Feature: Fashion-Forward

Local favorites and new boutiques make Marin a shopping destination

By Flora Tsapovsky

It’s hard to believe, but spring is almost here, and with it, adorable new trends and a fresh motivation to shop for soon-to-be closet favorites. If in the past Marin residents would make shopping trips to San Francisco to get smartly dressed, these days it’s quite the opposite. Thanks to an influx of stylish destinations, it is now San Franciscans who drive up north to shop in style.

Over the last few years, a number of new boutiques, led by experienced fashion experts, have joined the ranks of true and tested fashionable institutions, making Marin more shoppable and fashionable than ever. Among them are chic multi-brands, a rugged boating emporium, a lifestyle boutique for the whole family and a couple of high-end establishments that could be easily mistaken for New York City shops. We gathered the best of the bunch, and caught up with the owners about Marin County style, spring 2017 trends and much more.

Branded Boutique (Mill Valley)

Celebrating a little more than a year in Mill Valley, Branded Boutique is a multi-brand winner, founded by a female duo; Kannyn January, who lives in San Louis Obispo and owns two other boutiques on the Central Coast, and Natalie Boatright, a resident of nearby San Anselmo.

“The downtown area just felt right for our store, since it has a great sense of community and we wanted to be in such a community environment,” says Boatright, who stocks the boutique with fashion-forward brands such as Ulla Johnson, IRO, Mara Hoffman and Raquel Allegra. “We wanted to select brands that were unique to the area; there are so many wonderful lines that had no representation in Marin.”

The bright and stylish boutique, skewing a little towards the younger and hipper customer, already has a list of devoted regulars, and some come all the way from San Francisco.

Branded Boutique, 118 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley; 415/888-2135.

Guideboat Co. (Mill Valley)

Guideboat Co. isn’t your typical women’s boutique. Housed since 2013 in the 5,000 square-foot historic Mill Valley Lumber Yard, the store has been a masterpiece of branding, design and atmosphere. In fact, it’s one of the first retailers to revive the now thriving area, which is also home to Ambatalia textiles and Bloomingayles botanicals. Behind the brand, which specializes in small boats, sailing gear and outfits, is Marin local Stephen Gordon, who also happens to be the founder of the very successful Restoration Hardware. You don’t need to love sailing or even know anything about boats to enjoy this store—plenty of shopping awaits those who simply like the rugged, outdoorsy Marin style. Sturdy sweaters, shirts for men and women in boat-appropriate colors, boots and high-quality leather bags are all offered.

Guideboat Co., 129 Miller Ave., Mill Valley; 415/888-2871; guideboat.com.

Klozet (Sausalito)

Open since June 2016, Klozet, a hidden alley boutique in Sausalito, is a hub of understated chic and urban style. The store was founded by Ko Ezzell and Christine Caria. Ezzell, a former fashion model and forever fashionista, has managed to exclusively sign more than 50 designers, making the place one of Marin’s prime boutique destinations. The selection includes premium denim brands like Citizens of Humanity and PAIGE as well as names like Frank & Eileen, IRO and Smythe, in addition to a small shoe selection, local jewelry designers and Kai beauty products. Chic framed photography and minimalist design complete the experience. Klozet opened in the summer of 2016.

“When I think of Marin style I think of what I like to call comfortable luxe,” Ezzell says. “That can take you from your house in Tahoe to an evening in any city.” Her favorite pick right now is a blush IRO blouse. “The color is on trend this season and the draping is romantic with a bit of edge. I also love anything that can be worn with jeans.”

Klozet, 30 Princess St., Suite C, Sausalito; 415/331-5598; shopklozet.com.

Koze (Tiburon)

In Tiburon, Koze is a true local institution—open since 2002 and owned by Darla Fisher, who has seen fashion from every angle. “I worked at all of the points of retail, from manufacturing to wholesale, for Nordstrom and designer Jessica McClintock,” Fisher says.

As a long-standing shopping destination, the boutique, she says, “caters both to the tourist and the locals, both Californians and out-of-state, so our lines have to be interesting enough, and at a friendly price point.”

Offerings include top-notch cashmere and denim, with names like Margaret O’Leary, REPEAT, Rails and luxury jewelry brand Chan Luu in the mix. “Marin style has a very relaxed vibe, youthful and modern, and the opposite of Southern California—a bit more refined, not as eclectic,” Fisher says.

For spring 2017, she loves texture tassels. “There’s a lot of emphasis on playfulness and texture, more in accessories than in clothes—it’s easier to take a risk with them and create the bohemian look. Our clients adapt it really tastefully, and in general, the Marin women are incredibly tasteful.”

Koze, 16 Main St., Tiburon; 415/435-1916; getkoze.com.

