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SOMA Magazine » Archive » Emerging Boutiques
Emerging Boutiques

There’s no shortage of exceptional fashion designers working today. American clothing design has never been more chic than right now. Scratch that. Right… now. The challenge for shoppers is no longer finding non-mainstream perspectives, but rather, scoring the right style, for the proper function, at the best price. Specialty boutiques and nationwide retailers alike are responding to an increased demand for niche designers (even amid a domestic recession), by editing their stock for diversity. It’s no longer the case that one designer is being asked to save fashion. Now, hundreds, even thousands of unique brands are competing to stand out in a highly competitive field. And fashion shoppers are getting the best part: access to more designers and dissenting viewpoints, especially in markets outside of New York or Los Angeles. And it’s all happening right now.


Blackbird, Seattle, WA
Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood is home to one of the country’s preeminent menswear boutiques. The two-level space is guy-friendly in every way: casual, cool and filled with must-haves. In addition to an assortment of denim, trousers, blazers, knits and tops, the lineup includes a range of accessories like ties, belts, bags, shoes, watches and glasses to round out any look. From hip, college students to the more business minded sects, the city’s men are loyal to the selection of Converse by John Varvatos, Obedient Sons, Rag & Bone, Spring Court, Harmon, A.P.C. and Cheap Monday. Owner Nicole Miller opened Blackbird in 2004 to fill a void for designer menswear in Seattle. Just four years later, she’s got the region’s pace setter for updated classics. 5410 22nd Avenue NW, Seattle, WA

Stand Up Comedy, Portland, OR
Fashion doesn’t exist in a bubble at Stand Up Comedy. There are print publications with an artsy bent (remember zines?), and local jewelry designs, alongside a remarkable selection of fashion lines for men and women including Stærk, 3:33 Footwear, Wood Wood, Rachel Comey and Acne. Co-owners Rachel Silberstein and Diana Kim met at a tap dancing class in Minneapolis and discovered they both worked at the Walker Art Center. Ms. Kim describes Portland’s fashion sensibility as, “anarchic utilitarian with a touch of the apocalypse. I would say the majority care very little for fashion, another reason we chose Portland.” She says their store is different because, “we’re not interested in theories of beauty.” Rather, “there are ways to use fashion as a cipher rather than as an end,” she insists. And, yes, as the name indicates, those without a sense of humor would do well to stay away. For everyone else, Stand Up Comedy is a shiny, sparkling gem. 811 E. Burnside, Suite 119, Portland, OR

Achilles Project, Boston, MA
An ambitious and multifunctional space, the Achilles Project is officially a two-for-one job: Achilles, a clothing store with glass enclosed racks for designers like Band of Outsiders, Filippa K, Alexandre Herchcovitch, Shipley & Halmos and Josh Goot; and Persephone, a relaxed, fine dining restaurant helmed by chef Michael Leviton. The 5,500 square-foot converted warehouse also features a DJ booth, stations for Wii and Guitar Hero, plus a local artist gallery space. It remains to be seen if the Fort Point revival has real legs. But between Achilles Project and South Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art (opened 2006, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro), there are a few notable destinations now peppering the map. 283 Summer Street, Boston, MA

Jake, Chicago, IL
Jake has been at the forefront of Chicago’s style scene since opening in spring 2004. Since then, two additional locations have served up a ‘who’s who’ and ‘what’s what’ of international fashion. From casual duds and denim, to dressed-up or going out, Jake’s lineup of Tim Hamilton, Robert Geller, Giuseppe Zanotti and Graydn, is sophisticated and high end. For a city still reeling from the conversion of Marshall Field to Macy’s in 2006, Jake has blossomed into Chicago’s definitive fashion connoisseur. Plans to expand into New York are still in the works for 2008/2009. 3740 North Southport Avenue, Chicago, IL. 939 Rush Street, Chicago, IL. 565 Lincoln Avenue, Winnetka, IL


Début, New York City
A boutique for women who like to curate a personal style that’s firmly off the map, Début brings unknown designers to a downtown-minded audience. Owner Lisa Weiss, an alumna of New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, is sensitive to the plight of young designers. She showcases newcomers, both local and international, such as Bërubë, Black Dot, Christian Blanken and Vassilisa. With an art gallery atmosphere, it’s a place where fashion design is highlighted as cultural art. Unlike many boutiques dedicated to emergent talent, Début has a focus on garments that are well constructed, verging on avant-garde but eminently
wearable. 298 Mulberry Street, New York

TEXT BY Michael Cohen

THE SPRING ISSUE


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