If you're serious about jeans, you've probably been introduced to Nolita and Katy Kippen. Though they probably don't have the largest sheer number of denim lines in the city (Blake comes to mind), Nolita has a huge range of sizes, and they identify as a store where everyone can find that elusive pair of perfect, ass-flattering jeans.
This coming weekend, Nolita celebrates its three-year anniversary with a storewide sale—20 percent off of everything. So if it's time to replace your trusty dungarees, or just expand your collection, get thee thither. Plus, though the shop might be a denim destination, the rest of the clothing is not to be ignored, thanks to Kippen's buying philosophy, which simply allows the customer to dictate the merchandise.
The original Nolita was opened about five years ago in Missoula, Montana by Margit Meriweather, in a space next door to a historic movie theater. Kippen recalls anxiously peeking through the windows of the space before it opened, and eventually met Meriweather, who gave her a job. The two hit it off, and when Kippen decided to move to Portland, she jokingly suggested that Meriweather open a second location here. Fortunately, Meriweather took her up on it, eventually making her a partner, and Portland's Nolita was born.
As it turned out, Meriweather had less time than she anticipated to tend to the Portland location, and she's trusted much of the decision making to Kippen, who's curated the boutique to personalize it for the Portland customer. This means that over the course of the past three years, Nolita has changed dramatically, and is increasingly unique from the Montana location. Primarily, the Portland crowd has demanded a far more casual inventory, and unlike the original, our Nolita caters to both men and women. With pieces that are at once basic and ahead of the curve, the store is the kind of place where you find sweaters you'll want to wear for a week straight, basic but critical layering T-shirts, unique takes on jackets. It's a good spot to hit when you're looking for pieces that you plan to wear all the time—if you need a hoodie for fall, for instance, you'll find one that's got all the coziness and versatility you're banking on, plus boredom-defying style points.
Another Portland-defining retail symptom is the preponderance of black on Nolita's shelves. Kippen herself is passionate about the color, wondering if people try to avoid it because they (misguidedly) feel like they should, even though it looks good on everyone, and instantly makes you look like you lost 10 pounds. (Hear, hear.) It's not that she hasn't tried, but Kippen reports that at the end of every season it's color and patterns that dominate the clearance rack. And given the quantity of black, Kippen has to work extra hard to find diverse and interesting silhouettes so that the merchandise doesn't look homogenous. It's also a great place to find cashmere at more accessible prices than your basic $400 investment crew neck.
And then, of course, there are the jeans. Nolita carries between 15 and 20 lines, choosing carefully and then buying "deep" in each, so there is a wide range of fits available. A favorite is The ProportionofBlu, an LA-based line that bases its proportions on the Golden Ratio. Gimmicky as that may be, don't knock it until you've seen what these pants can do for your ass: It's intimidating. Kippen and her employees pride themselves on finding solutions for the toughest and pickiest denim shoppers, getting people into jeans sometimes for the first time in years.
With an eye toward carrying emerging lines, Nolita has been carrying labels like Mike & Chris, which has since exploded, since their inception. (Incidentally, while Mike & Chris is available at several locations in town, Nolita is the only local retailer of the line's menswear, and any guy in the market for a leather jacket should take a crack at their version, which is super soft and has a detachable hood—at press time, there was only one left.) Another hot line that will be coming in for fall is the new incarnation of Helmut Lang, resurrected by the founders of Habitual at a surprisingly reasonable price point.
Things move quickly at Nolita, where shipments of new merchandise come in daily, making it a good place to pop into whenever you're in the neighborhood. Its understated, user-friendly layout make it easy to navigate, and the staff is honest with you about what works on your body. Stop by and check it out for yourself this Thursday through Saturday. (Nolita, 923 NW 10th, party Thurs June 7, 7-9 pm, w/DJ Verbz, sale through Saturday)
Another note on the subject of sales is that Thursday marks the beginning of the women's designer sale at Mario's (833 SW Broadway), which includes up to 40 percent off items by such high-profile names as Chloé and Bottega Veneta, so if you're in the market to splurge, do it now.
Paying full price is for suckers: firstname.lastname@example.org