Haven and Nicolette (Larkspur)

Situated across the street from one another, these two relatively new Larkspur boutiques have marked the small town as a worthy shopping destination. Pristine and minimal Haven, the newcomer, caters to the urban, sophisticated side of Marin style, with touches of bohemian glamour. Brands like Antik Batik and Raquel Allegra are styled with Soludos shoes and chic Mar Y Sol bags, and spring 2017 brings even more excitement—designers like Derek Lam and Rachel Comey will join the ranks. Nearby, cozy and longer-running Nicolette offers personal styling and more opportunities to get your hands on desirable brands like Elizabeth and James, Equipment, and the highly covetable line by the Olsen twins, One Teaspoon.

Haven, 250A Magnolia Ave., Larkspur; 415/886-8995.

Nicolette, 499 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur; 415/927-0226; shopnicolette.com.

Blanc (San Anselmo)

In San Anselmo, Blanc serves both as a fashion boutique and a place to gather, mingle and meet fellow fashionistas. Owner Nancy Mayer frequently organizes trunk shows, lectures about dating and finances and other fun events advertised on the shop’s website. The boutique has been open since 2005, and quickly became a local fashion authority. Brands are added seasonally, and currently include denim by Citizens of Humanity, Goldsign and HABITUAL, carefully selected apparel by the likes of Minnie Rose, Nili Lotan, Obakki and Uma Wang and much more. The style is crisp, relaxed and timeless.

Blanc, 514 San Anselmo Ave., San Anselmo; 415/485-0104; blancboutique.com.

Viva Diva (San Rafael)

It’s hard to believe, but San Rafael’s beloved Viva Diva, a Fourth Street mainstay, will be 20 this July. Owner Amy Anderson started in the business as a retail sales rep, but, in her own words, “I quickly realized that my passion involved creating a space of my own with a true supportive ‘girlfriendy’ environment and racks of sexy contemporary fashion.”

Now, she employs two extra ladies to dress and style the local crowd in contemporary, feminine brands like San Francisco-based Amour Vert, Ella Moss and Free People. In terms of Marin style, “the Viva Diva customer in Marin is partial to bohemian, beachy styles paired with a sexy, rocker edge,” Anderson says, “perfect for the girl who craves a relaxed yet sexy wardrobe.”

Anderson is a big believer in wearable, practical trends, and always looks for “the best-quality contemporary styles with the biggest bang for their buck.”

Her favorite trend for spring 2017? “We are loving everything shoulder this spring! The cold-shoulder and the off-shoulder looks are huge this season.”

Viva Diva, 1327 Fourth St., San Rafael; 415/256-8380; vivadivaboutique.

Palette Boutique (Mill Valley)

At the one-year-old Palette Boutique, owner Tonya Milteer curates a palette of contemporary designers, established and up-and-coming, and some are local. Among the brands, you’ll find Bay Area’s beloved bag brand BAGGU, ever-cool clothing company BB Dakota, 525 America, GOLDSIGN denim, Level 99 jeans, Splendid and Subtle Luxury.

“We curate a mix that appeals specifically to the women of Marin,” says Milteer, who previously owned a women’s boutique in San Francisco. “Local ladies love their pilates and whole foods, so our pieces tend to have clean lines that highlight and flatter a figure; styles that recognize the trends without being overly trendy.”

Knowing her clientele, Milteer mixes in some athleisure as well, carrying beautiful printed yoga pants and soft T-shirts. “As you probably know, the most on-trend style for spring 2017 is the ‘off-shoulder’ blouse,” she says. “Splendid and Ella Moss, two of our most important brands, are shipping two pieces that interpret this trend beautifully.” Stay tuned!

Palette Boutique, 34 Sunnyside Ave., Mill Valley; 415/217-9628.  

Tumbleweed (San Anselmo)

A newer addition to San Anselmo’s evolving fashion scene is this smart multi-brand by owner Kasey Gardner, who is assisted by family members to run the business. Unlike most of the boutiques on this list, Tumbleweed, open since October 2016, carries both men’s and women’s clothing, plus a wide array of accessories, lifestyle and grooming objects (think aromatic candles, gentle throws and intriguing ‘beard oil’).

Under the slogan ‘roam free,’ the store’s selection is carefree, and every bit Marin. Free People, For Love & Lemons, a brand specializing in delicate sexy lace, casual Wildfox and classic Levi’s are all on hand. Browsing, and choosing the right products is fun in a welcoming, unbuttoned atmosphere—and it helps to know that most brands are from the U.S and specifically California-based.

Tumbleweed; 570 San Anselmo Ave., San Anselmo; 415/747-8118; tumbleweedcalifornia.com.

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