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30-11-2005
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America's New Fashion Capitals
Interesting (and long) article below on how specialty stores across the country are redrawing America's fashion map. I totally agree. the old fashion capitals like New York and LA are reduced to jeans and tee shirt capitals. Here it is in it's entirety because it's by subscription only:


Local Heroes
A growing rank of visionary shop owners is bringing high design to some unlikely places. William Middleton reports on fashion's changing landscape.
Eighteen years ago, Jeffrey Kalinsky was a 25-year-old shoe buyer at Barneys New York with a fair amount of fashion experience and a big dream. He had grown up in Charleston, South Carolina, where his father owned Bob Ellis, by any account one of the most elegant shoe stores in the country. When Kalinsky decided to open a shop of his own, he went searching for a location somewhere on the East Coast—New York, his instincts told him, was not in the running. Remembering all the residents of Atlanta who regularly drove the five hours to his father's shop and noticing that department stores had not made Georgia's capital a priority, Kalinsky decided to open a branch of the family business there in 1990. Five years later he added seven lines of women's designer clothing in an adjacent boutique he named Jeffrey. Then in 1999 he returned to New York, pumped Jeffrey up to Manhattan-size proportions with more designers and several menswear labels, and set up shop on a down-and-dirty stretch of 14th Street in the Meatpacking District.

The New York store helped turn the neighborhood into a shopping destination and Jeffrey became a retail phenomenon. This summer department-store giant Nordstrom bought a controlling interest in Kalinsky's company at an estimated cost of $40 million to $50 million (Kalinsky will continue to operate his stores while also overseeing designer clothing for Nordstrom). Though it took big-city exposure to turn Jeffrey into a large-scale success, Kalinsky never forgot his roots. "Opening first in Atlanta was the greatest thing I ever did," he says. "It gave me a much more balanced perspective. There's an amazing group of women there who shop the whole world—a lot of my muses are women I met in Atlanta. New Yorkers tend to forget that there are chic women everywhere in the United States."

Kalinsky is only the most visible member of a group of tastemakers whose shops are flourishing in less fashion-centric cities, from Cincinnati to Seattle. They understand what the late Geraldine Stutz, president of Henri Bendel and a similar pioneer in her day, called dog-whistle fashion. She believed in design that was at such a high pitch it could be heard by very few. But those who got it really got it. That level of style, once limited to Madison Avenue and Rodeo Drive, is now making its way to the heart of the country. Independent specialty stores are redrawing America's fashion map.


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30-11-2005
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America's New Fashion Capitals (2)
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Major cities have always held an interest in high fashion. In Chicago, for example, the Gold Coast boutique Ikram brings Narciso Rodriguez and Yohji Yamamoto to the Midwest. Mameg, a jewel of a shop in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood, showcases such avant-garde designers as Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons and Hussein Chalayan—names you'd be hard-pressed to find in Beverly Hills. In Dallas, gowns by Azzedine Alaïa and the experimental Dutch duo Viktor & Rolf turn up at Forty Five Ten, a sparkling 9,000-square-foot store built around a central courtyard. However, as the widespread craving for luxury goods has intensified in recent years, so the cutting edge of design has extended to the suburbs and smaller towns (in this case, a rising tide lifts all boats). Susan Foslien opened her shop, Susan, in the San Francisco suburb of Burlingame 22 years ago with just $800; it has since blossomed into a mini empire of four stores carrying 120 designers and doing a multimillion-dollar business. Charlotte, North Carolina's Capitol—founded by Laura Vinroot Poole and her husband, Perry Poole, who designed the sleek modern space—stocks a sharply edited selection of pieces by the likes of Chloé and Balenciaga.

