The final installment of our three-month guide to the East Bay's best boutiques features shops in Rockridge and Berkeley.
Oakland’s Rockridge district and Berkeley beckon with a bevy of dazzling boutiques. Whether you aspire to be hip, classic, or downright creative with your wardrobe, you can bet your bottom dollar that you will be cruising back through the Caldecott Tunnel laden with shopping bags. Sumptuous Indian silk kimonos, superchic Swedish drainpipe jeans, fine French lingerie, RedBird’s figure-flattering earth-toned ensembles by London’s Eskandar, and dreamy, bohemian Erica Tanov togs are just some of the swanky spoils up for grabs. So take a deep breath and head West!
August 5410 College Ave., (510) 652-2711
The doors to this remarkable boutique were flung open for the first time last August, naturally. The monolithic but minimalist decor of reclaimed Douglas fir and metal pipe work is an apt setting for August’s collection of simple, often quite androgynous designs for men and women. There are no frills here. It’s the kind of place where a guy can leave in a pair of women’s jeans.
The denim: Plain, clean-cut jeans are big at August. Expect skinny, drainpipe, and high-waist jeans from hard-to-find lines such as Sweden’s Acne, Denimbirds, and Nudie Jeans Co. for $250 to $270. Other great names include Rogan, Stitch’s, Edun (designed by U2’s Bono and his wife), and the organic denim line Loomstate.
The knits: Cashmere from Parkvogel and Ireland’s Lainey Keogh accompany handmade, one-of-a-kind sweaters by Wendi Reed. Her whimsical designs include a beautiful gray cashmere zip hoodie with a red cross hand-sewn onto the back ($759).
Look for: Beautiful silk batik pieces by Aoyama Itchome. A Japanese designer living in Paris, Itchome creates elegant clothes with an ethnic edge.
Cotton & Company
5901 College Ave., (510) 653-8058,
With 5,000 square feet of space, this well-loved kids boutique carries a huge selection of lines for preemies right through to size 16. Clothes and shoes for play and for pomp are available from such names as Baby Lulu, Beetlejuice, Girandola, Plum Pudding, Confetti, Charlie Rocket, and Zutano. For moms, there is the ever-popular nursing garb by Glamourmom, as well as every brand of nursing bra imaginable.
A favorite: The chic and couture-style line by Isabel Garreton. This French designer specializes in dressy togs made out of beautiful fabrics. Look for the special-occasion dress with a pearl-studded neckline in white or ivory with blue, pink, or green underlining ($252)—perfect for a flower girl.
Most expensive: A traditional, silk, smocked christening gown by Isabel Garreton ($309).
Best buy: Hartstrings’ cheerfully colored clothes for boys and girls up to size 12. Moderately priced, a Hartstrings sweater costs about $40 and a skirt $35 to $45.
5707 College Ave., (510) 923-0784
From cool casuals to posh togs, Fit carries tees by Velvet and Three Dots, unique screen-print tops by Japan’s Yoshi, light summer dresses by Vera Wang’s Lavender Label, most of the collection of Robert Rodriguez, fashion-forward separates by French designer Cop Copine, and flattering denim by Cambio and Earnest Sewn (whose jeans are all signed by their makers).
Favorites: Asymmetrical chiffon skirts, cropped pants, and Diane von Furstenberg’s classic wrap dress, which she designed in 1976. Von Furstenberg’s summer line features vibrant styles and prints.
Best tees: Marika Charles’s hand-painted tees ($120), tissue-weight cotton tees by Clu in muted, earthy tones ($120), and Three Dots’ asymmetrical fine cotton tees, which come in a wide range of colors and are so soft against the skin ($85).
Summer shoes: Bettye Muller’s orange suede wedge ($320), which is perfect for both casual and dressy occasions.
In Full Swing
5937 College Ave., (510) 654-5144,
This plus-size boutique offers casual and dressy clothes for sizes 16 and up. Expect lots of natural cottons and linens from the likes of Flax and Liz and Jane, dressier outfits by Spencer Alexis and Dinah Lee, and basics by Eileen Fisher and By Taylor.
The highlights: Arty, colorful, patchwork cotton and wool jackets by Staley Gretzinger, big chunky cotton sweaters by Textures, knit separates and dresses by Vikki Vi, and silk print blouses by Citron.
Most sumptuous: Lightweight, hand-painted silk tops, skirts, dresses, and wraps by Southern California’s Silk Bijoux. These one-of-a-kind creations come in beautiful colors that include pink, royal blue, and teal, and cost $160 to $175.
