By Mariah Beckman
Standing just over five feet tall, a bespectacled Julia Jones sports a cardigan and floor-length maxi skirt. She still looks the part of the 9-to-5 office worker she was in her former life. Her disposition is positively sunny and complements her store, which, despite its haunting décor, is bright with natural light from the shop’s large and mannequin-flanked window front.
You would never know looking at her that Julia Jones owns and operates a gothic, Victorian boutique in Tacoma. But, like Le Noir Bazaar itself, there is much more to this local business owner than meets the eye.
Born and bred in the Midwest, the owner of Tacoma’s premiere Victorian specialty shop had never been a particularly dark soul. “I am very normal-looking,” she admits with a laugh. “I was not a goth kid at all. I don’t have a single tattoo, and I don’t even have a piercing.” She loves to knit, crochet and has always adored making jewelry. An animal lover through-and-through, Julia has been an active volunteer with organizations like the Humane Society for more than 30 years.
A warm-hearted animal lover with a flare for arts and crafts, Julia admits the eeriest detail of her adult life may be that her and her husband got married on Halloween.
Despite her unassuming appearance, Julia found her calling in 2011 when she left the rat race behind to open the doors to her own gothic boutique on Broadway Avenue. Since her extravagant Halloween-Day opening, she has expanded her penchant for handcrafted jewelry and stylish knits into a haven for the alternative fashion maven. Her eclectic personal style, which has blossomed over a lifetime of creative expression in her off-hours, has led Julia to a full-time career in retail at her Antique Row shop. As Le Noir Bazaar prepares to celebrate its fifth anniversary, Julia’s Victorian-era-inspired retail space continues to garner more and more of a cult following every year.
Perhaps the most remarkable offering at the Bazaar is Spoiled Rotten Lilith Jewelry. This collection of handcrafted trinkets is what Julia often credits as the beginning her adventures in retail. A magpie at heart, the shop owner says she gravitates toward sparkly accents and ornate pendant pieces when building her custom jewelry.
Traditional Victorian accoutrements like oversized cameos and semiprecious stones are some of this lifelong jewelry-maker’s favorite mediums. She has been known, however, to dabble in more macabre odds and ends, too. Her pagan collection, which she curated over the 2015 summer season for the Pagan Pride Festival in Tacoma, features bits of bleached bone juxtaposed against polished stones and floral accents. The bazar will have a booth at the Reptile Show this year on October 17 and 18, and is also on-site regularly at the Springtime Fairy Festival and the Fall Fantasy Festivals in Tacoma.
The jewelry at the boutique is handmade and so are the shop’s capelets and gloves. A wide assortment of organic soaps are also crafted by hand using seasonal and all-natural ingredients. The clothes at Le Noir Bazaar, however — unlike any other clothing sold on Tacoma’s Antique Row — are all brand new and one-of-a-kind.
Specializing in wares for the modern goddess, Le Noir Bazaar offers more than just an assortment of velvet, petticoats and corsets. Featuring in a mélange of everyday fashion for girls with an alternative edge, the boutique carries everything from statement-making petticoats and vintage-inspired fit-and-flares to Wonderland-chic leggings and cheeky skull prints.
“Not just gothic or Victorian, we offer the kind of stuff that you can wear to work,” says Katie, one of the Bazaar’s attentive shopping assistants. “Pair a lace layer with one of our pencil skirts and a Le Strange jewelry collection cuff or necklace and voila — understated standout-style for the office.”
Katie is just one of the local girls who has helped Julia to shape the direction of Le Noir Bazaar over the years. Jessica Mercier, a local artist, consigns aromatic and handmade organic soaps at this specialty showroom. Amanda Jones, a graduate of Tacoma’s creative School of the Arts, is responsible for all of the décor and the window dressing in the shop — as well as some handmade fairy dreads and Victorian-themed jewelry.
The boutique prides itself on partnering with local creatives. Julia says working with Tacoma girls has been so positive for Le Noire Bazaar because of their innate creativity. All along the walls, customers can see Victorian and steampunk models donning Le Noir fashions, and many of these vixens live in town and met Julia just by patronizing her shop. This family-run business is so committed to supporting local ladies that nearly every model or photographer with whom they work with calls Tacoma home.
Good to be bad
Julia has stayed true to her good-girl roots as her dark boutique has taken flight. Encouraged by her equally compassionate staff, Julia routinely offers a portion of her profit to charity. “I’ve always volunteered at rescue shelters for cats and dogs, so it was a natural thing for me to find — when I went looking for a charity to support — a cause that championed animal rescue.”
Le Noir Bazaar will soon be auctioning off a limited edition frock with the proceeds from the sale benefiting a local rabbit rescue organization.
The dark market also sells something in-store and online called a Surprise Bat Bag. Conscientious shoppers who love a little mystery can elect to choose a surprise outfit, hand-selected by the shop’s own personal photo and marketing stylist, Amanda, for the price of $35, $50 or $75. Ten percent of the proceeds for this sale will benefit Bat World Conservation, and as a reward for their generosity, shoppers will receive double the value of their donation in clothing, accessories and jewelry.
Something wicked this way comes
While Julia may not have a bad bone in her body, she does know how to throw a wicked party. The shop’s opening in 2011 attracted a whopping 500 people and hosted palm readers, fire dancers, the Tacoma Hearse Club and a live rock band, among other pageantry. Le Noir typically hosts a Halloween-themed bash, as well, and also has a strong presence at the epic First Night in Tacoma on New Year’s Eve.
“One of the things that I’m known for is that, when I do have an event, I’m not happy unless it’s a spectacle. Two or three years ago on First Night I had a fashion show in my window and all of my girls were modeling in the windows holding live snakes while a rock band played. A new local band is already booked for First Night 2016, and there will be another fashion show in the windows again this year.”
Check the shop’s Facebook before you visit to learn more about their up-and-coming events, as well as to preview new jewelry and fresh fashions. Whether you’re a fan of one-of-a-kind couture fashion or just in the market for something with a gritty twist, Le Noir Bazaar is sure to have something bewitching in store for you.
Le Noir Bazaar
Tacoma, WA 98402
Wednesday through Sunday: 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Closed Monday and Tuesday