Meet the Designer: California’s Ali Golden

Fashion design for Oakland-based designer Ali Golden has always been about the process of actually making clothes. Trained in graphic design and fine arts, her first garments were constructed and sewn in her spare time, as a hobby. But in 2011, she discovered that what she loved doing for fun could actually be a career. Today Ali runs her own fashion line alongside two eponymous boutiques stocked with her own designs alongside like-minded brands like First Rite, Creatures of Comfort, Ilana Kohn and Dusen Dusen, one in Oakland and another in Los Angeles that just opened its doors on Sunset Boulevard. It’s easy to see how the California native’s approach to design leads in to the clothes themselves. Her easy dresses and separates are cut to fit everybody and every lifestyle.

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YOU STARTED OFF YOUR CAREER IN GRAPHIC DESIGN. HOW DID YOU END UP RUNNING YOUR OWN FASHION LINE? I got really sick of sitting in front of the computer all day and I wanted to spend my time moving around and making something that was tangible. As I started making clothing for fun, I realized how difficult it was. The idea of “fast fashion” and the extremely low value we attribute to clothing really pissed me off. I thought I would like to start a line that celebrated the craft of making a garment (and was also capable of functioning in the global economy) and it helped that I really loved pattern-making and sewing.

New Classics Studios founder Alyssa Lau on all her favorite things

When we first met Alyssa Lau she was splitting her time between a biochemistry lab and an addictive style blog called Ordinary People. Today, the Edmonton-based creative director continues to rule the web and is now at the helm of a fast-growing online boutique dedicated to sustainable style, stocking sought-after labels like Kowtow, Shaina Mote, Samuji and more. Earlier this year we chatted about what it means to #wearthechange (make sure you read that here), so, in preparation for Fall, this time we’re talking Netflix binges, winning outfits and playlists.

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DUO NYC Shares Their Tips For Shopping Vintage Like A Pro

The sister duo behind East Village boutique DUO NYC have been cultivating their aesthetic since childhood. “We grew up in the wide open spaces of Northern Minnesota and, when we were young, we wore old hunting and outdoor clothing (old canvas jackets, quilted coats, broken-in Levis, heavy-knit sweaters),” Wendy and LaRae Kangas recall. Today they bring that love for practical, lasting style to DUO NYC. They opened the boutique together in 2008 to showcase cool indie designers they love alongside a vintage edit. “We stock pieces that get better with wear. We handpick our vintage collection and it’s fun to see our clients choose pieces for themselves that fit perfectly like they’re custom made for them.” 

We can’t get enough of their handpicked edit so we had to quiz the sister duo on all their secrets. Here, Wendy and LaRae share a few vintage shopping tips, their best vintage scores and a mutual love for ’90s music and lip balm.

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Meet the Boutique: Parallel

Have you ever had that moment when you walk into a boutique, chat with the owner or the girl or guy behind the cash desk, and think, “We are going to be best friends”? Shopping kismet is a phenomenon where you discover your style soulmate at a boutique and realize their racks and shelves are basically your dream closet and you’re never leaving. We’re willing to bet this happens over and over for the bubbly, wonderfully sweet and hardworking Tez Hartney at her Portland boutique, Parallel. Visiting her shop is a lot like shopping with a best friend and finding out their closet is full of Rag & Bone, Loeffler Randall and a whole lot more. Here, we quiz her on multitasking as a business owner and the designers she can’t wait to get in for fall.

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Meet the Boutique: San Francisco’s Conifer

Based on the scenic coast of California, Amy Mautz brings a literal lifetime of retail experience to her boutique Conifer. She grew up at tradeshows and went on to work with New York’s Built by Wendy before opening her own shop back home on the west coast in 2010. Now focusing full time on her online store, it seems Amy has that work-life balance thing down. Add to that her amazing eye for creative designers like Uzi, Ace & Jig and Lauren Manoogian. So of course we had to ask for all her secrets.