Sweet dreams: La Cera’s featherlight cotton nightgown is cool and breezy for hot summer nights and comes in sleeveless, short sleeve, and long sleeve versions in a variety of pastel colors ($50).
5902 College Ave., (510) 597-1558
With a retro 1940s decor, this new boutique is a prime stop for designer togs, as well as for Trina Turk bags and accessories and original jewelry and gifts. Theory, Nanette Lepore, Tom K. Nguyen, Calypso, Cynthia Steffe, and Tocca are just some of the names hanging here. There’s also a terrific selection of tees, tanks, cords, and denim, plus a hip collection of Vince cashmere crew necks, wraps, and cardigans.
The edgiest: New York’s Rachel Roy. Iniam carries her full collection, including extremely feminine, vintage-inspired trousers, blouses, dresses, and specialty pieces. Keep your eyes peeled for her belted, mid-length, ivory wool ($735) or brown leather ($970) double-breasted trench coat, available in July.
The bling: Check out chunky jewelry designed by San Francisco’s Liz Hynes made of coral, wood, mother-of-pearl, and turquoise. And, for a daintier look, the sweet diamond-accented rose gold, yellow gold, and silver pieces by Ashley Morgan.
Serious service: Iniam’s owner, Lisa Raja, offers emergency house calls during which she will assess your taste and wardrobe before prescribing a style remedy.
5292 College Ave., (510) 428-1302,
If pajamas are a priority, then grab your fluffy slippers and shuffle down to this place. Fun and funky nighttime fashions live here, from Tepper Jackson’s boldly colored striped and floral tailored pj’s to handmade Brazilian silk and jacquard patterned slippers. Lines include BedHead, P.J. Salvage, and The Cat’s Pajamas.
Skinny Cami: A twill cami ($27) and loungepant ($37) set by P.J. Salvage in warm, tropical colors is cool and slimming, with a hidden panel to minimize the mid-section.
Favorite Pajamas: The cotton Japanese-inspired pajama set printed with geishas in a variety of scenes by The Cat’s Pajamas ($84) is a best-seller.
Best novelty: 100 percent silk eye masks (complete with sleepy slogans such as Don’t Disturb and Sleeping Beauty) by Oprah-endorsed Mary Green for $12–$18.
Sefina Studio 5326 College Ave., (510) 547-4779, www.sefinastudio.com
This little boutique is a favorite among high school prom princesses and graduating gals looking for the perfect anticupcake dress. Sefina carries an array of sophisticated and simple cocktail and evening gowns whispering names like Dina Bar-El, Laundry by Shelli Segal, ABS, Mandalay, and Shoshanna. There is also a smattering of Joe’s Jeans and tees by Krisa and Three Dots for a casual occasion, but Sefina mainly carries formal frocks.
Most expensive: A fitted, Asian-style, gold silk sleeveless dress by Mandalay. Seen on Paris Hilton, this dress has an elegant mandarin collar and birds of paradise embroidered up one side, and costs $498.
A best-seller: The bottle-green, silk, plunge-neck dress by Laundry. It’s in the style of the dress worn by Marilyn Monroe that billowed over the New York subway, and it costs $310.
Best secret: Glue. Well, not exactly, but something similar. Sefina carries the backless, strapless adhesive bra by NuBra, as well as the must-have Hollywood Fashion Tape for all those plunging, backless, strappy numbers. Hey, it’s how J.Lo stayed in that Versace dress!
5303 College Ave., (510) 654-2332,
A blissful oasis of fabric and color, Serrahna should not be missed. Owner Andrea Serrahn uses 100 percent Indian textiles (both traditionally handworked and mill produced) to create stunning clothes in exquisitely hued cottons, silks, wool, and synthetics. One new, reversible, three-quarter-length, two-tone sheer skirt is made in delicious color combos, such as rich plum and apple green, chocolate brown and persimmon, and aquamarine and mustard yellow.
Most popular: A reversible kimono that can be tied three ways. It might have a chocolate-brown wool brocade on one side and a cobalt-blue raw silk on the other, a pale, terra-cotta hand-loomed cotton with a charcoal gray and cream brocade, or a two-tone, washable, mill-produced shimmer fabric in magenta plum or seaweed green. The kimonos come in two lengths and cost $78 to $160.
