Cozying Up

5 Locally Made Textiles to Keep You Warm This Winter

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By Emily Kovach

Coats from Meri Fete

Meri Fete is a small fashion label founded by Meri Lazar and her daughters. Together, they create one-of-a-kind, demi-couture pieces meant for women who want something with better fit or quality than clothing off the rack. Much of their capsule collection comprises timeless dresses and separates with sleek, clean lines, but they also make gorgeous, sophisticated winter coats that don’t sacrifice warmth for style. 

“As all our items, the coats are intended to be timeless statement pieces made from a collection of individually selected quality fabric,” says Lazar. “We start with the fabric as our canvas and then we create the basic design that evolves with the progress of execution: cutting from the initial pattern, basting and sewing, to the final hand finishing and addition of details.”

Though the label is just two years old, the concept behind its founding goes back 40 years, when Lazar coupled her engineering training with her grandmother’s basic sewing teachings and began cutting fabric. While studying in engineering school, she was asked to maintain a fashion column in the college newspaper, and she developed an appreciation for couture. Later, while traveling for work, she would explore vintage stores and high-end boutiques in various countries.

One of Lazar’s daughters, Ioana, inherited her mother’s love of fashion and now works as a stylist, and she has poured her skill and passion into the label. The label’s practices also reflect their commitment to certain principles: A percentage of the label proceeds benefit various causes, including the International Rescue Committee and Waves for Water.  

Self-described as “slow fashion,” Meri Fete also sees itself as helping to encourage mindful consumption. “Items are designed to be ageless and timeless,” Lazar says, “thus aiming to contribute toward a more sustainable and less wasteful lifestyle.”  

Email hellomerifete@gmail.com for a preliminary consultation

Towels & Throws from Cuttalossa

Can fabric be light, airy and also cozy? Everything that Old City-based Cuttalossa makes points to yes. Its line of versatile cotton textiles feel equally ready for a warm winter snuggle as a relaxed summer picnic. The pestemals (like a throw blanket/towel hybrid), peskirs (good for kitchen towels, hair wraps or towels for little ones), and plush and ultra-plush towels (thick enough to double as a small area rug or child’s play mat) are soft and easy, with colors and textures that exude a modern minimalist comfort.

And if supreme coziness is what you desire, Cuttalossa’s line of alpaca socks, hats, mittens and blankets are just the ticket. They certainly will run you more than your average winter accessories, but their construction and quality means you’ll have them a long time.

Cuttalossa was founded in 2013 by Shannon Retseck. Community and sustainability are at the core of her mission; the organic hand-loomed textiles are sourced from a weaver’s collective in southern Turkey, and the wool is from a group of alpaca farms in rural New Jersey. You can shop online or visit its small setup in the back of Meadowsweet Mercantile, a home and lifestyle boutique in Old City.

cuttalossa.us

Quilts and Fabric from The Village Quilter 

Tucked into a charming cottage-esque building in Mill Race Village in Mount Holly, New Jersey, about 25 miles east of Philadelphia, is the Village Quilter, a quilter’s paradise. The cozy 1,000-square-foot shop offers bolts upon bolts of quilting cottons in all kinds of designs, patterns, books, classes and supplies. Twice a year, the weekends before Memorial Day weekend and Black Friday, the shops sells completed quilts. Village Quilter has been open for 15 years and doubles as a community gathering space where first-timers and seasoned quilters come together via classes, workshops, events and clubs. 

At the end of 2015, the original owner retired, and local Joyce Doenges, a frequent customer at the shop, decided to take it over.

“I had always wanted to own a quilt shop, and this seemed to be the perfect opportunity,” Doenges says. “I considered the Village Quilter my home shop... the perfect place to enhance my quilty stash, have a bite for lunch at the Robin’s Nest and do a bit of shopping. It was a bonus that I just loved the people that worked at the Village Quilter, and fortunately for me, they all decided to continue working for our incarnation of the shop.”

Doenges, who is also a second-grade teacher, reopened the Village Quilter in April 2016. In addition to relocating and expanding the classroom area and exposing existing barn doors along one wall of the shop, part of Doenges’ updating process has been harnessing the power of the local quilting community to do good. They support three charities: Project Linus, Ryan’s Cases for Smiles and Distributing Dignity. 

