Carla Saunders may describe herself as shy, but her clothing and accessory line, Love Cili, is anything but. Distinctive colors, cuts and materials are used to create eye-catching patterns made to turn heads.
"I love making show-stopping items," said Saunders recently.
Now, after 14 years growing her Love Cili brand in Philadelphia, Saunders has brought her sense of style to Rehoboth with a new women's boutique. The boutique celebrated its grand opening June 15.
Located in Unit D of The Shops at 33 Baltimore Ave., Saunders said she makes custom clothing, handbags, jewelry and other accessories that aren't going to be found anywhere else. She said she's big on leathers and furs. "I like to create by observing people, colors and patterns," she said. "I'm like an artist who makes abstract art. I get inspired by beautiful things."
Saunders said she, her husband and daughter moved from Philadelphia to Delaware after her husband received a promotion from his job that he couldn't refuse. She said she chose Rehoboth to open her store because she thought the town was missing a boutique with the ability to make custom women's clothing.
Saunders started Love Cili in 2004 after working at Nordstrom for a number of years in sales. She said she would wear her jewelry to work and people would ask her where she got it. "I couldn't afford $1,800 for a necklace, but I could afford to buy the supplies and make it myself for much less," she said.
Saunders said she grew up around family members creating clothing with their hands. She said her grandmother used to sew clothing for her 11 children based on designs she'd see in department stores, but couldn't afford. She said she learned to crochet from her aunt. In the years since those humble beginnings, Saunders said her stylings have graced the runways of fashion weeks in Philadelphia, New York and Los Angeles.
In addition to creating new designs from new fabric, leathers and furs, Saunders said she is a proud repurposer. "I'll recycle leather by cleaning it up and hand-painting something on it," she said. "I can take that old, outdated jacket and make it look like new."
Saunders recognizes some of her Love Cili designs may be a bit much for some people, but she said she likes working with customers to create clothing that appeals to specific tastes. "You might not think Love Cili is for you, but I like working with customers to make something that fits their fashion sense," she said.
The boutique also features a line of tie-dye clothing created by Saunders' teenage daughter, Treasur Lee. It's something she wanted to do, and it's fun clothing for girls her age, said Saunders of her daughter's offerings.
Saunders said she's still working on a website – www.lovecili.com – but for now she has an internet presence on Facebook and Instagram. Love Cili is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week. For more information, call 302-278-7825 or 215-429-1390.