The arrival of another stylish, high-end clothing boutique is not, perhaps, earth shattering in downtown Los Altos, where a handful of popular stores already reign. But there is something so distinctly San Francisco-chic about 151, the name and address of a new women's clothing store on Main Street, that locals are taking notice. Owner Amanda Frazer, a Bay Area native, said she's delighted with the comparison to San Francisco vogue.
"That's exactly what I was aiming for," said Frazer, 27. "I wanted to give people a touch of San Francisco without their having to drive up." Frazer displays her elegant and richly feminine aesthetic throughout the store.
High ceilings in the pink and dark-chocolate room add a sense of both grandeur and intimacy to the space. There aren't rows of racks to fumble through. Vintage-inspired spring dresses, clutch bags and tank tops are generously spaced around the large room, peeking out of armoires. Tea-light holders, frames, perfumes, ceramics and jewelry are spread atop dressers.
It's the details that make a simple, tan bubble dress really pop. The vertical stitching and heavy white bow evoke an understated elegance, and the quality of the cotton is heavy enough that it drapes well without feeling stiff. A sophisticated navy babydoll jacket features a slightly ruched bodice and rounded collar.
Frazer approaches fashion with a discriminating eye. "I try to pick things that I would wear and that aren't found everywhere. It's exciting to find a diamond in the rough," she said.
At the same time, she empathizes with the practical shopper.
"I look for things that are fashion forward but also very wearable," she said. Spring means dresses for most clothing stores, but Frazer isn't about to phase out a few bolero jackets and light V-neck sweaters. "I'm not a slave to seasons. It's frustrating when you need a black sweater in the spring and you can't find one," she said.
For Frazer, who graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design in San Francisco, the challenges of opening her own business initially seemed, as she said, "totally daunting." First she had to win the approval of brokers, who often coldly demanded upfront to see her business plan. "I sound young, look young and am young. I had a lot of doors slammed in my face," she said.
The opposition she faced initially is partly the reason Frazer supports local vendors and young people just starting out with business ideas.
It's been less than three weeks since the grand opening, and Frazer said that sitting in her own office behind the showroom feels like "a dream come true."
"I have an amazing network of friends and supporters. I came out very green and needed a lot of guidance, but I'm getting more confident. I love working with people," she said.
So far, Frazer runs the operation herself. She's grateful, though, when her mother - whom she calls her best friend - comes in to help out.
"This is really a family affair. My mom is my only employee. My dad is the handyman. I have women who come in with their kids and I put in a movie for them to watch while they wait for their moms to try things on," she said.
151 is located at 151 Main St. in downtown Los Altos. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. For more information, call 947-7151.