“We have a large network of quilters that visit us from all over the tri-state area... Many of our customers consider us their home away from home,” she says. “We take our hashtag, #ittakesavillage, seriously.” 

thevillagequilter.com

Clothes and Knits from West Oak Design

In February 2014, soon after the birth of her son, Christie Sommers wanted to find a way to work from home. Her goal was to open an online shop of some kind, and in preparation she started the Handmade Today Project and made one thing by hand every day for a whole year, posting each creation to Instagram.

“The Handmade Today Project was just the structure of accountability, feedback and productivity I needed to kick-start my business,” Sommers says. “The project itself brought a nice bit of attention to my work and legitimized me by showing I was tenacious and dedicated.”

When she’d built up an inventory of items, she opened West Oak Design, an online shop offering small-batch and one-of-a-kind clothing, bags and housewares. Sommers designs and handcrafts each piece with a zero-waste approach. Her clothing is loose and comfy-looking in a very effortless, cool way, and the rope plant hangers, fabric plant cozies and coiled rope bowls bring a tactile warmth.

She recently signed the lease on a new studio in Mount Airy that she’ll use to host workshops, offer shopping by appointment and host occasional open studio hours in addition to fabric printing, pattern cutting, product photography and general business operations. She’ll continue to dye fabrics and construct garments 2.5 miles away in her home studio in Wyndmoor.

westoakdesign.com

Pillows from Dance Happy Designs

Dance Happy Designs is an independently owned silk-screen print studio located in Swarthmore. It prints geometric motifs on fabric in cheerful colors, which is used to create pillowcases, table runners, tote bags and more. 

The company was founded in 2016 by friends Emily Scott, Julia Tyler and Liv Helgesen. The three met in 2012 when Scott, who owns a small shop in Swarthmore called Compendium Boutique, partnered with a Philly-based not-for-profit called Community Integrated Services, whose mission is to find meaningful employment for adults with disabilities. Tyler, who has Down syndrome, was placed as an intern at Compendium and was accompanied by her work coach, Helgesen. 

“Julia is very capable of doing a wide variety of tasks but she's fairly nonverbal... and she has her own pace,” says Scott. “The three of us just really clicked and bonded from the get-go, and five years later, Julia is still working at my boutique as an employee.” 

Tyler’s government funding changed when she turned 21 in March of 2016, and Scott and Helgesen brainstormed ways to help boost her employment. They tried screen-printing: Helgesen has a degree in it from Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and Tyler showed a knack for it. Now, together, they produce handcrafted, high-quality home decor and lifestyle products in small, limited runs. Tyler, the lead designer, applies her interest in pattern and color to the aesthetic of Dance Happy’s products and design patterns. She chooses colors and helps to transfer her patterns for the screen-printing process. Scott is the company business manager and Helgesen is the lead printer.

“From cutting out new patterns to printing fabric to assembling products, everything at Dance Happy is done by hand and with a whole lot of love,” says Scott.  

Though they don’t have their own brick and mortar shop, their Etsy shop is stocked, a few local boutiques carry their products, and they often can be found at trunk shows and makers markets across the region.

dancehappydesigns.com

Meet the New Kid on the Block: Yowie

This housewares and lifestyle boutique charms with colorful, whimsical style

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By Emily Kovach

For Shannon Maldonado, owner and founder of Yowie, Fabric Row has always been special. As a middle schooler, she and her mom would search the fabric shops together for vintage patterns, trims and textiles. When she began looking for a home for her own retail concept, this bustling strip of Queen Village just seemed right. We chatted with her to learn more about her new housewares boutique on South 4th Street.

What’s the aesthetic inspiration behind Yowie?

SM: Yowie is a container for all of the things that I love... The aesthetic is meant to be modern with nods to past art movements, old films, and read as a collage of color, different raw materials and a bit of humor. I love the way all of our objects play off of one another and create a fun, inviting and bright space that people want to spend time in.

When exactly did you open?
SM: We opened on Friday, June 23, to a packed house of friends, family and people we’ve met through our year of pop-ups. We were working up to the minute that we opened. That being said, it was a perfect night and I wouldn't change one second of it.

