At two El Paseo storefronts, Summer Colony Living owner Debra Carrington uplifts emerging designers while offering customers a unique shopping experience.
Story by Emily Chavous Foster
Photography courtesy of Summer Colony Living
“I’m inspired by nature, and I love resort living,” says Debra Carrington, owner of the lifestyle boutique Summer Colony Living, which has two storefronts on El Paseo in Palm Desert. Carrington is equally passionate about providing a platform for artful design — be it fashion or homewares — and fostering the up-and-coming talents responsible for said creations. That’s why entering her world feels akin to walking into a gallery.
Summer Colony Living started as a pop-up shop on El Paseo in 2017. The Indiana native opened her flagship store along the street in March 2018, and in 2019, she opened a second (more intimate) storefront a few blocks away at The Gardens on El Paseo.
We chatted with Carrington recently to find out more about the offerings at Summer Colony Living, which include custom couture and bridal, and to hear more about life along the quintessential “summer colony” street of El Paseo.
How do you describe the “summer colony” way of life?
It’s laid-back, casual, and sophisticated. The name Summer Colony represents enclaves where people go to vacation, or they live there — resort communities around the country. It could be Palm Springs or Laguna Beach or the Hamptons. All those places are summer colonies.
You’ve developed a reputation for curating unique pieces by emerging designers. What led you down this path?
That’s really what I’m passionate about. It comes from when I was in corporate America [managing diversity-based licensing programs for major companies like Paramount Pictures and Sony] and really being dictated in terms of what could go in stores and being limited by space.
Typically [emerging designers] have the range to be more creative. It’s like going into an art gallery and finding an artist that hasn’t yet been discovered. That’s my mindset. I love finding these diamonds in the rough before they are nationally known. And my goal is to help promote them and make them known. Give them a platform.
In addition to the apparel that’s hanging in store, you also collaborate with local fashion designers to create one-of-a-kind pieces for patrons. What is that process like?
A lot of our business is custom couture. If you can’t find it, we can create it. We have relationships with our designers — they’re in house, if you will. Depending on what the customer wants, we point them to our slate of designers. We’ll schedule an appointment, and we sit down with the customer and talk about where their goals and objectives are, what they’re looking for. Then we sketch a design that they agree upon. We go to fabric selection and, depending on the garment, there are a variety of fittings.
What excites you most about your business right now?
I’m really excited about our wedding business. A lot of folks weren’t able to get married due to the pandemic. So, it’s exciting to see people having weddings and ceremonies again. I like to help these brides — and mothers of the bride and groom — realize that what they can’t find out there [is available here] at Summer Colony Living.
The one thing that we pride ourself in is being unique, so one common comment from our customers across all categories is that they come to Summer Colony to find things that they can’t find any place else. They come to Summer Colony for the uniqueness.
Which styles and products are you gravitating toward this summer season?
Well, because it’s so hot, it’s dresses. I like a basic sheath dress with a beautiful handbag and beautiful earrings, because I think accessories really make an outfit. We have great caftans and dresses for summer. We tend to offer more neutrals because I’m a strong believer in accessorizing.
We have these handbags with a secret compartment at the bottom, where you can put your keys or your sunglasses. They’re beautifully handmade with Italian leather, exclusively for our store.
What do you love most about the vibe on El Paseo? Any favorite hangout spots?
People that come here from all over the world. The nature. The mountains are just so magical. And it’s such a relaxing yet sophisticated environment. It's peaceful.
I try to recycle the dollars on the street. I believe in that. So I’ll go have a bite at The Daily Grill or I’ll go to Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza at The Gardens. They have the best chili, so when it’s cold, that’s kind of my go-to place. I go to il Corso, and Mitch’s is one of my favorites [for] sushi.
Finally, what’s next on the horizon for Summer Colony Living?
We’re looking forward to next season. We’re going to bring in some really cool brands.
We’re elevating our game … stay tuned.