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YOU’VE ALWAYS BEEN IN RETAIL. TELL US ABOUT THAT. I worked as a disgruntled teen at my mom’s store, The Arrangement, in Portland, OR. She has been in business for 35 years! I grew up going to the gift shows in San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles, so I have known the process of owning a store since I was young. I sewed in high school, went to school for interior design, then went back to pattern-making school in San Francisco, and then went off to New York. In New York, I worked for Built by Wendy in her stores and as her Sales Director. I moved back to San Francisco in 2008 to open her 4th store. After it closed, I freelanced for a bit and then spotted an available space in Mill Valley, CA. I ended up opening Conifer in San Francisco instead and was open for four years. We closed the brick and mortar in 2014 and shifted our focus to our online store. I have always loved design, clothing, vintage, textiles, interior design, and supporting independent emerging designers. I’m drawn to creative people, what they make, and their processes.

 

Finch’s Sophie Rees on Norwich, British style and Chloe Sevigny

Sometimes when you know, you just know. That’s how Sophie Rees, a self-professed control freak and former stylist, landed back home in Norwich with a boutique to call her own and a shop dog named Mouse. The riverside town a couple hours outside of London isn’t exactly renowned globally for its fashion scene, but with her minimalist aesthetic and love of bold moves, Sophie is just the woman to put it on the map. Here, she tells us more about the hometown that called her back, why the weather has everything to do with British style and spills on all of her favorite things.

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WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND IN RETAIL? Funnily enough, my retail experience is minimal! Where my experience lies though is much more in the creative side of the industry, specifically styling. I started working in fashion in London about 6 years ago, started off interning, then assisting Fashion Editors and stylists… eventually freelancing on my own projects for brands and publications. People find it funny when they learn how little experience I have working in a shop, I think it’s an interesting change. My skills lie in composing looks and an aesthetic, which you can’t teach, but should be at the core of a good store. Hopefully it sets us apart from the competition. I notice a difference in our creative output because of how OCD I am about our aesthetic and branding!

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT OWNING A BOUTIQUE? I love the freedom I have over every decision, especially as I’m such a control freak… it drives my assistant mad! Also, I love all the inspiring people I get to meet and work with through the business. The sky really is the limit and once you realize that you really start to look at every small opportunity in a completely refreshing way.

Meet the Boutique: Portland’s House of Commons

Originally from Bloomington, IN, Delia Tethong has lived in some amazing places: London, Thailand, Los Angeles, and now Portland. Her world travels have racked up on her resume too, with jobs in galleries, founding an online publication and more. Lucky for us, she’s decided to put down some roots and live out her dream of owning a boutique. Just like Delia’s lifestyle, House of Commons is always on the move. With pieces from designers like 7115 by Szeki, Objects Without Meaning and Morgan Carper, she stocks up the boutique with serious style and also uses the space to show off the city’s amazing local artists with a rotating schedule. We caught up with her to find out about her approach to curation, the boutique’s rad playlist and more of her favorite things.

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Meet the Boutique: Condor

Loriann Smoak has been putting her passport to work. Originally from Carmel, California, she moved around the world to live in some of the world’s most glamorous cities: Paris, Milan, New York. Plus, she’s visited just about everywhere else. In 2011, she decided to take her expansive fashion knowledge gathered from her years globe trotting and set up a boutique in New York City. Condor quickly gained a loyal following for stocking chic, modern clothing with a bold aesthetic. Her store mascot, an adorable fuzzy, English Angora bunny named Merlin gained his own following (follow @merlin_manhattan on Instagram), appearing in Vogue and Lucky. But this past year, Loriann decided to move back home to the sunny west coast and lay down some roots. Now based in Los Angeles, the shop has most certainly kept its New York sensibility of effortless cool. We caught up with her to talk about coming home, the best parts of California living and quiz her on her favorite things.