How do you curate the shop?
SM: It’s mostly intuitive... There’s no exact process other than me falling in love with things,  mostly on Instagram and through trade shows, and some interior sites that I admire. I try to find artists that are doing something different within the home goods space or ones that don’t create home goods that we can experiment with. I believe in every object in our shop.

What would you like to offer that you currently don’t?
SM: More soft goods, such as textiles and pillows. We’re working on solving that problem with our first in-house products that we will be launching next year. We’re also working hard to increase our exclusive product range through collaborations with our artists and friends. We always want the shop to feel new and refreshing.

How have you seen retail/boutique culture change or evolve in Philly?
SM: I was living in New York for the past 12 years before returning to Philly last summer, and part of the reason I opened Yowie here is that I felt the retail landscape was finally ready for something different. It’s exciting as we enter our fifth month in the shop to feel like we’re forging these deep friendships with our neighbors, customers and even passersby that just stumble upon us. I don’t think there’s been one day that I haven’t smiled when I walk through the door.

Yowie, 716 S. 4th St.; no phone

Get to Know Fabric Row

4th Street in Queen Village has fast become a shopping destination

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By Emily Kovach

Many neighborhoods in the city are blessed with its own retail thoroughfare, offering residents and folks passing through a means to shop for anything from groceries to a new bike helmet. But none of the commercial corridors offer such a rich variety of independent retailers as Fabric Row. 

A good number of the old-school fabric shops still line the stretch of 4th Street between Bainbridge and Catherine, with their bundles of textiles and baskets of buttons spilling out onto the sidewalks. But over the past decade the street has undergone a true retail renaissance: Previously shuttered storefronts now boast posh boutiques, a high-end wig shop, vintage shops, art galleries, yoga studios, luxe spas. A six-pack of craft beer? A new skateboard deck? An hour of play-time with kittens? Yup! Some of the best pastries in the city (here’s looking at you, Hungry Pigeon)? You can find all of that, and then some, on this charming stretch of 4th Street. 

For boutique shopping, here are a few of our faves:

Little Moon & Arrow
This past September, Chelsea Pearce of Moon + Arrow opened a children’s extension of her popular boutique, just down the street from the original location on Fabric Row. Situated in a beautifully rehabbed corner storefront at 4th and Monroe that used to house the Philly Performing Arts Center for Kids, this shop is the antithesis of both big chain kid’s retailers and old-school baby boutiques. Comfy, bright and airy, the shop is inviting and unintimidating, though some of the price tags may cause a bit of sticker shock. But, like the original Moon + Arrow, the unstated ethos of the place is explicit through its curation: Handmade, high-quality items are worth paying extra for; they’re lovely to look at and use, they last, and they support hardworking artists and artisans.  

A rack of children’s vintage clothes, plenty of soft, organic textiles and smooth wooden toys for babies, and a preschooler’s dream selection of fabric crowns, magic wands, naturally dyed beads, block sets and sweet stuffed animals are just the start. Books from local artists, adorable greeting cards, charming knit hats, gorgeous mobiles and locally made, small-batch sidewalk chalk (yes, that’s a thing) make splurging on your favorite little one a pleasure. 

729 S. 4th St.; 267.457.5403

Bus Stop Boutique
“Life is short; buy the shoes” reads a little sign on a shelf in Bus Stop Boutique. Nowhere will the mandate be more tempting than at this award-winning shoe shop. For the past decade, owner Elena Brennan has curated a chic line of footwear that’s somehow both thoroughly modern and completely timeless. Simple leather flats go toe to toe with minimalist wool sneakers, low-heeled booties, wild wedges and strappy sandals. The selection for both men and women features brands that are hard to find elsewhere in the city, such as SeaVees, United Nude and H by Hudson. 

