The Lowry Estate, by myself with the support of my family and friends. I have to remind myself that this is a huge milestone, and pat myself on my back.
LMAC: When did you know you wanted to start your own business? What gave you the idea to open your shop?
CEW: I’ve always had access to an abundance of clothing from my mother, Corliss Sheffield Williams, and pieces from my Grandmother that we still have in our family collection. The same way that the three of us passed clothing amongst ourselves, I would also have clothing swaps in NYC. So after realizing I was a hoarder of amazing clothes, I decided to start my own business by sharing them with the world.
I initially started selling on etsy and the company at the time was “Glittermini”, but after realizing I wanted to have a real business, I did some self searching and thought deeply about what my collection really meant to me–my mother and grandmother, so “Lowry”, then morphed in to The Lowry Estate and I launched in Brooklyn NY in 2015. I was a regular vendor at the Brooklyn Flea and had a boutique in Bushwick. I relocated back home and then became a vendor at Eastern Market, opened my brick + mortar boutique in Farmington, Michigan, and voila! Here I am.
LMAC: What do you love most about it?
CEW: I get goosebumps whenever I make a client happy and see how much joy my pieces bring to them! There is a genuine love that comes out when someone buys something that makes them smile and feel confident. I just love making people happy know they will have a piece that they will take care of and have in their wardrobe for a long time.
LMAC: What is a challenge you’re facing right now?
CEW: Working alone. It’s only me–I need another assistant ASAP!
Another challenge–which has been an ongoing one- is having a beautiful space that no one knows about! I am located in a space, but it is not a storefront (this was also the case in Brooklyn) so the challenges are being creative in spreading the word when it’s not market season, to get people into my space. With that said, the successes that I have had have been connecting with people in a way that never happened in NYC. People really look out for you and want to help you here. The word-of-mouth and repeat customers have made me realize that as word spreads, Lowry will continue to grow.
LMAC: You recently moved back to Metro Detroit, Michigan from Brooklyn, New York. Are there any similarities or differences of the vibes of the two cities?
CEW: Big differences! When I was in NYC, I almost felt as if it was more of a “hobby”…. I kinda popped up at the Brooklyn Flea, and then I’d go to work (my background is in art direction). It wasn’t until I moved to Detroit, where I got introduced to the endless small-business classes, lectures, workshops, and opportunities that were not on my radar in NYC. I am a graduate of Retail Boot Camp and a fellow for a workshop at Creative Many. I learned a lot and fed off of the ambitious business owners. Everyone in Detroit works so hard and the ideas are so fresh…Everyone in New York also works extremely hard, night and day. So my work ethic helped me here.
The only thing I am not used to is the slower pace of Detroiters! :) I still kinda work in crazy fast NYC mode, so it’s been challenging reaching out to people here to make arrangements—where in NYC someone would reply to an email with a concrete answer within the hour, but here it can take days! But I also moved here for a slower pace of life… so I also have to remind myself I’m in a different city and I try to go with the flow and remain confident that things will get done when they are supposed to!
LMAC: What’s next?
CEW: It is my hope to expand The Lowry Estate and carry other vintage items (i.e. houseware, art books and zines, and other pieces from other designers. I kind of think of Lowry as a big fun mansion in my head that will continue to grow and expand and include fun artful things other than just clothes.
This summer at Eastern Market, we had the honor of collaborating with Suburban Discontent, which is a brand curated by Kristine Patnugot who has an amazing eye for housewares, jewelry, books, and she even finds awesome pieces to add to the Lowry racks from time to time.
LMAC: What advice would you give to others hoping to follow their dreams and passions?
CEW: You gotta keep doing it. There will be days where you’re like “WTF am I doing? Why am I putting all this time and energy in to this?!?!” And then there are days where that question gets completely canceled out by a connection that was made or a sign in the universe that reminds you that you’re doing the right thing and to keep going!
*Store photographs by Jacob Lewkow