Photographs by Sarah Jordan McCaffery
Born in the Dominican Republic, fashion aficionado Luis Nunez moved from that complex and beautiful Caribbean isle to the States seven years ago and settled in Haverhill, Massachusetts, before taking off again for New York City to attend fashion school. Afterward, he quickly began sharpening his sartorial skills under esteemed stylist Beagy Zielinski, putting looks together for big-name clients and magazines. “Styling had always been my dream,” he says. “I had an absolute blast. It wasn’t easy—I was running all over the place, picking out clothes, juggling a million tasks, and doing hard work. But I also found my calling. By the time it was over, I knew I was hooked, it was so rewarding.”
But where to go following such a heightened experience? What—or where—could possibly top that?
Nunez knew the answer: Andover.
“I wanted, first and foremost, to be in a beautiful community near a city I love like Boston,” he recalls. “And I wanted to be in a community full of women who have spirit and like to dress up.” All of which led him to open his brand-new boutique, La Mia Moda, in downtown Andover.
“It seemed like the perfect place to bring a slice of SoHo,” he explains. “My styling experience has always focused on discovering and offering unique pieces—things you can’t just find everywhere. When I select my pieces for the store, I do always go a little bit edgy, but also a bit conservative, too. I love that combination. I figure: Why not bring something elegant to town? They’re ready for it.”
He supports that vision with seasonal stock that’s fashion-forward but realistic (in design and price point). Against the store’s industrial-chic brick wall and exposed pipes are streamlined dresses by Zac Posen sharing rack space with blousy feminine cuts by Rebecca Taylor and cool-but-wearable numbers by Pink Tartan. One dress, in particular, by Rachel Zoe—a jet-black frock with dainty pearls along the neckline—currently has Nunez chomping at the bit to see customers donning it for the season’s holiday parties.
He acknowledges that striking the balance between cutting-edge and classic can be a tough craft, and even tougher to achieve as an art form. Describing how hedresses himself, for example: “I can be really preppy one day, and very urban or daring the next. Or both in one outfit. I think on more of an international level. For myself, I definitely dress more European. I love skinny pants, and very tailored pieces. I love easy pieces of pretty much any color palette.” Is there one unifying influence? Yes, he says. But what he describes sounds less like inspiration and more like a mission statement: “I go for quality in my buys first, every time,” he says. “That’s what I do for myself and my client.”
That can be a challenging goal if you don’t know precisely where your client’s goal line is located. Nunez works to find it by listening to clients and absorbing what they share. He also gauges what will be most flattering and makes selections for them. “I always listen first when styling someone,” he says. “How do they live? What do they feel most comfortable in? I have to pay attention to what they’re wearing when we meet, how they move in it, and what they gravitate toward. I have to understand their body and what will look great on them. And most of all I have to put my ego aside and let the customer lead me instead of trying to lead them.”
And where does that leading take him? That all depends on the person, insists Nunez. And the very name of his boutique may be the biggest indicator of all. “In Italian, la mia moda means ‘my own fashion,’” he says, with the kind of sly, small chuckle some people emit when they’re discussing something they truly care about. “It’s a way of describing individual style,” he says. That’s clearly something Nunez is heartily in favor of. “I want people to express who they are every day with what they wear. It’s a badge of honor.”