The perfect fit: Harper James, a women’s clothing store, opens in Easthampton

Clothes at the new shop opened by Kayla Diggins in Easthampton called  Harper James, which offers a range of moderately priced women’s clothing — skirts and dresses, sweaters, blazers, tops and jeans — in neutral and cool tones.

Clothes at the new shop opened by Kayla Diggins in Easthampton called Harper James, which offers a range of moderately priced women’s clothing — skirts and dresses, sweaters, blazers, tops and jeans — in neutral and cool tones. STAFF PHOTOS/CAROL LOLLIS

Kayla Diggins in her new shop, Harper James, on Cottage Street in Easthampton.

Kayla Diggins in her new shop, Harper James, on Cottage Street in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Harper James recently opened on Cottage Street in Easthampton.

Harper James recently opened on Cottage Street in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Clothes at the new shop opened by Kayla Diggins in Easthampton called  Harper James.

Clothes at the new shop opened by Kayla Diggins in Easthampton called Harper James. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Kayla Diggins in her new shop, Harper James, in Easthampton.

Kayla Diggins in her new shop, Harper James, in Easthampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS—

Clothes at the new shop opened by Kayla Diggins in Easthampton called  Harper James.

Clothes at the new shop opened by Kayla Diggins in Easthampton called Harper James. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

By JAMES PENTLAND

Staff Writer

Published: 03-20-2024 4:03 PM

Modified: 03-20-2024 5:14 PM


EASTHAMPTON — Navigating her 20s as a student, store employee and in wholesale manufacturing, Kayla Diggins sometimes felt she was lagging behind her peers making strides with career and family.

Now, with the opening of her own store on Cottage Street, she’s exactly where she wants to be.

“I’ve never been prouder or happier,” she said recently inside her airy boutique, Harper James.

Easthampton was the first-choice store location for Diggins, 31, a Westhampton native.

After graduating in fashion merchandising from Lasell University, she worked for a time at 25 Central in Thornes Marketplace in Northampton before branching out as an independent contractor representing several clothing and jewelry designers.

All the time, she realizes now, she was learning things she needed to know.

She began Harper James online two years ago, and through pop-ups at area wineries and vendor fairs, she discovered that people wanted to know if she had a store.

She got her foot in the door at 106 Cottage St. last summer when Kim Downey, owner of the Olivia Pearl interiors store that formerly occupied the space, invited her to display and sell some of her clothing there.

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“That was a huge help,” she said. “It gave me a taste of what having a storefront would be like.”

As Downey exited the store, Diggins took it over.

“It was a seamless transition,” she said.

With a paint job and a few new fixtures — her dad built the checkout desk — the space became hers on Feb. 1.

Harper James offers a range of moderately priced women’s clothing — skirts and dresses, sweaters, blazers, tops and jeans — in neutral and cool tones.

Quality is important, she said; she wants “things that last forever.”

None of her clothing is too fancy, she said, but it still works for dressing up.

“You could make a whole outfit if you want,” she said.

Additionally, the store carries accessories such as jewelry, purses, perfume and a few shoes and hats.

Diggins makes it a point to acquire these from small businesses, mostly in the United States.

Jewelry, for example, she buys from Teal Market in Arizona.

“She reached out to me when I started,” Diggins said. “It’s really about building these relationships and helping each other out.”

The store had its grand opening earlier this month, and the crowd exceeded her expectations.

“The community has been so supportive,” she said. “Everyone seems excited to have a new clothing store.”

Harper James — the name has personal significance for Diggins and she felt it fit perfectly — also offers online shopping at harperjamesclothing.com, now with the option of in-store pickup.

For now, Diggins is doing everything herself.

“There are so many different jobs (involved in running the business),” she said. “I don’t have the means to hire anyone.”

The store is open noon to 5, Thursday, Friday and Sunday, and 11 to 5 on Saturdays.

“I want to be here for years,” Diggins said. “If it’s a slow journey, that’s fine, as long as I’m heading in the right direction.”