I don't go to Woodland Hills Mall that often anymore. It's not for snobby reasons; I don't feel that I'm above shopping in a mall. I love shopping anywhere, and that's the problem. I avoid going there because I have an addiction to shopping. I'm an impulsive buyer who feels she needs to have any and everything in several colors.
Thankfully, before this problem had a chance to take a turn for the worst (my own episode on A&E's Intervention) Sallie Mae and her student loan payments stepped into the picture and curtailed my pricy purchases. And, adding my own little bit of self-control, to keep the situation completely at bay, I visit the mall only when absolutely necessary.
But because my column relies on my being up-to-date and savvy in the latest in fashion, sometimes I'm sort of required to put myself into dangerous situations. Recently, I found myself in Woodland Hills to see what's hot for fall and also found a new store, Alysha Elaine.
Malls get a bad rap sometimes, from me included, because they seem to lack originality. Step into any mall across the country and you'll find the same chain of stores. The malls have retained their power because of their convenience. Whatever you're looking for, one of the stores is bound to have it and that's why people still shop there. This is the brilliance behind Alysha Elaine, a local boutique that resides inside the mall--it has gone to the people.
Walking into Alysha Elaine, you forget that outside its walls is a world of mall. It looks like a chic boutique with relaxing décor. The colors are mellow sage green, dark brown and silver, and you're not bombarded with loud, obnoxious, base-heavy music.
There are two large head-to-toe mirrors as well as comfortable leather ottomans for the rest of your party (or the poor gentlemen you might have dragged along) to sit on right outside the dressing rooms--perfect access for them to tell you how that dress makes you look.
This set up is all part of the original plan to make Alysha Elaine like any other boutique, just one that happens to be in a mall.
Alysha Elaine has been a part of the Tulsa shopping scene since October of last year. Originally at 103rd and Memorial, owner Cindy Hartman had been interested in a spot in a local mall from the beginning. Her goal was accomplished August 1 when Alysha Elaine opened its doors inside Tulsa's largest mall. Hartman has long been a business owner, but wanted to create a fun business to share with her only daughter, Alysha Elaine.
Together, mom and daughter choose the items that go in the store, creating a balance between conservative looks (as chosen by daughter) and more eclectic looks (picked by mom).
This duality is depicted throughout the store, but not until you make it past the selection of premium denim that greets you at the door.
Hartman says that this has been the most commented-upon item in her store. The washes and styles represent all the current possibilities in women's jeans. Brands like Chilli Pepper, Seven and Fortune Denim also include brass button embellishments and flap pockets as well as the standard denim.
Virtue denim is a brand that offers the broadest range of denim shades, including a bright turquoise wash in a skinny jean. Hartman noted that this shade is both the most mocked and the most purchased--an item truly for only the bravest of the trendies.
Certainly if you are a t-shirt and jeans girl you'll be covered. Next to the table of denim are graphic tees by Seven and the local brand Greenhouse Clothing Co. To use as layering pieces to go along with these graphics, go for the American Apparel tees and tanks. This company carries the best in basic wears and at Alysha Elaine, you'll find bright primary shades in both.
Past this first impression, you'll find a broad selection. One of the prominent themes throughout the store is the look of deconstructed items with delicate old-fashioned touches. Several t-shirts carried throughout the boutique are lightweight and soft in light colors and feature detailing like lace and crochet appliqués. While it might sound like a gift grandma made for you, it is actually a feminine detail that looks dressed up without the effort.
This emphasis also lays on delicate detailing with flourishes including sheer, tissue paper-like dresses and skirts that have lace, ribbon, ruffles and bugle beads; some incorporate this with a bit of an edge. For example one For Love & Liberty brand skirt comes to mind: it's a cream, sheer mid-length skirt that's attractive at first glance, but upon closer inspection you note that the pattern running throughout the voluminous piece is in fact black skulls, giving it depth, character and a sense of humor.
There are strapless dresses in silk blends in colors straight from the fall foliage and a sleeveless brocade dress in green gold with a silk ribbon placed at the umpire waist. That's not to say that everything is so uber-fem; there are also some real quirky pieces, like a silk sailor dress in bright blue, red and yellow silk with a big red bow.
These looks are all sprinkled throughout a store that tries to balance the formal with the informal. This mixture allows designs by Voom, Joolay, Ginger, Language, For Love & Liberty and more to mix easily with each other. And in fitting with the tradition of the boutique, no rack has more than a handful of the same item, ensuring each piece's distinctiveness.
While a lot of the items in the store now look to be transitioning from late summer to early/mid fall with a lot of sleeveless tops, you'll also find twill trousers and a structured blazer in thick fall textures. In fact, texture plays into a lot of the items in Alysha Elaine, with racks filled with an assortment of clothes, sometimes an array of different fabric in one piece. This array will continue throughout the next season, as upcoming styles for late fall and winter will include embellished tops and a new line of denim by William Rast.
Besides a wide range of clothes, the boutique also offers an assortment of accessories. There are shoes to cover whatever you are craving, from heels by Chinese Laundry to woven leather square-toed flats by Mia.
Moving our way up from the feet to your legs; there is a wide assortment of leggings. A while back I might have mentioned the exodus of these particular garments, but I judged too quickly. Many design houses are still at this for fall and Alysha Elaine has brought in the more creative looks for leggings, from cotton candy pink to camouflage and skulls-certainly not for the shy, wallflower type of gal. To round out the accessories are the big leather belts, a go-to accessory for the boxy dresses so popular today. Throw one on top of your dress and viola!-your ladylike curves are back.
The bags at the boutique are for the most part big, but sprinkled throughout the store are clutches. There's also an accessory for a truly unique accessory. Every chic dog owner knows that a dog on the move needs to be as glamorous as her owner and for that Alysha Elaine offers bags that look like typical nice purses, until further inspection reveals that net-type fabric that allows little dogs a place to breath. Yes, they carry dog bags.
If your idea of lady's best friend resides more on your neck or ear lobes and less on a leash, Alysha Elaine carries dainty necklaces and earrings that are fashionable and now. A majority of the pieces are by Tashi, whose looks consist primarily of tiny chains with delicate elements of semi-precious stones. It's the right kind of look for someone who likes to accessorize, but doesn't want her outfit's whole attention being on a loud bobble.
But if you don't believe me, you take a look for yourself and from your own home no less. Another advantage Alysha Elaine has is in online shopping. The website www.alyshaelaine.com offers the chance to not only view the merchandise, but to purchase it as well. While not everything you find in Alysha Elaine is available to purchase on the website, there is still a lot of options, from the clothing to the accessories. You can also use this website to purchase gift cards or as a link to the store's MySpace.
The feedback from visitors so far has been positive, says Hartman. Fans of the store range from girls in high school to women in their 40s.
Hartman's success so far has given her more of an incentive to conquer her next goal for Alysha Elaine: moving it into further markets. The next stop is Knoxville, Tennessee and Independence, Kansas and then more.
From right here in our own back yard to the whole nation. Next time you find yourself in Woodland Hills Mall, surrounded by things that don't seem as original or exciting, head in the direction of the food court. In between Game Stop and Bath & Body Works, you'll find Tulsa's own Alysha Elaine.
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