Style Stud: Aoki Boutique

CaptureLast week I was scrolling through Twitter (I’m slightly addicted), and came across this Racked Philly article listing the top boutiques in Philly to follow on Instagram (I’m even more of an Instagram whore).

So I started checking out different boutiques, frolicking through their feeds, when I found something that made me stop what I was doing and say, “I need this in my life immediately slash I need to speak to whomever owns this boutique, she is my soul sister.” The image was of a plate that said, “Here’s your snack dumbass” (pure genius, am I right?) The boutique was Aoki Boutique and the owner, who I happened to have the pleasure speaking with, is Alina Alter.

This boutique is a cool girls dream, if you ask me. If you’re looking for one-of-a-kind finds or fashionable flair, this is your one stop shop. Nothing makes me happier than walking into a boutique, or even their e-commerce site, and screaming in my head, “I need it all! How can I financially make this work! Maybe I can just cut out drinking. Haha no wait, that’s just plain ol’ silly.” So yes, all drool-worthy, all things you will want to covet.

So I hope you enjoy getting to know Aoki Boutique a little bit better as much as I did.

1. How long has Aoki Boutique been around?
Aoki Boutique has been open for just over two years now!

2. How did you come up with the concept of the boutique?
I wanted to be self-employed, I wanted a women-centered business, I wanted a space that I could welcome people into, and I wanted to be able to curate a collection to share with people; all of those things provided the foundation for the boutique’s concept. Aesthetically, I just wanted the space to be happy, warm, inviting, inspiring, and for it to look and feel like stepping into your cool older sister’s closet or apartment!

3. What inspires you daily?
I’m inspired by international street style blogs like from Finland and from Japan; I’m reminded of my semester abroad in Tokyo and all the bold, outrageous, and impossibly cool outfits that I saw there! I’m also really inspired by other forms of media; movies, books, live music, you name it.

4. What made you open up Aoki in Philly?
I grew up around here, but never really imagined myself coming back to live here once I left for school. My last semester of college I was doing an externship in Florida and from there was all set to move to Arizona to do Teach For America, and was really only stopping home to attend my graduation ceremony and sort of get things in order. Long story short I had a total change of heart about what I was doing with my life and ended up not leaving again, settling back down here in Philly and starting to build a really great existence for myself here. I started to appreciate things about the city that I had missed growing up and realized what a perfect place it is to open a small business. It’s affordable, entrepreneur-friendly, and has a real DIY ethos. The independent retail scene here was and is strong and diverse, but I didn’t see anyone doing exactly what I had in mind for my store.

5. What are some of your favorite brands you carry?
My favorite in-store clothing brand at the moment is probably Three of Something, a cool up-and-coming label from Australia. My favorite jewelry vendor is Serefina, out of the Bay Area, and my favorite home goods vendor is Fishs Eddy (makers of the beloved “Here’s your snack, dumbass” plate)!

6. Describe your boutique in 3 words.
Quirky, Colorful, Whimsical.

7. Will you be carrying any new and exciting brands/products in the upcoming months?
I know it’s not even summer yet, and has barely felt like spring lately, but style-wise I’m already looking forward to fall! I’m all about yummy, cozy fall flannels, faux fur coats, vegan leather leggings, and other great layering pieces that I’m already dreaming about! Fall is definitely my favorite season to buy for, and I’ve already placed a few orders, I couldn’t resist!

8. What is next for Aoki?
I’m just continuously trying to grow my brand and expand my presence, especially online. The bread and butter of my business is through my brick and mortar location and it’s my favorite way of operating because I really get to know and interact with my customers, but it’s so important to supplement that with my e-commerce site and other online platforms. I sell directly from and also through a curated online marketplace called Now that I’m in my third year of business I’m not looking to change any of the core aspects of my brand, I just want to continue to get my name out there and make sure people know that Aoki Boutique is here and what it’s all about.

