September 26, 2016

Rise of Salt Lake City Boutiques

In a world of mega malls, we introduce you to some of the hippest of Salt Lake’s unique boutiques that are beating the odds.

by Paige Wiren

Call it shopping for cute, or call it a movement. The number of independently owned clothing boutiques in Utah is on the rise. These boutiques offer unique, fashion-forward and locally-designed apparel and accessories. The antithesis of merchandise found at big-box mega-stores where price trumps value and mass-produced goods are served up in different, generic flavors.

They also function as commercial epicenters for collective networking and draw customers who are more conscious of not only the pedigree of their purchases, but also the impact their purchasing decisions have on both a global and community level.

According to strict capitalist business models, it would follow that the success of large-scale clothing stores triumphs at the expense of local clothiers, but the number of boutiques that have opened and are doing well seems to indicate that boutiques can coexist with super-centers, because what these small boutiques are providing is an opportunity for both business owners and their clientele to exercise and express their economic and community politics.

Solissa

Located in the heart of the Sugar House shopping district Solissa’s has been a neighborhood presence for the last five years. A native of Brooklyn, Solissa has nurtured a successful career in both the industry’s east and west coast hot spots, and she sees no reason why Salt Lake City can’t be an equal presence in the field of fashion.

Solissa and CrewWhat drew you to this location?

“I knew Salt Lake enough to know that in coming here I wouldn’t be in the middle of nowhere. After I got here I drove around for weeks visiting every shop in every area, but when I came to Sugar House it felt familiar, like what I was used to in L.A. or New York.”

What’s your philosophy behind what you offer?

“The rule of fashion now is there are no rules. It’s what you can pull off. I go to shows and part of how I buy is by spider sense. I have to like it, and then I ask, ‘Does it function as a workable piece?’ The pieces in my shop are eclectic and affordable.”

What’s the shopping experience like at your boutique?

“It’s a friendly atmosphere. Our service goes, we go above and beyond. We hem jeans for free; we feed our customers. I’ll even make you a cappuccino. I know most of my customers’ names, know their kids and what’s going on in their lives. In terms of the shopping experience, it’s whatever you’re comfortable doing. We want to be helpful when you want to be helped.”

Who shops here and why?

“We have a lot of repeat customers, women who want to wear fun clothes. I have customers who do only shop locally. There’s definitely that consciousness. In fact, I think Salt Lake has a certain caliber of people who are super conscious.”

Solissa is located at 1950 S 1100 E in SLC.  Visit their official homepage.

Q Clothing

In 2009, Amber Espanet stepped in as business partner to co-founder Annie Quan, and last summer the forward-thinking pair moved their boutique to its present downtown location in the 200 block of Broadway. The clothes and accessories exude a modern, polished style, and Amber continues to introduce new designers and labels to Salt Lake City.

q clothingWhat drew you to this location?

“We mostly wanted to increase our square footage, but this is a great, up-and-coming area, to be on Broadway. Everyone in this area’s been super helpful. It really feels like a community of businesses.”

What’s your philosophy behind what you offer?

“Our clothing has to be in the affordable range, wearable and well-constructed, so you’re paying for quality not just a label. We do our best to offer labels that are eco-friendly, like Skunk Funk. But it’s impossible to avoid China in the clothing industry. Almost everything in fashion is manufactured in China. This holiday season, though, we hope to create a local section in our store where we’ll be showcasing local artists’ designs.”

What’s the shopping experience like in your boutique?

“We like a friendly approach. We don’t like pressure or any of that snobbery typically associated with high-end boutiques. For us it’s about creating long-term relationships.”

Who shops here, and why?

“If you want to look like everyone else, you can shop, for example, at The Gap. You can’t get what we offer at the mall. And it’s kind of surprising how fashion-forward Salt Lake is given its stereotype. I think personal expression is important to a lot of people here. I find that people who frequent Broadway are locally-minded shoppers, and I hope that mentally grows, especially through the holidays.”

Q Clothing is located at 215 E. Broadway in Salt Lake City.  Visit their official homepage.

Fresh

The fashion at Fresh reinforces the name Helen and Ian Wade chose for their 9th & 9th clothing store. Open July of 2009, Fresh’s flavor is not just urban, but Salt Lake City urban, where style and function are influenced by outdoor recreation access. The sister and brother team pride themselves on being able to answer the “who, what and where” questions about the designers and labels they carry.

Helen and Ian Wade of freshWhat drew you to this location?

“You can come to 9th & 9th, and there’s something for everyone in a neighborhood that’s driven towards supporting local businesses. Nearly every business here is independently owned.”

What’s your philosophy behind what you offer?

“We carry labels that are behind something, like RVCA. They support their community’s local artists and athletes. We also have a handful of local designers, like Shogo, and a handful of brands that have eco-conscious business models, but first and foremost we choose quality at a good price.”

What’s the shopping experience like at your boutique?

“We’re really passionate about everything we bring in. The atmosphere here is really friendly and casual. The only thing we don’t have is a snobby attitude and a ridiculous price tag.”

Who shops here and why?

“Our demographic is surprisingly broad. People shop here because you can’t find these pieces at big box stores. Plus we offer awesome customer service. A lot of our customers are into shopping locally. I’ve even heard some people say that they’ve stopped shopping at malls.”

Fresh is located 870 East 900 South in SLC.  Visit their official homepage.

Salt Lake Citizen

Salt Lake Citizen truly demonstrates local first economy. Owner Lindsay Frendt’s mission is to nurture a continuously self-supporting artist-to-consumer cycle that strengthens and connects the community. Part of the downtown library shops, Salt Lake Citizen provides a viable outlet for local designers and currently carries the work of 45 different artists.

Lindsay FrendtWhat drew you to this location?

“This is the location I inherited when I took over in January of this year. It’s not a typical retail space and sometimes people think the merchandise is on display, like it’s a museum. But it’s a good location. The demographic of shoppers is so varied.”

What’s your philosophy behind what you offer?

“Everything is locally handcrafted by a Utah artist. I like the fact that we can come together as a community and then provide items for that community. I want to help people around me by selling, and hopefully someday I will be able to put money back into my community through charity.”

What’s the shopping experience like at your boutique?

“People usually ask what the store is, but once they find out that everything is locally handmade, they then go around and look at how original everything is. I see a lot of kids come in here and connect to the idea of recycling or repurposing, and that’s really exciting for me.”

Who shops here and why?

“People who know the artists or who frequent the local craft scene shop. The tourists love that they can buy something made in Utah to take home. I see the attitude of the younger generation changing. They’re starting to care more about shopping locally and finding by supporting the community.”

Salt Lake Citizen is located at Library Square: 210 E. 400 S.  Visit their homepage.