Clothing: New Boutiques and Vintage
Sweet new boutiques are flinging open doors to reveal shelves brimming with locally made designs and
By Kate Calamusa and Cody Ellerd Bay
August 9, 2011
Spun Sustainable Collective (photo above)
BEST BET FOR: Casual, affordable and chic clothing proudly made in Washington
There may not be a bigger cheerleader for Seattle fashion design than petite and personable Sara Seumae, owner of Spun Sustainable Collective. After having trouble finding local retailers willing to take a risk on emerging talent, the casual-daywear designer rallied other local clothiers facing the same hurdle and launched her co-op boutique last November. Clearly, it was a good move. The friendly, bustling atmosphere at Spun draws local fashion groupies: Seumae sews in the open workshop, while local designers pop in to restock their racks and stop to chat with customers.
WHAT YOU’LL FIND: Garments are displayed on industrial pipe racks with personal bios framed and back-lit on rustic shelves, much like paintings in an art gallery. Flirty feathered frocks and ready-to-wear shift dresses from Seattle magazine Seamless in Seattle fashion design contest alumnus Cameron Levin (around $175) and Out of Line’s Beki Wilson ($68–$198) surround Seumae’s Spun organic cotton cowl-neck tops and breezy dresses ($25–$110), and there is an ever-evolving local jewelry selection piled up on a behemoth farm table.
FAVORITE SCORE: Gwen Stubb’s Lekkerlife throwback ’50s-style denim “Bonjour” day dress; collection ranges from $98 to $190.
BEST BET FOR: Comfy, classy wardrobe staples
If you want a store stocked right, you’ve got to stock it yourself. That’s what inspired mavens of minimalism Karen Krupp and Erin Dolan (owner of neighboring Edie’s Shoes) to open Scout, one of the year’s best additions to our local shopping landscape. “We look for clothing lines with special details, fabric that feels amazing and a great fit,” says Krupp, who used to manage Sweetie in West Seattle. “Several of the lines are ones I was already buying for myself online because I was not finding what I was looking for in Seattle.”
WHAT YOU’LL FIND: Great-fitting jeans ($75–$185) from AG, Blank and Comune for men and women; refined yet basic knit tops that can be dressed up or down; and a few choice jewelry pieces like wolf stud earrings from Bing Bang or (unisex!) Ax + Apple statement necklaces that really make an outfit.
FAVORITE SCORE: Wilt shrunken boyfriend sweatshirt in whiskey brown, a supersoft top from an American-made label known for its flattering cuts and fabrics, $109.
BEST BET FOR: Urban-laced N.Y.C. and L.A. fashions in a laid-back Northwest setting
Stephanie Kaldestad’s hip little boutique Ketch blends New York chic with old Ballard charm. It’s a description that fits Kaldestad as well. With longtime roots in Ballard (her family has been in the fishing industry since the 1930s), Kaldestad returned to Seattle in late 2010 following a two-year stint in New York working for the likes of Michael Kors and Gucci.
WHAT YOU’LL FIND: Neutral, laid-back garments from East and West Coast designers fill the well-edited racks, such as silk Equipment shirts ($198–$215) and graphic shirts and sweatshirts from Cali brand Wildfox. Though flush with high-fashion flair, Ballard history permeates the loft-like space: Designer jeans are displayed along the wall in rusty metal cylinders from Ballard Sheet Metal (pictured above), blueprints for her grandfather’s fishing boat are plastered on the opposite wall, and your trendy catch of the day is rung up at a wooden counter made from materials salvaged off an old crab boat.
FAVORITE SCORE: Trim-fitting, hip J Brand jeans, ranging from slouchy to ankle-length skinny styles, start at $175.
BEST BET FOR: Gifts for a hard-to-buy-for fella
This is the peanut butter to one of our favorite jellies. For years, Damsalfly has been providing Seattle women with the most affordable and funky boutique finds around in its narrow (but never straight) space on Ballard Avenue. Now that owner Jenny Monroe has relocated into the former Bark space a couple of doors down, her handy-dandy husband, Jake, is manning the remodeled store (named for the couple’s two rug rats, Jaxon and Ruby Joon), filling it with a hearty mix of vintage home décor, gifts and clothing for the urban dude with style (but not too much style).
WHAT YOU’LL FIND: Comb through an array of small potted succulents, cool black distressed wood wall art, vintage glassware, and retro/modern bars and ottomans that Jake crafts to order. The apparel section in back features a carefully chosen selection of blue-collar yet sharp men’s apparel: platoon shirts ($32–$35), fedoras ($20) and vintage sport jackets ($35)—stuff that Jake says he would “wear to a cocktail party or a barbecue.”
FAVORITE SCORE: Neves handmade belts and belt buckles, made in the U.S.A. from lovely distressed leather with killer graphics inspired by everything from Atari games to foreign flags, $45 for a set.
We had to think twice before turning people on to Susie Jarvis’ two neighborhood vintage shops, only because we are loath to fight the inevitable crowds should too many discover our best source for vintage cowboy boots and old-school Americana-esque accessories. But now that our cover is blown, allow us to gush: Since opening the darling Vintage Closet in 2009, Jarvis has also found a home for her overflowing accessory collection at new Fremont sister store Vintage Angel Company.
