Photo by Anna Gunselman

Style + Society

The Woman Who Dresses Society

Since opening her eponymous specialty store in 1975, Marissa Hartington has been the main style resource for Southwest Florida's chicest ladies. In a conversation with longtime client and girl-about-town Jennifer Parisi, the founder of Marissa Collections opens up about her outsized, fashionable life.

“Marissa Hartington has forever influenced how local women adorn themselves. She’s revolutionized fashion in the area with a savviness that transcends the signature pink walls of Marissa Collections. My first real encounter with Marissa was 11 years ago when I signed up to co-chair my first philanthropic, black-tie event in Naples and went to the store for guidance on wardrobe. I was standing there in the ivory taffeta ball gown we’d just selected, surrounded by her smiling staff. My look was still missing an elemental piece: jewelry. 

 Marissa entered the room, studied me, and asked a member of her team to retrieve a particular necklace. As quickly as she placed it around my neck, she removed it, stating, ‘That’s not it, it’s too much.’ She dismantled the necklace, taking the large turquoise gemstone off the chain, and asked a staff member to retrieve something that ‘looks like golden leather shoelaces’ from the stockroom. I looked at Marissa with bewilderment, as she confidently beamed at me. 

The associate returned. Marissa took the chord and threaded the stone through, wrapped it around my neck twice, and tied into a tiny bow on the side. ‘That’s it right there—there you go,’ she announced and then promptly left. I stood in front of the mirror, perplexed and laughing. She took a risk—as Marissa usually does—and it was perfection. More than a decade later, my ‘custom’ necklace is still one of my most cherished pieces. It’s her ingenuity and confidence that inspires clients’ trust. 

When she first opened the boutique, and for years, she was the only game in town. Now, we may have other incredible shops to pull from when dressing for special occasions, but her store remains at the top. Recently, when I sat down with Marissa to talk about her trajectory, I shared the story about the necklace. Not only did she recall the exact moment, she thanked me, teary-eyed, saying: ‘Those are the things I want people to remember … Forty five years later, I still feel the same way I did when I started.’ The many anecdotes like mine—and there are many—motivate her to keep working and innovating. As we talked, I learned that it’s not just her boundless creativity or even the beautiful clothes that drive the Marissa brand, but the heart of the woman behind it.”
—Jennifer Parisi

>> Read the Q+A between Jennifer and Marissa in our January issue,

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Photo by Anna Gunselman