What the owners of these shops share, besides exquisite taste, is an unwavering point of view. "Having your own vision is vital," says Linda Dresner, whose namesake boutiques, in Birmingham, Michigan, and on New York's Park Avenue, are considered two of the best in the country. "You have to know who you're speaking to—you have to know your audience—and you can't try to speak to too many. It's focus and passion that make a store great." Over in Port Washington, New York, Janet Brown shares the same philosophy. Her store offers everything from stylishly tailored jackets by Jil Sander to the latest hot-ticket dress by Lanvin. "I buy for three hundred fifty of the most privileged women in the world," she says. "They depend on me to be absolutely on the fashion pulse."

Keeping up with the torrid pace of fashion, however, runs both ways these days. The American consumer is increasingly sophisticated about how she shops, and fashion information, once carefully protected and doled out by a handful of designers and editors, is now available to everyone—instantly. Internet sites such as Style.com" target="_blank">www..com post images of entire collections in real time, including close-ups of details and accessories. "Before, you would return from Paris and the clients would ask, 'What are we going to see?' " says Susan Stone, owner of the Santa Monica shop Savannah. "Now I come back from Paris and my client says, 'I saw that Lanvin show online—are you getting that red coat?' So you can imagine the challenge: It's like they're right there in the front row. Woe to you if you didn't get something."

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30-11-2005
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America's New Fashion Capitals (3)
continued....

Brian Bolke, co-owner of Forty Five Ten (Shelly Musselman is his partner), has the same sense of being kept on his toes. "Our clients don't just stumble in here and buy a thousand-dollar top. They've done their research," he says. "They're almost as educated as we are." Almost. What sets these independent shops apart from, say, a department store is that customers have such immediate access to the front lines of fashion—there is virtually no remove between shopper, salesperson, buyer, and owner. People like Bolke and Ikram Goldman, who owns Ikram in Chicago, are plugged in at every level: They attend the runway shows in Europe and New York, pore over the collections back at the showrooms, and consult with their clients in the dressing room. "You have to go out there and find the new shoe line or designer who's off the beaten path and then bring them back to your customers," Goldman says. According to Bolke, it's sort of a double life—one that can be unsettling, if only because traveling cuts into the time he spends with his clientele. "The worst thing about being in New York or Paris for the next season is that we're at the height of the current season," he says. "It's painful because you really want to be back in the store, watching the clothes come out of the box, seeing them as they're sold. That's what makes it so personal."

Forging relationships beyond the one between customer and cash register is what seems to drive so many small retailers. For one thing, a close connection to shoppers allows owners to take regular barometric readings of their desires—and to take risks with new ideas they think might work. (Ikram, for instance, sold Alexander McQueen before anyone had even heard of him. "Just because a collection is not in the magazines doesn't mean it's not important," Goldman says.) In addition, developing these close bonds takes the level of service to a higher plane.

Janet Brown keeps files on each customer so she can recall at a moment's glance precisely what he or she has bought since the shop opened in 1983 (the same year every one of her current sales associates and seamstresses started). Her employees take the time to wrap every purchase perfectly in tissue paper; Brown will even whip up lunch for regular shoppers right in the store. She also believes true service can mean telling someone what not to buy. "Clients are touched," she says, "when they put on an ensemble and I walk over and say, 'It's not right—let's keep looking.' "

The extra mile apparently stretches all the way into shoppers' closets. The sales associates at Savannah, among other shops, make house calls to help people organize their wardrobe. "We'll suggest that certain things are no longer useful," explains owner Susan Stone, adding that her team will take clothing that may have remained unworn for a few seasons and try to coordinate it with another item for a fresh look. "That's done several times a year."

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America's New Fashion Capitals (4)
Continues....

Mr. Ooley's, which caters to the stylish men and women of Oklahoma City, maintains a detailed record of everyone who regularly buys there, filtering through their closets and looking for ways to update as well. Those searching for a gift for a Mr. Ooley's client can see the swatch of his most recent hand-tailored suit by Oxxford Clothes and find a new shirt and tie in the perfect shades. "We're very, very in touch with our customers," David Ooley says. "When we go to buy for the store we keep individual customers in mind, whether we're looking at a specific jacket or a specific stripe."

