When Brian Bolke, Bill Mackin, and Shelly Musselman opened a store in April 2000, you could have been forgiven for thinking it wouldn’t last long. A florist, an ex-Neiman’s guy, and a former model do an expensive boutique selling everything from dog beds to designer gowns on a pass-through stretch of McKinney Avenue? To make matters worse, they opened just weeks before the dot-com bubble burst and stocks went tumbling. Ten years into the experiment, though, it’s hard to overstate the impact Forty Five Ten has had on high-end Dallas fashion.
Some things have changed. Mackin returned to Neiman’s (he’s now the divisional merchandise manager of the home and epicure department). Musselman, an oilman’s wife, ran women’s clothing as a leased department before making it a true part of the store. They opened a chic cafe, the T Room. But the 8,000-square-foot boutique—selling men’s and women’s fashion, jewelry, home accessories, and apothecary—has remained an expression of its owners’ individual tastes. Vogue put it this way: “The store has always brilliantly walked the line between a Texan’s innate love of glamour and glitz and a kind of darkly rich Euro idea of dressing up.”
The pulchritudinous pair, Bolke and Musselman, both Geminis, counterbalance each other. Bolke leans toward a cleaner, more conservative style, favoring designers like Narciso Rodriguez. He creates the elegant, ever-evolving look of the store. “It’s never the same store twice, even if it’s the same merchandise,” Musselman says. The leggy and painfully chic ex-model’s obsession with fashion leads them to stock the riskier pieces—e.g., electric blue Viktor & Rolf patent leather boots. “We were the only store in the country to buy them,” Bolke says. “No one bought them in the store but Shelly. She wore them the next season in Paris, and people just died—maybe laughing, I don’t know. The funny thing is, Shelly can mostly be found wearing neutral-colored Rick Owens head to toe, and I’ll be the one in a plaid Moschino sport coat.” Their sensibility (and sense of humor), combined with strong relationships with vendors and a knack for knowing what’s next, set the boutique apart. Not to mention that signature scent (Bolke says it’s “50 scents of Diptyque candles all mixed up together, with a hint of panini”) that lingers on you and your purchase when you leave the store.
Bolke and Musselman invest in local talent such as Jan Barboglio (they carry the largest selection in the county), Elizabeth Showers, Larry Whitely, Sue Gragg, and Susan Posnick. “There is a trust between us and the clientele,” Bolke says. “They rely on us to bring them the best of the best.” He and Musselman travel to New York, Milan, and Paris at least twice a year and have introduced lines such as Derek Lam, Kimberly McDonald, Proenza Schouler, Rick Owens, and Waylande Gregory to Dallas. “Seeing the true art of fashion and objects up close, and being able to bring it home to Dallas and have it embraced by the people here—we love that our customers get it,” Bolke says.
Currently they have their eye on rising talents such as Christian Siriano, Matthew Ames, Sophie Theallet, and Christian Cota. Musselman says, “My favorite thing is the time I get to spend in the fitting room with women, helping them find something extraordinary for the important events in their lives or simply a sweater they love so much that they wear it to death. I love helping sweet but clueless men find a gift that their wives actually treasure.”
This month, the two owners have planned a party—with help from some friends—to celebrate Forty Five Ten’s anniversary. Jan Barboglio, Maison Martin Margiela, Doo.Ri Chung, Kimberly McDonald, Narciso Rodriguez, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler, and Yigal Azrouël, among other designers, have created exclusive items for the store. Only one, four, five, or 10 of each commemorative item will be made. “The first 10 people we asked said yes. We were blown away,” says Bolke. The designers will all attend what’s sure to be a memorable affair on April 5 (4/5/10), complete with 2000 Dom Perignon to toast. All profits from the sale will be donated to Two by Two for AIDS and Art, benefiting amfAR and the Dallas Museum of Art.
As for the future? “We have a lot of exciting opportunities” is all they’ll say, but look for Balenciaga, L’Wren Scott, Victoria Beckham, and men’s Balmain and YSL to be added to the mix come fall.
Items created for the anniversary include:
10 dip-dyed cotton shirts by Band of Outsiders ($250), one Proenza Schouler turquoise alligator clutch ($7,985), five Doo.Ri chain-on-tulle necklaces ($645), 10 pairs of Narciso Rodriguez runway shoes ($795), four signature Koi Nanda tops in nude chiffon with black embroidery ($630), 10 Yigal Azrouël patterned scarves ($350), five Kimberly McDonald evil-eye bracelets with geodes ($995-$9,995), one Jan Barboglio nickel-plated champagne bucket ($1,995), four sets of 10 Diptyque candles ($695), and 10 Maison Martin Margiela pieces from the Artisanal Haute Couture archives (price varies).
The store opens in April. Oprah Winfrey visits the shop in December.
Gwyneth Paltrow gets stuck in Dallas when flights are canceled after 9/11 and shops at the store.
For spring, the store takes a risk in buying special pieces. The store hosts Narciso Rodriguez in October at an event at the Beck House.
Forty Five Ten creates first “First Look” event for Two by Two for AIDS and Art with special guests Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez in October.
In December Angie Harmon serves as honorary chair of the first December Decadence with Cameron Silver of Decades.
Droese Raney Architecture remodels the store in July. The store does an advertising campaign with Erin Wasson.
In April, the Art Ball patron party featuring Alberta Ferretti has its first fashion show in the Barrel Vault of the DMA.
Lucky names Forty Five Ten one of top 10 stores in the country in November. December Decadence with Willa Ford and Cameron Silver.
Ashley Olsen visits the store in February for The Row trunk show.
December Decadence with Jan Showers and Cameron Silver.
Forty Five Ten celebrates 10 years in April.