News & Politics

The Insider: Meredith Barnett and Cristina Miller

Grade school pals go from Beauvoir to boutiques.

Meredith Barnett and Cristina Miller, friends since elementary school, are now business partners. This spring, Miller served as maid of honor at the wedding of Barnett, daughter of superlawyer Bob Barnett and CBS’s Rita Braver. In February, the duo—who lived together in New York while working in consulting and publishing and later attended Harvard Business School at the same time—launched an online venture,, that reviews and recommends fashion boutiques.Barnett: I started at Beauvoir in nursery school, and Cristina came in first grade. We always joke that everything that’s wrong with Cristina is because she skipped kindergarten. We’ve had a lot of adventures ever since.

Miller: After attending National Cathedral School together and going to separate colleges, we decided to live together in New York. Meredith worked as an editor at Condé Nast for Lucky magazine, and I did consulting until I left for business school in 2004.

Barnett: I was lonely in New York without Cristina, so I followed her to HBS the next year, where I started thinking about We had both been traveling a lot or even just going to new neighborhoods in our own cities and thinking, “I know there are cool, off-the-beaten-path stores here, but I don’t know where they are. And if I’m an editor at a shopping magazine and I don’t know where they are, other people must be having the same problem.”

Miller: Since I was chained to my desk as a consultant, I did a lot of my shopping online. Of course I knew about all of the heavy online shopping hitters, but it was hard to find the interesting, under-the-radar stores, of which there are more and more launching every day. If you Google “great boutiques” or “cool jewelry,” you definitely don’t get the kind of search results I was looking for.

Barnett: So many places out there are focused on products. It’s always “the top ten things you must buy this season” to be cool, thin, or pretty and to have your boyfriend love you.

Miller: But as soon as you buy it, it’s something else. We thought people were looking for a resource that points them to the places to go. That’s what does. Women love the experiences of shopping.

Miller: Meredith wrote a business plan in 2006 and showed it to me, and I thought it was a great idea. We talked about what fun it would be to work on together and decided to take the plunge. By last fall, we were both working full-time on the site.

Barnett: We describe it as an online guide to the best boutiques around the country and online. One of the most popular features is that people can make personalized shopping maps—or they can print ones that we’ve premade for them. We also offer exclusive discounts at our featured boutiques—many in the DC area—which has been a hit as well.

Barnett: A good boutique has a sense of treasure, that you discovered something that you want to share with your friends.

Miller: A lot of boutiques just carry what everyone else carries. Then everyone has one. It’s kind of boring.

DC has come a long way since we grew up, shopping-wise. In DC there’s a spectrum of fashion, and people won’t go outside it.

Barnett: In New York, preppy comes with irony; in Washington, it’s more earnest. We love Wink in Georgetown. Cristina was there and was trying on everything. We’re all really into the summer-scarf trend. I just bought Cristina one, the light-cotton scarf worn around your neck.

Miller: Bows are a big trend, too. I like oversize bows on bags.

Barnett: I’m very ready for pants to come back. I love dresses, but I think pants will come back more loosely and more flowing.

I love gladiator shoes. I like the style as heels, not flats. I especially like wedges because you can get the height without killing your feet.

Miller: My to-do list keeps me up at night. The hardest part of launching has been figuring out how to keep people motivated. You can’t just hire people and expect them to go, go, go. Luckily, we’ve been able to build a great team so far.

Barnett: We’re there until 11 o’clock most nights; my husband always teases me because I’m texting with Cristina from bed.

For a list of Store Adore’s favorite Washington boutiques, click here.

This article appears in the July 2008 issue of Washingtonian. To see more articles in this issue, click here.

More>> Capital Comment Blog | News & Politics | Society Photos