In 2015, Brennan began collaborating with a brand, All Black, whose lovely Oxfords she’s been carrying since she opened. Her own brand, BUS STOP X, started out as a range of low-profile, laceless Oxfords in an appealing range of colors and textures. Each style was named after a female Hollywood icon, such as Jean Harlow. The newest collection enhances the neutral leather tones with glossy, metallic accents and bold pops of color. That classic Oxford silhouette remains, though, combining comfort and style in a way that is seriously stunning. Buyer beware: BUS STOP X also includes an in-house line of handbags that are gorgeous. All of these limited-edition shoes are exclusively available at Bus Stop Boutique. 

727 S. 4th St; 215.627.2357

Cactus Collective
There are lots and lots of places to shop for vintage in the city. Many of them have their merits, but ever since opening in 2016 (they’d been doing pop-ups in Philly, Brooklyn and Baltimore since 2014) Cactus Collective has been rocking it extra hard with an ever-evolving selection of apparel, jewelry, accessories and other handmade items, such as herbal wellness products from Primal Apothecary. Owner Lindsay Fryer has an eye for the kinds of 1970s duds that never go out of style: leather jackets, well-worn denims, flowy skirts, wild-patterned blouses, cowboy boots, faded band tees and turquoise jewelry. And fringe... lots of fringe. 

Cactus Collective stays true to its name by taking part in pop-ups, hosting other vintage collectors, promoting friends’ projects through its Instagram account (@cactus_collective) and hosting Fourth Friday art shows featuring local talent. As if that all wasn’t enough to justify frequent drop-ins, the pricing at this cozy shop is beyond fair. While very few vintage shops in Philly rival Brooklyn prices, Cactus Collective is extremely reasonable, championing a democratic, everyone-deserves-rad-vintage spirit. Stop by for a look and walk out with something special, every time. 

739 S. 4th St.; 267.908.4178

One-Stop Shopping

Locally made and recycled options for last-minute gifts—or for you

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By Emily Kovach

After the whirlwind of the holiday season, you may find yourself with a few last-minute gifts to pick up. Or, maybe it’s time to do a little shopping for someone extra special: you! After all, New Year’s Eve is right around the corner and last year’s bejeweled bow-tie needs a few other accessories to make friends with. Whether it’s a new pair of shoes, a refreshed work wardrobe for 2018, or just something to spruce up the apartment—winter does mean spending a lot of time indoors—it’s good to be ready for when the shopping mood strikes. 

Philly hasn’t always had the best retail reputation, but that’s all been changing over the past few years. Just as the big chain retailers have taken over half-blocks in Center City, each neighborhood has welcomed independent shops and boutiques that offer a refreshing version of what local shopping can mean.

Craft Foundry
Artist Minna Aaparyti is the driving force behind this shop in Fishtown that focuses on eco-friendly gifts. Her background as a maker is apparent in the many handmade goods that are offered throughout the store; not all are strictly local, but each item has clearly been chosen with care. A variety of organic bodycare products, such as soaps from Idaho-based Orchard Farm and Philadelphia local Volta Organics, share shelf space with responsibly sourced teas from Wisconsin artisans Rishi Tea, essential-oils-based incense from Maroma, in India, and handknit mittens, hats and scarves. Select items for the home, such as journals made from upcycled paper and naturally scented soy candles, are available as well. There’s also a selection of earrings and necklaces, inspired by shapes in nature, all priced so you could give them as a gift or treat yourself without needing a special occasion. 

Craft Foundry also offers a range of craft classes, all of which take place in the shop. For those interested in paper-based arts, the greeting card and basic bookbinding classes are great places to start. There’s also a workshop titled Two Books in Two Hours, which teaches participants how to make books with simple accordion binding as well as Japanese binding methods. Jewelry-making classes are available, too. You can choose from basic jewelry repair, introduction to silver clay jewelry and an intriguing class called Bronze Clay Adventure. Craft Foundry is a great place to celebrate the beauty and creativity in handmade arts. 

701 Belgrade St.; 267.977.8499

Philadelphia Independents
Old City is packed to the gills with places to shop: There are the tourist traps hawking Rocky- and Liberty Bell-themed swag, the fancy-shmancy clothing boutiques, the high-end furniture design shops and so much more that we’re happy to walk right on by. But when Tiffica Benza, Ashley Peel and Jennifer Provost opened Philadelphia Independents in May of 2014, this bustling neighborhood finally had a store where local artists and makers are the focus. In fact, everything in this cozy shop is handmade and local.

