After soft-launching Sun and Stars Boutique on March 13, Caitlyn Cairme has already gone viral on Instagram. Her account has received an outpouring of support and excitement over her new NJ-based project, including a whopping 16.1K views on its very first post. Not only is that number remarkable, but Cairme herself is a standout as well. As a North Jersey native who’s just 23 years old, she’s become the founder and creative director of her own company, fulfilling a long-time dream of owning her own boutique. Her online shop officially launches on April 14, and it’s full of classic pieces with modern and edgy twists. Like many of those who have scrolled through the teasers on the Sun and Stars Boutique Instagram page, I was eager to find out more about this trendy brand, so I gave Cairme a call.
First off, when did your interest in fashion begin and how did you go about pursuing that passion?
I started being into fashion within middle school and high school at Randolph, NJ. They had a fashion program, which many high schools don’t have, and that’s really what helped cultivate my passion for fashion. I also took FIT classes in high school, they were pre-college courses on the weekends, so that also really helped me pursue a career within the fashion industry.
Then I went to Marist and I pursued a B.S. in fashion merchandising, with minors in international business and global studies. I cannot say enough great things about their fashion program. They had a lot of opportunities for you to build your resume, and I was able to do about six or seven internships within my four years there.
My niche that I really tried to stay in was luxury fashion. I interned at Sergio Rossi as a PR and wholesale intern and French Connection as the wholesale intern. Then was able to do my senior thesis by doing a couple shadows with a Marist alumni at Bergdorf Goodman. I did Milan Fashion Week with Francesca Liberatore, Market Week with Oscar de la Renta, and was also a wholesale intern with Belstaff. So I was able to do a lot of internships through Marist and I think that’s really what supported me getting a job at Louis Vuitton post-grad.
What made you want to start your own boutique? What can people expect to find at Sun and Stars?
So I think what customers can expect from the boutique is pieces that they’re not going to find at their local mall. That’s also why I really wanted to start my own boutique. At the mall, it’s sometimes really hard to find things if you have a last-minute party or event. Also, the styles aren’t really up to par. So I think starting a boutique was really desired by people because it’s hand-picked items, kind of like a curated closet with styles chosen by me, a buyer, and they’re pieces people can wear that they can’t just find anywhere else.
Can you tell me more about the range of products that Sun and Stars will carry?
Right now we have mostly clothes, that’s our main hub of products, but we’re also selling jewelry and accessories. That includes rings, earrings, necklaces, handbags, purses. That’s what we have in stock for right now but we definitely want to branch out into things we don’t have yet like different kinds of funky face masks.
Sun and Stars Boutique already has a clear message of inclusivity. Can you talk about why that’s important to you and how you’re embracing that message?
So, being a fashion major in school, I online-shopped a lot to go out on weekends with my friends. I always noticed that the women in the advertising for one of my favorite boutiques were always fair-skinned, blonde, skinny. There wasn’t really much diversity. And me being an average-sized Filipino, it was always a little weird because I was like, how am I going to know what this looks like on me? I want to buy this dress or this skirt and this is on a size zero model, it’s not gonna look like that on me. And then I would order it and it wouldn’t fit the way I wanted it to and I just felt like it was a waste.
When I started this boutique, I wanted to be very intentional with who I used as models—more average-sized, and all skin colors. For all my marketing and when our website launches on April 14, you’ll see that every single model on the website is different. We even put different models in the same piece.
What demographics did you have in mind when curating the pieces for your boutique?
The brand will probably be a little bit more attractive to a younger audience, around the ages of like 18 to late 20s, just because of certain styles. Keyhole cutouts around the chest area, the flair leggings with the wrap around the waist, those styles are definitely going to be more attractive to younger customers, but I don’t want that to discourage older consumers from shopping at the boutique as well. That’s why I purposely picked a matching sweat set, some loungewear, some more modest pieces to incorporate that demographic as well. So, yes, the cutouts and those styles are our cooler pieces that we’re promoting the most, but our boutique is definitely inclusive for all ages.
Do you have a favorite piece from your shop?
One of my favorite pieces is going to be called the Meli. It comes in white, black and topaz as of right now. That’s my favorite piece because it’s very versatile. You can either wear it going out with your friends or you can wear it to a family barbecue. It’s a silhouette meant to be worn off the shoulder or on the shoulder. It’s a nice short sleeve blouse that you can dress up or down, and I think that’s why it’s one of my favorite pieces because I feel like it’s a staple that should be in everyone’s closet.
Can you tell me more about the hidden symbolism within Sun and Stars Boutique?
There are a few reasons I decided on “Sun and Stars” for my boutique. Ever since I was a little girl my grandma has called me “Sunshine Mae” and throughout my life, my mom always told me to reach for the stars. I also wanted the name to embody how customers feel when they wear our pieces. The sun and stars light up the sky for the entire planet, and I wanted our customers to feel confident like they could light up an entire room.
I am also extremely proud of my Filipino heritage. With my extreme pride in the Philippines and the underrepresentation of AAPI in the fashion industry, I knew that I wanted to pay homage to the name of my boutique. The Filipino flag has a sun and three stars on it, and the logo we designed for the Sun and Stars Boutique logo has those features as well. Similar to our boutique’s traditional pieces with a modern take—our logo was sort of like a modern take of the Filipino flag’s traditional design.
You’ve been able to start your own business at such a young age, can you talk about how you made that happen?
I always knew that I wanted to start working within the fashion industry, either within buying or wholesale and then, with that experience, eventually open my own boutique. But I always thought I would do this in my late 30s or 40s. Once the pandemic hit I was thinking about it and I was like, why not just do it now? When you’re in your 30s and 40s you’re probably going to have kids, a family, you’re going to have to split your time and money. I had all the time in the world at that point in my life, so I decided to go for it.
Do you have any advice for Gen Zers or young people out there who also want to start their own business?
I would say never think that you’re too young. That was my first thing when starting this boutique. I always thought, I’ll do this when I’m older, but you know, there’s no better time than now. I think this is the best time for us to actually start our own businesses because we have the most energy, we have the most time, we have the most dedication. So never think that starting your own business at a young age is impossible. Anything’s possible as long as you’re willing to work hard.
Do you have any future plans for Sun and Stars Boutique?
So of course our launch is April 14, but within mid-June we hope to do our second drop, which will be all new products and all new clothing so definitely stay tuned for that. And throughout the next few months we’ll drop new products, maybe one or two a week. But the next major drop will be within June.
Another thing we’re looking at that we want to do in the future is being a small business that supports other small businesses. One of the benefits of having a boutique versus a brand is that it’s like a personalized shop or curated closet, it’s a collection of pieces. So my end goal is to eventually incorporate other small businesses within my online boutique and into that collection.
Make sure to mark your calendars for Sun and Star Boutique’s April 14 launch date. Keep up to date by following their Instagram page @sunandstars_boutique.
Main image courtesy of Caitlyn Cairme