One-of-a-kind sweaters: Handmade in India by one of Serrahn’s favorite artisans, Dipu, each of these knitted treasures is unique. They may be fitted, cropped, or big roomy wraps; beaded and embroidered or a patchwork of three or four sweater types. Some even have huge, ruffled lion collars. Dipu always titles his creations (First Friendship or Lion King, for instance) and hand-paints their names on the label. They run from$98 to $250.
The scarves: It’s worth visiting Serrahna just for the hand-woven scarves. There are more than 100, from dupioni silk to colorful hand-loomed wools. One favorite is made of organza silk with two-toned, iridescent, sheer gossamers containing little cocoonlike bundles of colored cotton. There are even boas handmade out of shredded remnants of Serrahn’s designs. Scarves range from $16 to $125.
5405 College Ave., (510) 601-5822,
Chandelier-lit antique bridal gowns beckon in the windows of this magical shop. Filled with the fashions of yesteryear, Soirée is arguably the best vintage clothing store in the East Bay. And wedding garb isn’t all it has to offer.
The wares: There’s everything from organza and lace bridal gowns from the turn of the last century to 1950s beaded cashmere sweaters. Treasures include 1920s flower headpieces, Miriam Haskell rhinestone jewelry, hats, gloves, handbags, and an array of great vintage shoes. There are even some funky 1960s suede platform boots.
Best vintage finds: 1940s wool and silk suits by Lilli Ann of San Francisco; original, Mexican, hand-painted-cotton circle skirts from the 1940s; and 1960s frocks by Ceil Chapman. Once a favorite with Marilyn Monroe, Chapman’s hourglass dresses sell like hotcakes and are usually priced from $200 to $500.
What’s new: Vintage-inspired embroidered and beaded wedding dresses by Sue Wong, 1950s-style dupioni silk halter dresses by Alyssa Weeks, and Soirée’s own exclusive wedding dresses, designed by Alyssa Weeks, which include the best-selling, figure-hugging, 1930s-style, bias-cut silk dress with cowl neck and low back for $1,150.
5525 College Ave., (510) 595-7272
This bright and airy boutique carries
a great range of out-of-the-ordinary shoes and sandals at refreshing prices. Expect some familiar names that frequently walk out of Nordstrom, as well as harder-to-find lines worthy of a high-end boutique. But rarely do Tootsies’ shoes venture over $250.
The wares: Sandals, heels, wedges, and boots by the likes of Steve Madden, Yellow Box, Moda, Seychelles, Bronx, BCBG, Michael Kors, and Kenzie.
Favorites: Michael Kors macramé wedges in chocolate suede for $194, Steve Madden espadrilles in natural and black for $82, tribal-inspired flat sandals by Matisse for $44–$60, and Betsey Johnson black satin ankle-wrap peep-toe platforms for $148.
Serious service: When you’ve finished shopping, treat yourself to an on-site pedicure ($25–$32) as you lounge in white wooden deck chairs under colored canopies at the back of the boutique.
Sister shop: A second Tootsies is at 175 E. Prospect Ave. in Danville, (925) 552-6638.
5856 College Ave., (510) 594-2201,
This cool, minimalist boutique is the perfect home for a collection of cool, minimalist shoes. Owned by Chris and Alexandra Silverman, 22 Shoes carries its own exclusive line, as well as hard-to-find shoes for men and women by Marc Jacobs, Sigerson Morrison, Lisa Nading, Repetto, and even limited-edition Adidas sandals.
22 designs: Ah, the smell of fine Italian leather! The classy shoes designed by Chris and Alexandra look phenomenally well made—and they are. 22 Shoes uses a family-owned factory in Italy that creates some of the highest quality shoes on the market. Expect sling-backs with peep toes, sleek sandals, and modern ballet flats, all in Italian leather.
Best-seller: The waxed-leather Oslo, 22 Shoes’ refined interpretation of the everyday flip-flop, in rose, black, red, luggage, or putty ($160).
Most expensive: A sling-back by Sigerson Morrison in Italian leather. The straps and wedged heel of this evening sandal are metallized with silver ($375).
5854 College Ave., (510) 594-8380,
Less than a year old, this diva-licious boutique pulls in teens to fortysomethings looking to treat themselves to one or all of the following: denim by Paige, Seven for All Mankind, and True Religion; tees by Juicy Couture, C&C California, and Splendid; swanky glad rags by Hype and BCBG; and metallic leather bags by Sabina and Tano.
Best-seller: Long tunic tanks by Velvet ($54). With thin straps and made from supersoft cotton, these tops are stylishly long and can be ruched up over jeans so they sit right below the hip bone. They look great worn with a distressed wide-leather belt by Linea Pella ($80–$150).
