High fashion contends with shallow pockets

The walls of Belle Reve , northeast MinneapolisâÄôs newest swank boutique, are papered in luxe purple damask, the wallpaper Marie Antoinette wouldâÄôve hung if sheâÄôd spent a few hours hanging out with Prince . Holding court amidst racks of cocktail dresses and draping eco-friendly tops are sparkling pieces of Tarina Tarantino jewelry and pairs of L.A.M.B. shoes, brimming with Gwen StefaniâÄôs magic California girl cool. ThereâÄôs just one problem with this oh-so-fashionable spread laid out before you in the store. With the talking heads on TV news delivering only the bleakest of information regarding the state of our stock market, and the U.S. dollar slowly becoming less and less powerful in the world market, the economy isnâÄôt looking so chic. However, it doesnâÄôt seem to have Twin Cities residents shaking in their boots, be they Ugg or Stuart Weitzman . With an astounding crop of new boutiques opening their doors, consumers are filling their closets just as happily as ever. St. Louis Park has just welcomed OPM, a swanky shop exclusively offering garments by Valentino. The first-ring suburb is also courting more high-end boutiques for a shopping complex currently in development. Of course, the opening of these stores just happened to coincide with the wild fluctuations of the stock market. Belle Reve owner Aisha Ghanchi, who opened her store two weeks ago, credits the barrage of boutiques to the rising interest in fashion in the Twin Cities. âÄúPeople are excited to see new stuff, and our pieces are special,âÄù she said. âÄúPeople like things with attention to detail that they donâÄôt see everywhere. You canâÄôt always find that detail at H&M.âÄù Dinkytown boutique Covered , which has had designer denim flying off its shelves, did so well that owner Stacy Larson decided to branch out and add another store, this one residing in Uptown. Covered Uptown also offers menswear lines like William Rast and True Religion (which range in price from $170-$300) that have proven to be just as popular as their girly style counterparts. She reports cheerfully that her business has been great. Browsing through the racks at stores like Belle Reve, a shopper might at first be daunted by the price tags. At Belle Reve, dresses run the gamut from $150 to $600. Covered Uptown carries Amanda Uprichard (a silk tunic costs $193) and Skunk Funk (leather jackets at $270), two wildly popular lines whose price points lay on the higher end of the spectrum. âÄúWe are pretty particular when we bring in a high-priced item,âÄù Bridget OâÄôBrien, a Covered sales associate, said. âÄúWe have to be sure itâÄôs desirable.âÄù Of course, like any good store should, boutiques like Belle Reve and Covered offer their goods at a variety of price points. Covered carries Tulle, a line of irresistibly cute and trendy clothes that rarely bump the $100 mark. TulleâÄôs brightly hued peacoats disappear from the store in record time due to their perfect fits and $88 price tag. âÄúWe were pretty strategic about bringing in Tulle and [lower-priced line] Coffee Shop,âÄù OâÄôBrien said. Belle ReveâÄôs neighbor Parc Boutique, a sophisticated spot near LundâÄôs and designer consignment shop gh2, offers mid-price, rich-bohemian line Free People and $158 J. Brand jeans alongside its dreamy chiffon Jenny Han dresses which cost a bit more. In such economic turmoil, these lower price points maximize style while minimizing spending guilt. But with worries about money pressing, itâÄôs easy to dress on the cheap, spending paychecks at fast-fashion retailers like H&M or Forever 21 , though boutique owners and style experts both advise investing in a few quality items: A well-cut jacket, a special piece of jewelry or a clutch bag in an exotic skin that can be used for years, per GhanchiâÄôs advice, or a perfect pair of jeans, like those on the shelves at Covered. The investment piece plays a key role in any well-chosen wardrobe and can instantly lend some of its innate stylishness to purse-friendly basics from Target or American Apparel. âÄúI think everyoneâÄôs wardrobe should be high and low,âÄù said Ghanchi. While consumers have been happily spending their hard-earned paychecks on designer jeans and leather bags, itâÄôs not certain that these spending habits will last as the economy plays Russian roulette. The Twin Cities fashion scene is supportive enough to sustain its newest crop of boutiques, though no one can say for sure whether that good old-fashioned Midwest common sense will prevail when debating whether to purchase that $400 dress.