Is Walmart Penny Chic?

Strange and wonderful things happen in the blog-o-sphere everyday and more often than you would expect Private Brands are involved whether it is a mommy blogger reviewing a Private Brand product or a Midwestern foodie posting a recipe made entirely from Private Brand products – Private Brands seem to everywhere. Still the blog “Penny Chic” has surprised me the most, it is a fashion blog devoted to a noble experiment:

The Experiment:
To style “chic” looks using clothing from Walmart, the most widely used and notoriously “un-chic” discount department store in America.
The Story:
138 Million people shop at Walmart every week and I was never one of them (until now).

I’m from LA, moved to NYC for college, worked at a fashion house in Paris and have written, assisted and labored in the fashion world enough to know my place is better off here in the blogosphere.

Do I prefer Wal-Mart to Neimen Marcus? Of course not (SEE: Marchesa’s Spring 2011 Collection. Life. Changing.)…. but looking stylish and effortless is not hard when you’re wearing a $5,000 outfit. What’s more intriguing to me is the challenge of looking chic at a time when this season’s must-have Little Black Dress is no longer an option.

And that’s when I came up with the idea to put America’s cheapest discount department store on a fashion pedestal and ditch the skinny models for me and my friends.

Welcome to a movement I like to call Penny Chic.


Shauna Miller

Ms. Miller’s posts often feature a Walmart Private or exclusive brand including, George, White Stag, Miss Tina (Beyonce’s Mom), Faded Glory, MileyCyrus/Max Azria and Norma Kamli. More surprising is the reaction from the fashion press who has been complimentary of Ms Miller’s work if not of Walmart.

Press coverage has included: Glamour, The Huffington Post, Jezebel and InStyle just to name a few.

Glamour magazine’s daily style blog, “Slaves to Fashion” interviewed Ms. Miller asking her,

Where did you get the idea to start Penny Chic? Were you already a Walmart shopper?
SM: I came up with the concept behind PENNY CHIC before I even stepped foot in a Walmart, if you can believe that. After I graduated NYU in 2008, I applied to maybe 100 positions in editorial fashion and couldn’t get a job anywhere. Fed up with that world, I decided I wanted to start something on my own that hadn’t been done before. I knew that styling was my calling, but I wanted a challenge. The idea of dressing women with a budget of $10K was no longer interesting to me. The real challenge is dressing someone head-to-toe with a budget of $50 and making it look chic. I love stylists like Rachel Zoe, but she’s a stylist for the rich and famous. My dream was to become a stylist for the people. The blog seemed like the perfect platform to play out this new movement in fashion. Blogging is not pretentious, it’s free, it’s interactive and very of the moment. I started doing some research on the most widely used and notoriously un-chic retailer in America, Walmart. 138 Million people shop at Wal-Mart every week and no one in fashion was talking about it. Millions of women shop at Wal-Mart out of necessity, because it’s the lowest cost provider, but it was time someone made them feel good about it.

This kind of coverage can only help to grow Walmarts Private Brands.

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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.