Colorful dresses: Besides the eye-popping strappy silk dresses in olives, plums, and deep chocolates by BCBG Max Azria, there are long modal dresses by Hype in browns, oranges, and teals ($140).
Versatile jewels: Simple, geometric sterling silver and 14-karat gold earrings and necklaces by Nashelle. They range from $40 to $100.
A La Folie
6395 Telegraph Ave., (510) 547-6543,
This heavenly lingerie boutique is loved for its down-to-earth, friendly service. There are no stuffy sale-soldiers here. A La Folie’s gracious owner, Nafissa Tayebi, is both approachable and helpful. Her exquisite lingerie lines include Aubade, Princesse Tam Tam, Simone Pérelè, and Nina Ricci.
A best-seller: The romantic and supremely beautiful silk camisoles by Leigh Bantivoglio. From pink to oyster, these camis come in lots of colors and can even double as evening wear. They range in price from $174 to $190.
High-end: Nina Ricci’s line of bras ($145–$240) and bottoms ($75–$130).
Jammies: Comfy pajama sets by Princesse Tam Tam include cotton camisoles ($69) paired with boxer shorts ($46).
Look for: The silk and lace of Argentovivo. Especially playful, this high-end line includes some flirtatious and creative lace corsets and daring basques.
1827 Fourth St., (510) 849-3331,
Here lies an East Bay treasure. With roots firmly planted in Berkeley, the serene, bohemian styles of Bay Area designer Erica Tanov have not only tiptoed into the pages of Elle but also into specialty boutiques across the globe.
The style: Tanov’s light-as-a-feather fashions whisper a beauty reminiscent of vintage lingerie. Imagine silk chiffon tops, skirts, and dresses in colorful prints and stripes embellished with embroidery, ruffles, and vintage buttons. The Tanov look is achieved when these delicate, fluttery pieces are balanced with cotton voile tunics, knit skirts, and cardigans.
Look for: The Vincent shrunken peacoat in navy, waxed linen, or cream canvas with navy stitching ($419); the Bette wrap dress in cotton argyle ($216); and the birch dancer dress in daisy-printed cotton voile ($438).
Plus: Tanov balances her own collection with an Indian-made, hand-beaded, and hand-painted line by London’s Megan Park; Indian cotton skirts by Kerry Cassill; Rogan denim; knitted socks by Japan’s Antipast; Kale handbags; and handmade leather sandals by Jutta Neumann. There is also lingerie by Araks, and jewelry by Oakland’s Melissa Joy Manning.
1799 Fourth St., Ste. D, (510) 526-8882,
Contrary to the clothing labels found in many hip boutiques, one size does not fit all. That might not be breaking news, but designer and owner of Harper Greer, Terry Kiskaddon, has gone and done something about it. She begins her clothes where most fashion boutiques finish up: at size 12. Created for the larger, curvier lady, her stylish outfits go up to size 26.
Harper designs: Predominantly career and evening separates, Kiskaddon’s ultraflattering and comfortable clothes come in luxurious and colorful fabrics such as dupioni silk, Chinese silk brocades, and linen. Expect sharp, tailored jackets paired with cropped pants, long simple shirts, and flouncy three-quarter-length skirts.
The other lines: Alongside Harper Greer’s own collections hang Mycra Pac reversible
raincoats, simple cashmere sweaters by Terryl, Marco Polo jewelry made with Murano glass, and Echo scarves.
Look for: The sumptuous long or short silk kimono tops by Sterling Designs ($129–$200).
Did you know? Harper Greer designs are laundered prior to cutting, and therefore most are washable, even the silks!
1816 Fourth St., (510) 526-0350
You might not guess that this chic black-and-white boutique houses upscale clothes in addition to high-end lingerie. So in addition to lovely, lacy creations by Lise Charmel, Nina Ricci, Aubade, Millesia, and Cosabella, there are silk pajamas, kimonos, and racks of practical and not-so-practical fashions.
The lingerie: This boutique carries a healthy supply of red-hot, lacy Hanky Panky thongs alongside highly sought-after bras by Le Mystère, Huit, and Chantelle, and more affordable lines such as Triumph.
The practical: Expect lots of practical but pretty cashmere, tops, and pants. There are plenty of basics by French Dressing and Hanro of Switzerland, and simple tees and tanks by Petit Bateau.
The dresses: There’s a suitably sexy, yet classy, selection of evening dresses by the likes of Nicole Miller and Cosabella.
