The year 2008 was a disaster for locally owned Denver boutiques. About 40 stores, mostly owned by women, bit the dust due to the severe downturn in the economy. But, Style Matters is happy to announce that slowly but surely Denver’s retail scene is perking up. Although we lost Saks Fifth Avenue, we gained H&M. (Of course some would claim this is not at all a fair trade!)
New boutiques are finding it advantageous to locate near successful veterans. For example, 3rd Avenue in Cherry Creek between St. Paul and Milwaukee has become a hub of new and established boutiques. Anchored by veteran shopping mecca Garbarini (Owner Terry Garbarini has successfully weathered every economic downturn that’s come her way), look for La Coquette, new boutiques J Gilbert and Jeona, Alicia the Boutique and Elizabeth Lindsay Creations.
The newest crowning glory on the block? Popular Larimer Square boutique Mariel has moved into a much larger space across from Garbarini. Along with her existing lines, owner Denise Snyder has added 15 new sportswear and dressy designers and a bridal and evening salon.
This one block alone could satisfy your fashion jones. Style Matters will periodically alert you to new shopping opportunities. If you, stylish reader, find something first, be sure to let me know.
Shoppers, take your marks!
Creme de la Couture
• Owner: Nicole Schaap
• 3041 South Broadway, Englewood
• Hours: Tues.-sat. 11-6
• Return policy: no returns
• Sizes: 0-16 with some petites
• Price range: Dresses $38-$2,000; suits $68-$498
• Sales: February and July
Finally Denver has a real designer vintage boutique hidden amidst the random assortment of storefronts on South Broadway. Founded in August, 2010, by Nicole Schaap, Creme de la Couture is a tiny store crammed with vintage designer clothing by such stellar names as Chanel, Dolce and Gabbana, Fendi, Gucci, Louis Vuitton — the list goes on and on. Schaap’s merchandise is the real thing; some clothing still has the original tags; others were featured in runway shows from years gone by, still others have been gently worn.
Schaap travels the country scouring boutiques and closets for designer clothing, bringing her treasured finds back to Creme de la Couture. For the Yves Saint Laurent show at the Denver Art Museum, March 25-July 8, 2012, Denver’s fashionable set are already snapping up all the YSL hats, skirts and tops Schaap has collected.
Creme de la Couture is worth a visit from any place. Save time to ooh and aah at all Schaap has amassed. The boutique is almost a fashion museum in its own right.
• Owner: Kathy Robertson
• 3003 E. 3rd Ave., Denver
• Hours: 10-5:30 pm, Mon. – Sat. Closed Sunday
• Return policy: Store credit or exchange on unworn merchandise within 7 days of purchase
• Sizes: XS-XL; Jeans 25-31 (sells only Red Engine jeans)
• Price range: Dresses $125-$400
• Sales: Seasonal, up to 70 percent off
J. Gilbert just opened last November, and already they are a valued fixture in the Cherry Creek North retail world. This little gem of a boutique carries merchandise geared to appeal to the forty plus crowd. (I promise no tummy revealing or low riding clothing ). Along with a mix of casual clothing and great layering pieces by A’nue Ligne (made in America), J. Gilbert carries several exclusives including a unique collection of shoes by Marchez Vous (sizes 6-11, $375-$495). These pumps come in yummy colors like rose, purple and royal blue with shapely chunky heels. Who founded Marchez Vous? Does the name Yeardley Smith ring a bell? Her voice should. She is the voice talent for Lisa on “The Simpsons.” Along with an exclusive line of Lucchese boots, J. Gilbert also carries the Old Stud line of belts. These belts started life as guitar straps for the likes of Mick Jagger. Each belt is unique and retails for $230. The boutique also carries a wonderful collection of handbags by Rebecca Minkoff, Vin Baker and OryYANY.
Soignee Elegant Attire
• Owner: Diane Lessnau
• 2500 E. Orchard Road, Greenwood Village
• Hours: Monday-Friday 10 am – 6 pm Saturday 10 – 5 pm
• Return policy: Store credit or exchange
• Sizes: XS-L; 0-14
• Price range: $58-$319
• Sales: Quarterly, 15-30 percent off
Soignee means elegant in French, and owner Diane Lessnau couldn’t have picked a more appropriate name for her two-year old boutique located at Orchard and University. The store caters to women 30-70, although when I was in, several teenage girls were checking out the merchandise. Clothing is selected with figure flattering elements in mind. Dresses have plenty of ruching (pleating) around the middle to mold the tummy area. Lessnau makes sure that she carries lines that are geographically exclusive such as, Samuel Dong, Linea Domani, and Italian designer Rinascimento. You will find plenty of ruffled jackets in silks and satins, embellished tops and sweaters by Belldini, and Margaret M slacks. Soignee is the place to go for summer dresses. Make sure you look for the Black Halo and Marie Bianca Nero lines — very unique.
Wild Blue Boutique
• Owner: Debbie Schewe
• 4940 S. Yosemite, Greenwood Village
• Hours: M-F 10:30-6:30 p.m.; Sat. 10:30-6; Sun. noon-5 p.m.
• Return policy: Store credit within 21 days
• Sizes: 2-12
• Price range: Tops: $30-$65; dresses $30-$90.
Don’t let its location in a King Soopers shopping center dissuade you from entering. Wild Blue Boutique is packed with goodies. Hold your handbag close so as not to bump into all the wonderful clothing and accessories this boutique has to offer. Billed as shabby chic or cowgirl chic, the store’s merchandise is embellished, decorated, sequinned and sparkly with a Western flare. Owner Debbie Schewe buys for her market: teenage girls, mothers and mother-in-laws. You would think this would be a tough mix, but somehow Schewe makes it work. She carries mid-rise jeans and lots of layering pieces for the older customer, and cool cowboy boots by Corral and Lane and tunics by Sanctuary for the younger (or young at heart) crowd. Take time to examine all the jewelry, belts and handbags displayed around the store. You are bound to find something you thought you could never live without.
Judie Schwartz, whose Style Matters columns appear in The Colorado Statesman, is the co-author of two best-selling books on the best places to shop in Colorado. Called “A Fashion-Lover’s Guide to the Best Shopping in Denver and Beyond,” the books are available at stylematters.us. Schwartz presents image seminars to corporations on the importance of a business casual wardrobe and entertains conventioneers with talks on how to look great on a budget. She is also a wardrobe consultant. Schwartz has one husband, three children, no pets and small closets.