By Margo Greenman
Take a day trip to Seattle and it’s easy to spend hours exploring posh boutiques and popular department stores. Unfortunately, intimidating styles, sticker shock and overwhelming inventory can often turn potential customers into hopeful window shoppers. Acknowledging the inaccessibility of upscale boutiques along with the stresses associated with the mall, a recent surge of affordable and fashionable shopping options has emerged in the heart of Tacoma. Wanting to provide an alternative to the mall that won’t break the bank, local boutiques are helping the people of Tacoma get dressed.
Diamond Sanger and Andy Stevens are the duo responsible for the newest addition to Tacoma’s growing boutique scene with their recently opened store, Satori. With an intent to provide women with affordable attire that they can feel and look good in, Sanger bagged her nine-to-five and opened Satori, just months after realizing her vision. With the assistance of her boyfriend, Stevens, who has a background in business, the two began shopping for storefronts. Shortly after securing a location in Tacoma’s bustling 6th Avenue district, they loaded their shelves with merch from Los Angeles trade shows and Satori opened its doors.
Since its opening this past November, Satori has seen a fair amount of curious shoppers and a growing number of returning clientele. Outfitted with chic racks of color coordinated clothes, utilitarian lockers that open to reveal a selection of premium denim, tables adorned with stylish shoes, and mannequins clad to trigger inspiration, Satori boasts a variety of compelling fashions. “We wanted to encourage people coming in by providing low prices and unique options,” Sanger explains. With most items priced below the recommended manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP), Satori specializes in making their customers look good, no matter their budget.
But contemporary fashion at a fraction of the price isn’t enough on its own, which is why Sanger explains that for her it’s important to get to know her customers and their style preference. “Being able to connect with customers is our number one thing,” she says. “I love to ask people what they’re looking for, it’s important to make that connection.” By understanding her customers, Sanger is able to help educate and outfit them in clothes that match their style and figure. “It’s really fun to participate in the future of Tacoma’s style,” she says.
And, unlike bigger department stores that can feel overwhelming, Satori’s selection is limited to feature a well balanced selection of clothes versatile enough to suit a variety of styles – you don’t have to spend hours digging through racks to find something. Sanger explains an added benefit to this is that because she keeps inventory low and never re-orders the same thing twice, there is always something new.
But Satori isn’t the only store in town that has taken this approach to dressing the citizens of Tacoma. Specializing in menswear, downtown Tacoma’s Feather + Oar features a hand-picked selection of gently used men’s clothing that is affordable and stylish.
Owner, JD Elquist, explains that it’s less about pushing fashion or trends, and more about helping people understand that they don’t need to change their style to look good, they just need to know how to wear what they’re wearing. “My focus is on doing a good job of making you look your best regardless of how you dress,” Elquist says.
One way that Elquist accomplishes this is by providing his customers with a small, “curated” selection of clothing. “There’s only a handful of things that men wear on a consistent basis,” Elquist says. By limiting his inventory to those essentials, Elquist makes it easier for his customers to find something that they’ll actually wear.
But, like Sanger, Elquist agrees that the most important aspect of boutique shopping is that it provides a one-on-one experience for the customer. “It’s one thing to have a boutique atmosphere, but what are we trying to push at the end of the day?” he asks. By providing a personalized shopping experience, Elquist is able to focus his attention on his customers individually to help them pick out clothing that suits their individual needs. “We can have a conversation about why we’re getting dressed and what we’re getting dressed for,” he says.
While Satori and Feather + Oar take the helm when it comes to providing Tacoma with curated selections of affordable and stylish attire in a personalized environment, there are plenty of other options for looking good and shopping local in Tacoma, such as downtown’s UrbanXchange. Featuring a range of inexpensive and recycled clothing for both men and women, UrbanXchange is a hot spot for college students, as it is conveniently located downtown near the University of Washington.
For those not quite ready to contemporize, vintage stores Retrospect and Vanity offer retro fashions to indulge any throwback style. And, with both stores located on 6th Avenue, mapping out your itinerary is easy.
Also located on 6th Avenue, Annette B. offers charming fashions and home decor, as well as a full selection of maternity wear for mothers-to-be.
Getting dressed shouldn’t be a chore, and looking good shouldn’t be a privilege. Thanks to Tacoma’s take on boutique shopping, it doesn’t have to be.