It may be no coincidence that Ooley, like so many small-store owners with a consistent vision, has a long history in fashion. His shop, which he runs with his sister, Sara, was established by their father in 1964. Debora Greenberg, of Louis Boston, is also heir to the family business; she is the fourth generation to run the store, which occupies a resplendent one-acre spot on Berkeley Street (her great-grandfather, Louis Pearlstein, began with a pawnshop in the early 20th century). And at Mitchells in Westport, Connecticut, three generations of family members—including six grandsons of the original founders—have overseen the store. Linda Dresner began her career as a model, while Janet Brown started at 16 as a salesperson for legendary Philadelphia fashion maven Nan Duskin.

This sense of history—or at least a remembrance of the more gracious days of shopkeeping—is also part of what motivates the new generation to take a more personalized approach. Capitol's Laura Vinroot Poole named her shop after a small-town North Carolina department store from the fifties. "The service was really just incredible there," she remembers. "Everything was wrapped up and delivered to your home—it was very old school." Jeffrey Kalinsky, even while his business has boomed, always tries to stay grounded in the past: "My stores are meant to feel like a small, old-fashioned department store from the South, where everyone is friendly and says hello. Those are the principles I learned growing up."

Smart shoppers no doubt appreciate the attention. Cindy Rachofsky, a long-time patron of Forty Five Ten in Dallas, certainly does. "Brian [Bolke] will see things that just scream my name," she says. "He'll have Carrie, one of his associates, bring them to my house. And because he's the ultimate salesman, he'll send other items he knows I can't live without." Rachofsky also relies on Bolke and Musselman to streamline the shopping process for her. "I'm short on time and they're respectful of that," Rachofsky says. "There are very few stores that will just drop things off and say, 'Here, take a couple of days.' That just doesn't happen anymore." For Patti Crews, another Forty Five Ten devotee, the relationship goes even deeper. "I don't always want my Dallas look when I am in Washington, New York, or Nantucket," she explains. This summer, when Crews traveled around Europe to celebrate her 50th birthday, she wore clothes from Forty Five Ten exclusively. "I felt perfectly at ease. What Brian and Shelly offer is the opportunity to look good anywhere I go. I don't have a stamp on my head that says DALLAS, TEXAS."

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30-11-2005
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America's New Fashion Capitals (5)
The significant role that individual style plays in how America shops is among the most critical reasons so many small stores have thrived. It used to be that "if someone got a BMW, everyone wanted a BMW," says Debora Greenberg of Louis Boston. "If one woman had a Prada bag, everyone wanted a Prada bag." Nowadays it's the opposite—people choose clothes that reflect their personality, not just the size of their pocketbook. "When spending that kind of money people want an item to be special," Greenberg says, noting that this sort of exclusivity is a new factor in her business. "Otherwise, they might as well stick with the Gap." Today many of the designers Louis Boston represents distribute their collections to stores on a very limited basis "so that clients don't see themselves coming and going," Greenberg says. Likewise, Vinroot Poole acquires very few of the same item to avoid duplication. "We don't want women to show up in the same thing at the same event," she explains. "Often, if someone buys a really important piece, we sell the other one out of town."

A shop owner who 20 years ago would have focused the inventory on designer clothing may now feel compelled to expand its reach to artisans working outside the mainstream and sometimes to the realm of vintage fashion. Janet Brown regularly adds pieces such as modernist jewelry in silver, gold, and ebony by Taher Chemirik, along with vivid silk and cashmere shawls by Dianora Salviati ("They're the best in the world," she insists). Brown also commissions cashmere weavers from Italy and Scotland to produce private-label sweaters. At Ikram, Goldman sets off a few of the newest names in fashion with some of the great designers from the past, such as Halston and Chanel. For her part, Mameg's Sonia Eram has introduced handcrafted jewelry and accessories from Peru, Argentina, and Kurdistan. "We try to mix the old and the modern in a way that shows they speak the same language," she says. "It's exciting for people to see that good design doesn't have any boundaries." To Eram, the people who can appreciate her principles are the same ones who also tend to shy away from the notion of the handbag of the season. "A backlash started four or five years ago," she observes. "People are tired of the same old things."

