La De Da, a Staple of Roanoke Fashion 3

Carole Hughes’ Store has Operated on the Same Street Corner for 23 Years

It’s just another afternoon at La De Da. Customers come and go in the 23-year-old store located on the Roanoke City Market, while owner Carole Hughes and her staff unpack new clothes and work to make the transition from summer to fall.

Carole opened the store—on the corner of Church Avenue and Market Street—in 1994 and bought out her two partners a year later. The store sells clothing, shoes, handbags, jewelry and accessories, home décor, candles, soaps and lamps.

“The business has changed a lot since I bought it,” Carole says, noting that the internet, China and smartphones have made it harder to maintain a unique look. “The competition is so fast.”

But Carole seems to have a knack for maintaining that look. She goes to shows for boutique shops, even sometimes going out of the country and bringing things back.

“I never know what will sell,” she says. “I just go with my instinct, with what catches my eye and how it feels. Touch is very important. You can’t get that from the internet.”

Carole has been in the business since she was 15, back when she wore preppy clothes, she says, laughing. She walked into a store that had the “most beautiful clothes” and got a job there without telling her parents. That was the end of her preppy look and the beginning of her career. She worked her way up the ladder from there.

“It helps to have done every job in the business. I know what works,” she says.

The Virginia native, who has lived in Lynchburg and Roanoke, actually studied accounting and has taken just two art classes. The rest, she says, “just comes out of my head.”

She’s still involved in all facets of La De Da. “I’m not sure about that blue scarf,” she tells one of her employees—she has six—working on a display. The young woman assures her she isn’t finished yet.

“It’s my baby, my business,” Carole explains.

Her goal is to “have merchandise no one else has; to be as different as you can be,” she says. “It’s fun to be so creative. We change things constantly.”

During our visit, she and her staff were putting up fall decorations.

“We’re having fun,” she says. “It’s always something different.”

Needless to say, Carole wears only clothes from La De Da. “I own nothing from anywhere else.”

The store offers all price points: “from $28 dresses to $328 dresses,” Carole says.

They maintain customer books that record all of a customer’s purchases, their likes, their needs. If something comes in that she thinks a customer will like, she’ll call them.

“We try to be wardrobe sellers,” she says. “When you come in, we try to match what you’ve bought in the past.”

Customer service is paramount for Carole and her staff.

“We take into account what works with a customer’s figure. We try to be honest,” she explains. “We don’t want someone going out of here looking bad. We care about our customers. They’re as good to us as we are to them.”

So what are La De Da’s customers seeing this fall? Carole says leggings are still popular, especially leggings that “do something different.” She says to look for leggings with lace or embroidery, or that are made of velour. Wide-leg pants are back as well as oversized sweaters.

“You almost need to dress in layers,” she says. “So many things are in, you don’t even know what’s in,” she says, laughing. But, she notes, “our look has stayed the same in the 23 years we’ve been open. Our consistency might be one of the keys to our success.”

La De Da has been on the same corner on the Roanoke City Market since it opened in 1994.

“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” Carole says.

Her windows are showstoppers. Several times a year in one of the windows they create a beautiful dress out of wire, cheese cloth and other mixed media. At Christmas, the dress is made of candy. This summer’s featured cloth butterflies. She said she used to do it herself, with help from her staff. But the butterfly dress was created solely by Robyn Gross and Rachel Morris, two of the women who work for her.

The windows are just part of the artsy, cool vibe that Carole likes about the Market. She says she sees symmetry in the shops, restaurants and art on the Market.

“We want to give back as much as we get,” she says. “We want to make Roanoke pretty and be a reason why people want to live here.”

La De Da is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit LaDeDa.net.