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Meet the Boutique: Portland’s West End Select Shop

Sometimes the best things come in small packages. West End Select Shop is tucked away on SW Oak Street, just down from the Ace Hotel in Portland, and houses only a few racks and one big dressing room. But the good stuff is definitely all in the details. Andi Bakos is one of those details. The blond beauty opened the boutique doors just over a year ago and has already gained a loyal following for her impeccable taste for European designers, quirky jewelry, vintage denim and gems from her travels to Tokyo. Not to mention her rad personality that’ll make you want to shop with her and only her for the rest of your life. Choosing only what she loves and wears herself, Andi’s buying technique comes from an already longstanding career in fashion. We had to find out more so we asked and she answered.

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HOW DID YOU GET YOUR START IN FASHION? I’ve worked in product development, product management, buying, market research and styling. I started out in my younger years working in retail. I was a buyer from a young age. I graduated to the corporate world where I stayed through my twenties, working for Nike at both their European headquarters and world headquarters here in Oregon. After Nike, I freelanced for several years as a trend scout/market researcher, mostly for Nordstrom but also for trend agencies like WGSN and Stylesight. I feel like I was raised in a corporate environment. I couldn’t do what I do today without having had that experience. I learned so much about process, structure and the importance of listening to the consumer.

Founder of iconic Canadian boutique gravitypope reflects on 25 years

“Twenty-five to life.” Gravitypope’s campaign for celebrating a quarter of a century this year is pretty apt. For most Canadians the boutique is truly an institution. What started off as an import project by Louise Dirks in Edmonton has turned into a full fleet of iconic boutiques across country. Armed and dangerous with Acne Studios, Alexander Wang, Karen Walker, Arielle De Pinto and more, it’s easy to see how the gravitypope has had Canadians swooning for 25 years. Louise keeps pretty busy with the task of shaping Canada’s fashion-boutique landscape, but we managed to catch up with her to find out how it all began, why she likes making order out of chaos and world, well, Canadian, domination.

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OKAY, WE WANT TO KNOW EVERYTHING. HOW DID GRAVITYPOPE GET STARTED? Prior to owning gravitypope, I worked in retail for many years, then studied Clothing and Textiles at the University of Alberta. I loved fashion and knew I wanted to work in the industry in some capacity. After University, I  co-owned an import shop and traveled the world to find beautiful handmade art, housewares, clothing and accessories.  I learned the trials and tribulations of buying, labeling, packing, shipping, and brokering goods. In my travels, I discovered a line of boots from Czechoslovakia called Monkey Boots and the same distributor also sold Dr. Martens. We bought a few pairs and were surprised at how quickly they sold. Soon there became a growing section of Dr. Martens (and Monkey Boots) amidst beautiful embroidered Indian cashmere, Turkish kilims and Guatemalan ikats.

The shoes in the import shop quickly outgrew the space and in 1990, gravitypope was born with its first location on the flourishing Whyte Avenue in Edmonton. I was attending trade shows in Germany, London, Paris and Milan, importing footwear from all over the world.  This was rare for any store to do back then but set us apart from our competitors and was easy for me as I was familiar with the import process.

To offset rent costs, along with the unique selection of footwear, we subleased to a friend, a small area for an espresso bar, in the back of the shop. At the time, espresso bars were virtually unheard of.  This was far before the infiltration of Starbucks! After about a year, our friend decided to move back to Japan where he had moved from, and I filled the space with clothing, mostly streetwear, which was super new and exciting in the marketplace.

I traveled the world, looking for up and coming brands in both clothing and footwear, importing them direct.  In 2000,  I did a major renovation,  acquiring some extra space from my nextdoor neighbor Blackbyrd Myoozik (who fortunately also happened to be my boyfriend).  This allowed me to expand both the footwear and clothing offering, bringing in the latest fashion brands and always willing to try new, exciting products.

Today, after 25 years, my philosophy is still the same and I continue to aspire to find the best product in the market, changing as the consumer changes and feeding the every hungry desire for new, beautiful, exciting, quality fashion.