High style, it appears, has made its way into even the smallest towns in America. But what's next? Could dog-whistle fashion actually play in Peoria? One of Goldman's customers, a doctor, makes regular trips to Chicago from Indiana. "She just bought two pieces by Jun Takahashi of Undercover, one of the wildest new Japanese designers, who creates surreal things like skirts with teeth hanging along the edge," Goldman says. "She's wearing them in Indiana. It's outstanding—we're not just talking about city folk."

http://www.departures.com/FA_template_ind.html

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30-11-2005
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Ha, what a bunch of bullsh*t. To begin with, the article defeats its own purpose, because it mostly mentions Janet Brown, which is on Long Island, and Ikram, which is in Chicago. The rest of the stores are negligible. Everybody knows that Jeffrey in Atlanta is a laughable affair, a label whore gallery without a slightest nod to fashion. I will wager that the story is the same with Linda Dresner in Michigan. Besides New York, the US has almost nothing to offer in terms of REAL fashion, all it can offer is a selection of luxury goods at best, and there is a world of difference between the two. If the author was really interest in FASHION, she might have mentioned Cielo in San Francisco, or Louis and Alan Bilzerain in Boston. But even with those stores, you still have Bostonians shuttling to New York to buy fashion.

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30-11-2005
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Quote:
Originally Posted by faust
Ha, what a bunch of bullsh*t. To begin with, the article defeats its own purpose, because it mostly mentions Janet Brown, which is on Long Island, and Ikram, which is in Chicago. The rest of the stores are negligible. Everybody knows that Jeffrey in Atlanta is a laughable affair, a label whore gallery without a slightest nod to fashion. I will wager that the story is the same with Linda Dresner in Michigan. Besides New York, the US has almost nothing to offer in terms of REAL fashion, all it can offer is a selection of luxury goods at best, and there is a world of difference between the two. If the author was really interest in FASHION, she might have mentioned Cielo in San Francisco, or Louis and Alan Bilzerain in Boston. But even with those stores, you still have Bostonians shuttling to New York to buy fashion.
It achieved some purpose, because it made me try to visualize someone in Indiana wearing those Undercover pieces.

Too bad fashion in Louis right now, for menswear, means Marni, Dries, Neil Barrett, Blueblood, Dr. Romanelli, and Nice Collective.

And if it is about "high design in unlikely places," why the f'ck would you bring up Jeffrey's in NY, or anything in Beverly Hills?

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30-11-2005
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^I'm actually quite impressed by Louis Boston's women's selections. I just wish that they had the sale in Dec., then I don't need to go to NYC

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01-12-2005
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Mameg is in the middle of LA, you can't say Brentwood is a seperate city, but it's an exelent store.

Ikram is pretty famous, I also like Hejfina in Chicago very much.

Jeffery's in atlanta isn't to exiting

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02-12-2005
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Mameg is a pretty great little store, maybe the best for women's fashion in L.A. They carry the good stuff that nobody seems to ever buy, but it is only about 4.5 miles from Barney's and the heart of Beverly Hills. A hearty New Yorker would walk to Mameg from Barney's without giving it a second thought.

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02-12-2005
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Faust, I should add you might even approve of Mameg. You would probably like the owner Sonya Eram at least. She's smart.

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02-12-2005
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Quote:
Originally Posted by haruki
Faust, I should add you might even approve of Mameg. You would probably like the owner Sonya Eram at least. She's smart.
Yea? Cool, I'll check it out next time my relatives make me come to L.A.

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