Yes, you will find many Philly-themed items in Philadelphia Independents, but they are clever, well-designed items that actually represent what our city is all about. The T-shirts from Hog Island sport wry takes on local iconography (such as the word “Yous” in the famous “Love” square configuration), elegant screen-printed Philly maps from Eyes Habit, and stark, stunning black-and-white photos by Michael Penn featuring famous landmarks—not all souvenirs have to be schlocky. There is so much more, too: adorable, upcycled stuffed animals, all-natural body care, many styles of jewelry and one of the best selections of local greeting cards around. One wall of the store is dedicated to the 5x5 Gallery, which features work from a different local artist every month, usually with lively receptions on First Fridays. If you ever are in doubt of just how much talent is brewing in our fair city, take a spin around Philadelphia Independents for a potent reminder.

35 N. 3rd St.; 267.773.7316

VIX Emporium
For over 10 years, VIX Emporium has been holding down the corner of 50th Street and Baltimore Avenue in West Philly with super cute local gifts. A decade is a long time in our retail landscape—in 2007, there wasn’t as much retail in the Cedar Park neighborhood as there is now, and there certainly weren’t many artisan-focused boutiques in the city at large. But the selection at VIX, which is down-to-earth and offers a wide range of price points—and almost all locally made goods—spoke to the neighborhood in a way that resonated.

“When the Dollar Stroll started, we were the farthest thing West, but now we’re far from it,” says VIX’s owner Emily Dorn. “I’ve seen children grow up who have been coming to this store this whole time we’ve been open!” 

Some offerings exemplify the location-appropriate bend to the political left—they sell T-shirts with the phrase “Nevertheless, She Persisted” to benefit Planned Parenthood, for instance—and the 1940s-era mirrored shelves are lined with all kinds of quirky, lovely gifts for the quirky, lovely people in your life. Check out the handmade ceramics, ogle the art prints, peruse the candles and bodycare, and don’t miss all kinds of jewelry and decorative home items. West Philly-branded T-shirts and baby onesies have become a symbol of local pride, and, hey, if you need an apron emblazoned with “West Philly is the best Philly,” VIX has that, too. 

New for the 2017 holiday season, VIX is offering two exclusive 2018 calendars: one of paintings of West Philly architecture by artist Russell Brodie and the other by a local artist named Loretta Gary (owner of Radical Hearts Print Lab). Each month features a different radical figure or artist. They’ll print just 125 copies of each calendar, so if you’d like your very own piece of West Philly to appreciate all year long, get there soon. 

5009 Baltimore Ave.; 215.471.7700

Greene Street
When I first moved to Philly in 2004, I needed to buy a suit for a job interview. As a broke and somewhat clueless recent college grad, the prospect of suit shopping had me feeling completely overwhelmed. An older, savvier friend suggested looking in Greene Street, and sure enough, when I stopped into the location at 7th and South, I walked out with a decent suit for under $50, which actually helped me pass for an adult (and, I might add, get the job).

That’s the beauty of consignment shops: Shoppers can go in with a specific mission, or simply just to browse. Either way, the odds lean much more toward success than the thrilling-but-unreliable vintage- or thrift-store hunt. The brands are recognizable, the sizing is modern, all of the garments have been vetted for good condition, and the prices are way, way less than what you’d spend at a department store. 

Greene Street, which is based in Wyncote, Pennsylvania, has built a small empire on this concept. They began with one shop on the Main Line nearly 20 years ago and currently have nine locations across Greater Philadelphia and New Jersey. Each shop sells both women’s and men’s clothing, jewelry, shoes and accessories, and some locations have clothing for kids, too.

This isn’t the store’s only strong suit (no pun intended!), though. Greene Street is also a great option for when you’re doing a massive closet cleanout. That snagged sweater will have to go to the thrift store, but contemporary apparel with minimal wear can be consigned to Green Street for 40 percent commission. The locations in Wyncote and Summit, New Jersey, also offer the opportunity to trade items (see the website for more details). 

Whether you’re buying or consigning, Greene Street helps to keep clothes out of the waste stream. 

Various locations