Tag Archives: Austin

Austin City (No) Limits: Shopping Local Love

Austin always has been the coolest little southwestern town, known for its SXSW festivals, Barton Springs swimming hole, cowboy kicks and kitschy neon signage. These days it’s a full-on glamarama city, ranking 11th-most populated of the 50 US of A. Downtown — especially South Congress, or SoCo, as this mercantile/music swath is affectionately known — has its own traditional hipster vibe, with SoCo shops marching to their own beat, often in those previously-owned, distressed, vintage cowboy boots. A recent sojourn to this cultural center, where the unofficial motto is “Keep Austin Weird,” yielded the most amazingly-fragranced locally-mixed scents, horn necklace jewelry, unusual bitters, and of course, those vintage boots. Here, for your shopping pleasure:

Blackmail Couture

Blackmail, Gail Chovan’s ode to everything dark and lovely

Found: At Blackmail Boutique, founder Gail Chovan’s ode to the dark, the curious and the black, we flipped over Roux St. James fragrances, Krista Lacey’s small batch blends,  hand-crafted and hand-packaged at her Austin studio. Each perfume is created with natural ingredients and organic raw materials whenever possible. P bought me three for my birthday last month — 1920, Carus and Beltane — sweet little roll-on scent-filled bottles ensconced in a wax-sealed black box that looks like a mini book and ties with its own ribbon. So other century-ish!

Roux St James fragrances

Roux St James fragrances

Blackmail Couture

Roux St James fragrances

Roux St James fragrances

Found: At Feathers Boutique, we fell in love with co-owner Christina Simon (we missed meeting other-owner Emily Hoover), Lauren working the check-out counter, the cool vintage clothes, and especially the shop’s special scents from Sisters of the Black Moon. Ether knocked me out; somehow I’d purchased the fragrance when I came to! Collaborative partners Sara Larocca-Ramm, Alecia Marcum, and Rachel Hunt create with their personal style and visions in mind. Moonshine, another of the trio’s scents, came highly recommended and adored by Christina. I loved the bottle, but the scent didn’t quite work with my body chemistry. The Sisters don’t stop at fragrance, though,  harnessing their design power toward, as they say, “torso, legs, neck, ear, arm, fingers…” Check out their website, here. So far, I’m smitten by the one scent and will be howling at the black moon if I continue in this vein. Ether and out. Oh, and I have to get back to the boutique asap. Feather’s shibori indigo kimonos were some of the best I’ve seen this side of specialty trade shows.

Feathers Feathers



Found: At Off the Wall, just up SoCo, I met the sweetest southern soul mate jewelry designing sister, Lorie Elizabeth. Her Le Luxe collection of antler horn pendant necklaces, among other delectables, are a cross of semi-precious prayer or mala beads mashed up with vintage upcycled bling, a one-two punch of pretty with a Texan twist. When I asked her if she cut her own antlers, the adorable designer drawled, “Why, honey, we just find them on the side of the road. This is Texas, after all!” After she, Mignon and I bonded over beads, Lorie Elizabeth treated the little one to a woven-and-belled collar she fancied. In fact, everyone at every single shop on SoCo doted on Mignon, but at Off the Wall, co-owner Ellen Johnson even rushed to get her a bowl of water (Texas is hot, y’all). Bless their hearts!

Le Luxe designer Lorie Elizabeth with her Haute Fun collection  of horn and vintage bling necklaces.

Le Luxe designer Lorie Elizabeth with her Haute Fun collection of horn and vintage bling necklaces.

Found:  At Leighelana, the shop of another jewelry artist who focuses on enameled and exotic leathers for her international Texan pieces, the wares were straight from designer Leigh Elena’s vision and style. Here, of course, were the quintessential cowboy boots, at least for me — hit with a subtle leopard pattern on their dusty cognac suede. Big problem, though, and I mean big. The boots were almost 2 sizes too large for me. Crying. Still.



The coolest vintage cowboy boots at Leighhelena

The coolest vintage cowboy boots, at Leighhelena

Found: At Crofts, the most exquisite turquoise-colored vintage silk kimono from Buenos Aires, hanging on the rack of eclectic and unusual clothing collected by owner Susan Crofts during her extensive global travels. I saw the piece on Saturday, couldn’t shake it from mind and went back before our flight on Monday to snag it.

But the best find of all from our Texas trip? Little Diego, the chichi seen hiding in that vintage Crofts’ kimono sleeve, below, an abandoned pup found on property near the Formula1 race track. Of course, we brought him home with us, too!



Beautiful silk turquoise kimono from Susan Crofts' eclectic and exotic rack of vintage clothes from her own travels.

Beautiful silk turquoise kimono from Susan Crofts’ eclectic and exotic rack of vintage clothes from her own travels.


Blackmail Atelier’s Gail Chovan on FW’s Friday:5ive

I fell in love the last time I visited Austin. Yep, right there under P’s distracted eye – he was mostly at the Grand Prix racetrack that weekend, anyway. Sure, I brought back some mementos of that love, although they seem to make me that much more aware of the miles between me and my new addiction.  I’ve got one more fix, a delivery coming, hopefully, today. I’m counting down the hours. But I’m jonesing for the coolness I found there and not sure when I’ll get to embrace it again.

Blackmail Atelier

You might say I’ve been “Blackmailed,” enthralled and intoxicated by the exotic fashion world of Blackmail Atelier, whose owner/designer Gail Chovan I met recently through my dear friend Jeannie (you may remember her as The Unlikely Lavender Queen). Gail is a funny, multi-talented, strikingly beautiful blonde with a style penchant for, naturellement, the noir. Occupying a little spot of heaven on South Congress Street, her Blackmail Atelier boutique is based in an old 1889 mercantile storefront, the oldest building on SoCo. It may actually embody the ultimate crossroads of where Coolness meets Couture.

Blackmail Atelier owner/designer Gail Chovan, photo by Todd V. Wolfson

Here’s the thumbnail bio of the rebellious former tomboy: originally Continue reading