1833 Fourth St., (510) 849-4281
“The first time you come to this boutique, it’s like going to a museum,” says Lilith’s owner Eve Kramer. “A lot of our clothes are like sculpture.” Designed and created in Paris, the Lilith line lends a touch of the avant-garde for women between 40 and 60 who like to have fun with their clothes.
The style: Whimsical is the word that leaps to mind. Expect creative designs that thrive on asymmetry made out of exquisite European fabrics that are often richly colorful and drape rather than cling.
Look for: The versatile, layered tulle skirts that come in teal, brown, black, and beige for $300 to $500.
The accessories: Funky leather shoes and boots by Germany’s Trippen, Venetian glass–beaded jewelry by Italy’s Maria Calderara, colorful leather handbags and wallets by Italy’s Il Bisonte, and summer straw hats by Santa Rosa-based designer Phyllis Beals.
Walnut Square, 1811 Fourth St., (510) 548-3103
This Fourth Street favorite has been charming Berkeley shoppers with its unique selection of clothes, bags, and jewelry since 1985. More often than not, Molly B presents a pleasing mélange of textiles and color from both American and European names.
The lines: Tehen from France, Oska from Germany, and Casch from Copenhagen are just some of this boutique’s many lines. Look for the thick, hand-embroidered coats and jackets by Biya.
Window-shopping: Molly B prides itself on traffic-stopping shop windows. People come from miles around just to see the arty and sometimes controversial designs put together every seven weeks by local window dresser Nina Taylor.
Did you know? The boutique is named after the owner’s daughter.
1825 Fourth St., (510) 549-9195,
One of four in the Bay Area, this boutique carries a creative collection of shoes for men and women by Robert Clergerie, Claudia Ciuti, Giraudon, Luc Berjen, Camper, Arche, Blundstone, and Puma.
Most original line: Cydwoq. Handmade in California with toxic-free dyes, glues, and chemicals, Cydwoq creations are environmentally friendly and incredibly stylish. Women, look out for the Bare strappy thong sandal in metallic black, brown, and teal for $164; men, get a distressed chocolate-brown-leather lace-up shoe with toe-cap for $216.
Best she-shoe: Claudia Ciuti’s strappy high-heeled sandal comes in metallics, like bronze, gold, and silver, as well as practical black ($194).
Best he-shoe: The trendy, comfy Phaet shoe, made from a combination of textile, suede, and leather overlays by Tsubo ($100).
2938 Domingo Ave., (510) 644-0294
This boutique features denim by Red Engine and Stitch’s; T-shirts and
sportswear by James Perse; and lots of jewelry, shoes, and bags.
Highlights: Red Bird carries the entire Eskandar collection from Great Britain, which includes fabulous linen and cotton earth-toned sweaters in luxuriously loose shapes that come in sizes small to extra large ($230).
Comfy casual: Bohemian-inspired cotton and silk dresses and separates for both dressy and casual occasions by Trelise Cooper, and linen and embroidered separates by Pazuki.
The gems: One of a kind, colorful jewelry by Anna von Hellens-Ravi. A Finnish designer living in Berkeley, von Hellens-Ravi uses high-karat gold and semiprecious stones to make colorful Indian-inspired pieces that range in price from $300 to $3,000.
1799 Fourth St., Ste. A, (510) 528-4144,
Shobhan Porter opened this exotic boutique less than a year ago. Its creative collection of European and Japanese designs includes the flattering jackets of Ivan Grundahl; separates by Paris’s Girbaud; sweaters in cashmere, acrylic, and wool by Japan’s Masaki & Kyoko; woolen wraps and scarves by Japanese designer Nuno; inventive, textured tops and skirts by Issey Miyake protégé Yoshiki Hishinuma; and couture Monies jewelry from Denmark.
Wild and wonderful: Using a great many fabrics, from wool with metallic thread to a polyurethane-coated silk, Berlin designer Anett Rostel conjures up magical skirts and feminine, edgy tops. Often created simply in black and white, her designs begin at about $550.
Art to wear: Jackets designed and constructed especially for Shoka by Berkeley’s own Ellen Hauptli. Luxuriously loose fitting, the jackets are made out of Thai and Burmese silks or sometimes hand-embroidered cotton Pakistani blankets. Often reversible, her designs are fabulously colorful and range in price from $350 to $800.
For him: Shoka carries some men’s clothes, including vivid cotton and silk shirts by Italy’s Poggianti and 100 percent cotton jeans by Alberto.