Despite the increasingly grim outlook on national economics, Portland boutiques spring eternal. Covet (429 SW 10th) is one such shop, celebrating its grand opening this weekend. Luckily perched in the heart of the newly revitalized West End neighborhood, which has taken off in the wake of the Ace Hotel's arrival, along with posh, hip businesses like the Living Room Theaters, Kenny and Zuke's, Clyde Common, and the most fashionable Stumptown of them all.
Owner Athena Frazier, a native Portlander who returned five odd years ago after a stint in New York, was drawn to this neighborhood, which is marked by the preservation of old buildings (Covet resides in a lovely art deco specimen) revitalized by modern entrepreneurial businesses, retaining the storied feeling of the neighborhood and at the same time creating a buzz. It's a smart move; not only is the location on a well-beaten pedestrian path, and attractive to the working professionals with offices nearby who might want to do a little lunch-hour browsing, but being on the same block as the Ace means that tourists and traveling creative types wanting to take advantage of our tax-free shopping are literally right around the corner. It's the same symbiosis enjoyed by Frances May (1013 SW Washington), a slightly younger, artier store that opened on the same day as Covet and the two stores in turn help to bolster complementary shopping destinations like Odessa (410 SW 13th) and The English Dept. (1124 SW Alder) in the area. Hands down, it's Portland's most exciting neighborhood right now.
What Covet brings to the increasingly crowded boutique table is a mix of simple, everyday staples—like soft cotton Ts and tanks, jeans, and leggings—with pieces from smaller collections that, as Frazier puts it, "have a little bit more going on." Lines like Michael Stars and Velvet can certainly be found elsewhere, but Frazier notes that she edits them much differently than monoliths like Saks Fifth Avenue or Nordstrom.
With a background in visual art (for four years, she was the assistant director of Gango Gallery, which essentially started the First Thursday tradition) and retail (upon returning from the East Coast, she worked at Elizabeth Street [635 NW 23rd] as a buyer and manager for five), Frazier also draws from influences gathered while traveling in Europe. This translates to a store that features feminine, sophisticated pieces from Tibi and Geren Ford, as well as earthier, heavily embellished accessories from Calleen Cordero, including three pairs of shoes: a clog, a Mary Jane T-strap, and a boot.
Inspired by the "scarf craze" sweeping the nation in from Europe, French scarves by Épice are also in order (Frazier suggests throwing one on over jeans and a T-shirt for an instant, effortless effect), as well as a small selection of simple, wearable jewelry in mixed metals from Wasabi and Dogeared that is already almost sold out. (Covet grand opening, Sat May 3, 5-8 pm)
Meanwhile, two more stores are gearing up to open in the Pearl District: Parallel Boutique (1122 NW Marshall), set to open in June, will carry men and women's clothing from lines like Lutz and Patmos, Clu, Paul & Joe Sister, Tocca, House of Hengst, and beginning next spring, Twenty8Twelve, perhaps better known as the line that Sienna Miller designed with her sister. Up the road a piece will be Lucia Apparel (424 NW 11th), slated to open in late May, with a grand opening party on June 5, the flagship for clothing designed by Art Institute graduate Sarah Wallace.
Those more inclined to the delights of Portland's vintage coffers might want to check out Sunday's vintage fashion show at Dirty Little Secret (1909 NE MLK). Going down the first Sunday of every month, the event is hosted by AlexSandra's Vintage Emporium (6726 N Interstate), and features explanations of the era and origin of each item. (Sun May 4, 5 pm, free, all ages)