An artist at this summer’s Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival spotted an empty storefront during her weekend in town and saw the potential to stay for the long term. Within a month, women’s clothier Guo Feng had opened a brick-and-mortar boutique, 3 Potato, and started selling her personal designs from the former location of Atelier Gray at 358 State St.
Feng’s loose and flowing shirts, tunics and jackets are made of lightweight, easy-to-wash viscose. Some of the fabrics use patterns she painted herself, other prints she modified or picked for their striking aesthetic.
“A lot of people wear solid colors, but it’s a little boring, so I tried to find prints that match solid colors well,” Feng said. “I tried to find prints that looked abstract – not flowers, more interesting.”
She tailors the clothing to be generous to a variety of body types. Feng, a petite woman who started the shop as an empty-nester after her son headed to college, tests the cuts on herself.
“My age is getting older and my tummy is getting bigger. I’m a lazy lady – I don’t want to do exercise every day, and I like delicious food,” she said, patting the drape of one of her black blouses she was wearing in the shop. “All my designs are loose-cut. They cover the tummy but don’t make you look pregnant.”
Feng is still in the process of building out her inventory from initial samples. When a small producer starts her own clothing line, she has to test samples from the factory and find enough buyers, at local boutiques and in Los Altos, to justify a larger order. As her inventory grew over the past two years, Feng said she wanted to find a space to expand beyond her garage – and the opportunity on State Street presented itself.
“I’m conservative, but I love your colors,” Los Altos resident Linda Clark said as she was passing through the shop last month to complete a transaction.
Clark discovered the boutique as a passerby.
“I said, ‘Whoa, this is new,’ and loved what she had on display,” she said.
Feng, who lives in San Jose, also has some of her painting and sculpture in the store, as well as statement necklaces she designs. Earth tones dominate in the clothing, with some jewel colors glimmering here and there.
From hobby to career
Art started as a hobby for Feng, whose mother was a daily painter who inspired her growing up.
“When I came to the U.S., I thought I had to earn money and learn computer science, but art was my passion,” Feng said.
She became an art student as an adult, following another Chinese expatriate who helped her develop particularly in oil painting. The jewelry and sculpture she started to make gave her confidence in three-dimensional design and a feel for how clothing flows across a body, beyond the two-dimensional look of a print and silhouette.
“When people wear it, you need to see the concept,” she said. “If I have the chance and the time, I need to go to fashion school.”
She named the business after a family joke – they say that her husband is No. 1 potato, as the eldest and the primary breadwinner, Feng is No. 2 potato and her son is No. 3 potato. Family has assisted her in building the business. A cousin in Shanghai helped find small factories willing to complete orders as small as 100 pieces at a time. Her garments, which range in price from $58 to $78, are sold only in person at local boutiques. Feng journeys to the markets in China to seek out new prints and feel the fabrics she is preparing to order. Her line currently includes tunics, trousers, tank tops and jackets.
For more information, call (408) 613-5873.