Business & Real Estate

Future fashionistas: Downtown clothing boutique gives local students window into world

Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Photo Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier Los Altos High’s Elise Hu won Apricot Lane’s Holiday Window Display Contest based on an online vote. Her display entry was one of four created by Debut Fashion Club members.
By Diego Abeloos

Apricot Lane owner Nikoline Bergstrom and her staff recently gave a group of Los Altos High School students a rare hands-on experience in the fashion industry.

The downtown clothing boutique owner invited eight members of the high school’s Debut Fashion Club to participate in its Holiday Window Display Contest, offering them a glimpse into the business. Along the way, participants received mentoring by Apricot Lane staff in the finer points of merchandising, styling and window design techniques.

The boutique last week announced LAHS sophomore Elise Hu as the winner of the contest following an online vote by the public through the boutique’s Facebook page. Hu and her club’s participating members will be treated to a trip to the upcoming Contemporary Association of Los Angeles Apparel Show in San Francisco, where they will shadow Apricot Lane buyers. In addition, the group will have lunch with Bergstrom.

Hu said she relished the opportunity and aims to pursue a career in fashion marketing in the future.

“It was definitely a great experience,” Hu said. “Before this, I had no idea how to style a window or even dress a mannequin. This opportunity was great because I got to work with a real boutique in my own community.”

According to Naida Ergas, Apricot Lane marketing project manager, the contest required participants to create a backdrop for the boutique’s window display during the holidays. Four participants also competed in creating a style collection of Apricot Lane products for the display, which included coordinating outfits and accessories, as well as dressing and arranging mannequins.

“It was really cool to see how fresh their ideas were. … It was fun to see them grow,” said Angela Forte, the boutique’s manager.

Bergstrom added that the contest served as a small pay-it-forward gesture.

She recalled her own experience working as a teenager at Ford’s department store in Watsonville. Her superiors at the store, she noted, showed faith in her abilities by assigning her the task of creating jewelry displays at seven regional stores along the coast. That trust, she recalled with a chuckle, included handing her the keys to a company car.

With this in mind, Bergstrom said she and her staff were happy to serve as mentors for the aspiring students.

“They’re the next generation,” she said. “The fashion industry is so much different than when I started, and these girls understand it already.”

Forte added that the boutique’s staff aims to inspire future generations, noting the difficulties of breaking into the fashion business.

“I think a lot of boutiques can be a little dismissive,” she said. “I think it’s great that we got this chance to take the girls under our wings.”

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