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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
We’ve been on the road for our #BOUTIQUELOVE tour the past couple of weeks crossing North America to celebrate the launch of Spring 2015 collections. Tonight is the final stop so we wanted to share a few of our favorite things from each of the boutiques we’ve partied with. They each have their own amazing curation of brands and unique style, so obviously we had to shop along the way. Our first stop was In Support Of in New York City, a boutique that focuses on local designers doing it right in the city’s garment district. Like Nikki Chasin, an emerging designer we’re super excited about. She had her first pop-up at the party. Next we ate our way through Houston and celebrated Cinco de Mayo with Saint Cloud. They’re stocked with amazing accessories, home goods and loungewear made for the heat. Then we hopped on a plane to Portland where we partied with West End Select, a boutique renowned for the owner’s cool style, rad selection and Japanese imports. Tonight we’re in Vancouver with One of a Few. With their selection of Rachel Comey, Jesse Kamm, Creatures of Comfort and more, it’s easy to spend a looong time there. The best part about all of these boutiques? The people behind them are cool, kind, hilarious and seriously amazing in every way. Thanks to everyone who was a part of the tour!
If you didn’t get to party with us, make sure to check us out on Soundcloud where you can stream the soundtrack from each city!
Shop our picks below.
We love everything about Stand Up Comedy. Owner Diana Kim, more fittingly a curator, casts off traditional retail rules with a boutique that is one part retail space and one part haphazard gallery. She picks an assortment of garments, books, and jewelry to fill her brainchild and has an amazing eye for new talent. Carrying brands like DRKSHDW by Rick Owens, KAAREM, BLESS, Mansur Gavriel and Arielle de Pinto, Stand Up Comedy takes a seriously needed tongue-and-cheek attitude to serious fashion. We caught up with Diana (who just had a little baby girl!) to find out more.
WHY STAND UP COMEDY? We wanted a reference to something live, since the most interesting design is dependent on its relationship to an audience. But also something quite absurd. The nihilism of comedy has always been appealing, and is a reflection of our approach to fashion and retail on some level as well.