WHAT YOU’LL FIND: Located in the alley behind the 9 Million in Unmarked Bills bar on Fremont Avenue (watch closely for the sandwich board, above, pointing the way), the color-coded basement is filled with chunky jewels, plaid shirts, moccasins, leather belts, fringed handbags and, unbelievably, even more of the Western and fashion boots that made the Closet famous (prices range from $14 to $78). Jarvis also stocks a rack of her Q clothing line, quirky and colorful tops and frocks made from vintage fabrics and reworked clothes.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Both shops are only open Thursday–Sunday (Jarvis maintains sources up and down the West Coast, spending the rest of the week scouring for new merchandise); the somewhat difficult-to-spot Vintage Closet (look for the chocolate brown trailer at the corner of Third Avenue NW and 65th Street) is cash only.
You really, really want to be friends with Dana Guyton. The buyer for and owner of Sustalux in SoDo, Guyton approaches sourcing clothes for her shop much like a personal shopper, often picking up items with specific clients or friends in mind. While most finds go to her clients (she does product development for several major brands), Guyton keeps the most sentimental scores for her place.
WHAT YOU’LL FIND: “Though my clothes are vintage, they aren’t costume-y,” says Guyton. “They make great statement pieces and can be expressly modern with the addition of the right accessories.” The best way to shop is to make an appointment; give her a jingle beforehand and Guyton will pull a preselection of items based on what you are hunting for. Hand-plucked finds will be set aside on your “hoard rack,” and you get first dibs (as in no one else tries them on until you release them). Luxe handbags are cleverly stored near the ceiling—the color-coded selection can be pulled down via a pulley system for petting. Other finds include slinky Dolce & Gabbana dresses, brass necklaces and snakeskin belts. Price points are generally under $100 (with dresses for as little as $16), but given her sentimental streak, Guyton has been known to part with pieces for next to nothing if she feels it’s “the right fit.”
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: A visit requires some planning: Sustalux is only open Wednesdays, Thursdays and by appointment, and is tucked into an unmarked warehouse on Airport Way. Guyton also frequently hosts dedicated shopping nights and will make house calls and office visits on Fridays for those she considers friends (which, luckily for us, is just about everyone).
A piece of advice: When you first walk into Huan Vu’s tiny Pine Street shop, it’s important to keep an open mind. The rows of patterned rayon dresses may look dated at first glance, but hold on: Owner and master tailor Vu, who merged his two shops, Vu and Vutique, into one shop last winter, has given each garment, whether it’s from the 1960s or just 15 years ago, a little one-on-one time with his sewing machine, updating and tweaking to stitch away its has-been qualities to make it contemporary and wearable today. A raised hemline here, a trimmed shoulder pad there, throw a big wide belt on top and step into a pair of his killer vintage shoes, and suddenly you’re looking like one timelessly stylish babe.
WHAT YOU’LL FIND: Retailored dresses and blouses ($65–$125), vintage costume jewelry ($24–$165), shoes ($38–$110) and belts ($14–$38).
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Whatever Vu thinks you’ll look good in is what you try on. Don’t ask questions; just do as he says.
Tucked away on a quiet residential street on Capitol Hill, this art-gallery-turned-vintage/screen-printing-shop makes you look twice at the revival-worthy threads that might escape your notice at Value Village.
WHAT YOU’LL FIND: A small but carefully selected collection of casual men’s and women’s vintage clothing, bags, shoes and belts mostly from the ’80s, bookended by some great bohemian ’70s finds and even a few odd items from the ’90s (yep, think Elaine Benes). The screen-printing studio occupying the shop’s rear space turns out the art-inspired T-shirts the shop also sells, and if you’re so inspired, the studio hosts silk-screening classes as well.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Due to its wayward location (don’t be deterred by the extreme residential-ness of the neighborhood—just keep going) owners Aimee Butterworth and Joel Leshafka display some creative antics to attract attention: Don’t be surprised if your weekend shopping trip unexpectedly turns into an art opening party with a live band.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Also check out Indian Summer on the corner two doors down for more vintage, with a broad and eclectic selection.
This is, guaranteed, the most stylish trailer park you will ever set foot in. Since last summer, these 10 teensy shops, tucked between Doris and Nebraska streets behind Jules Maes Saloon, have been peddling their vintage wares out of a parking lot that feels as funky and fun as the campground of a traveling circus. You can visit Lula B Lightning, with its amazing collection of original Seattle World’s Fair glassware ($8–$18 each); step into the Red Purse Airstream for some seriously head-turning vintage pumps; score yourself some Western wear or embroidered dress shirts for the fellas and kiddos from Frida; or check out Comet Lodge Mercantile for upcycled steampunk duds from Paris designer Marche Noir. Frida owner Shannon Andersen and her husband, Bruce Andersen, started the trailer park for last year’s Art Attack and ended up staying, opening up their doors every Saturday since.
WHAT YOU’LL FIND: Lots of vintage cowboy boots, shoes, dresses and accessories; original artwork by local artists; and there’s even a piñata trailer, selling both custom and premade wacky candy boxes just waiting to get whacked.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: If you can’t make it on a Saturday, watch the park on Facebook and Twitter—sometimes they feel like opening up on a random Thursday as well.