9. Describe Philly fashion?
Philly fashion is as eclectic and diverse as its residents, so it can be hard to sum up. Generally it’s a mix of that conservative prep that you’re bound to see in any northeastern city, combined with that really original, DIY hipster aesthetic that you get from all the students, young professionals, and creative types living here. I wish I saw a little more risk-taking and a little less sports team-related gear, but that’s just my personal opinion. As long as people are wearing things that make sense for them and their life and are comfortable and practical, I respect and encourage that.

10. What is your advice for achieving a bad ass summer look?
It’s all about the crop top for me! Pair it with anything high-waisted to show just the slightest sliver of skin above the navel- super sexy, flirty, and keeps you cool as the temperatures rise


Style Stud: Smak Parlour

sp-homepage-1-10-14For those of you not from the Philly area, well … first of all I feel sorry for you. But I also feel sorry that you don’t get the opportunity to enjoy one of my fave boutiques in the city, Smak Parlour. It’s not just because every time I walk in there I want to step up my style game and reinvent myself, it’s also because of the owner’s, Abby and Katie, who are two bad ass chicks that set their minds to something and turned out leaving a lasting impression in the world of fashion as well as on the city of Philadelphia

I had the ultimate pleasure of speaking with them and getting the lowdown on the parlour itself, their inspiration, and what we can expect from these fantastic ladies in the future.

What was the inspiration behind Smak Parlour? How did you come up with the name?
We met when we were 15, bonded over fashion and worked towards having a store together ever since then. Smak Parlour has been a lifetime in the making. We had a wholesale line of deconstructed and embellished t-shirts called “SMAK by abby and katie,” that we sold to boutiques across the country before opening our store. After finding our Old City storefront, we had tailors sewing SMAK in the back (in our sewing parlour). We were making SMAK in the parlour and just days before opening, “Smak Parlour” came to be.

Where are some chic places we can catch the Smak Parlour fashion truck in 2014? What is the best way to find it?
We recently just drove our truck into the Convention Center for the Tattoo Convention. We will be vending at The Porch (30th St. Station) on Fridays through the spring. We are vending at the Suburu Cherry Blossom event in April. In addition, we are booking plenty of fun private shopping parties! We will be posting our events on Facebook and Twitter. We will also have an event calendar on our website.

Tell me about any new designers/collections you will carry in the new year.
We are super excited about a jewelry line we just brought in from a local Philly designer named Angela. She handcrafts rings and necklaces featuring a range of images from iconic pop figures like Audrey Hepburn, Abe Lincoln and Darth Vader to animal-themed pieces with dog and kitten portraits.

If you could give advice to young girls starting out in the fashion industry, what would it be?
Fashion and retail is less glamorous then you think, it takes dedication, lots of time, hard work, and LOTS of creativity. We love it and feel if you have passion for what you do, you can overcome the hurdles!

How did you both get into fashion? What are your inspirations?
We both shared a love for fashion and have worked in retail since we met in high school. We grew up designing our own clothes from thrift store finds and safety pins. We went to Drexel University for Design and Merchandising. Our shared tastes have always been in the vein of a little bit girly meets rock ‘n roll.

Why did you decide to open your boutique/fashion truck in Philly?
We worked in New York’s garment district after graduation and realized we needed to be doing our own thing to be happy. Being from Philly, we wanted to open a shop in our hometown! The truck came 8 years later. It was a no brainer .. .going mobile is the future. We bring the best of Old City directly to our customers!

How would you define Philly style?
Philly style is very eclectic. There is a grittiness to it, which works perfectly with our brand. We have a definite edge to our style.

I’m in love with the design on Smak Parlour … how did you come up with its look?
We are inspired by Japanese Culture, Pin- up looks, Tattoo Culture, and Downtown New York in the 70’s and 80’s. We love using non-traditional ways to merchandise, such as glittering cinder blocks! The combination is truly unique and feels like a doll house.