For many, Berkeley conjures images of college grunge, and eco-urban casual comfort. But tucked away, within a one-mile radius of the city’s exclusive Claremont Resort and Hotel, are three boutiques that are the best-kept secrets of Bay Area fashionistas – Red Bird, Keneuoe Vivere, and Personal Pizazz.
Karen Park opened RedBird on Domingo Avenue seven years ago, bringing a style and a vision evolved over twenty years working with retailers like Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and stores on Maiden Lane for Jil Sander, Marc Jacobs and Joan Weinstein’s Ultimo. Inside her 1,000 square foot space, you’ll find an eclectic mix of clothing and accessories. Park has assembled such rare finds as designer Natalie “Alabama” Chanin’s hand-sewn garments that are both beautiful and sustainable, Gary Graham’s trademark-fitted jackets, dresses and blouses in silk georgette, wool jersey and duchesse satin, and creations by Tokyo-based Pas de Calais, bringing together naive nostalgia and modern casual design. As for accessories, Park’s is instinctively tactile, showcasing calfskin Marsell Shoes from Italy, and delicate gold and silver hammered jewelry of Erica Molinari and making RedBird a true destination shopping experience.
Stepping inside Personal Pizazz is like walking into your very own closet. It’s no accident. Owner Laura Leventer designed this quaint and very purple boutique tucked away on Prince Street to feel just that way. Every inch of this 620 square foot space reflects Leventer’s personal style, from the chandelier on the ceiling, to the armoires full of gorgeous clothes and accessories for women and men. Levanter is like your very own personal shopper, and is quick to share her favorites, like retro-chic dresses by designer Byron Lars. Levanter loves the fact that Lars grew up in Oakland before making it big in New York, and First Lady Michelle Obama wears his beautifully crafted creations for speaking tours and elegant White House occasions. For those who desire even more personal attention, Levanter will arrange a private shopping party at Personal Pizazz for clients and their guests.
Keneuoe Vivere Design Studio, or K/V on College Avenue is one of the newest best-kept secret boutiques in Berkeley. Opening barely a year ago in the space that served as Bolfing’s Hardware for 80 years, Keneuoe brings an element of style and design to the block. Owner Keneuoe kept the old signage on the façade, an architectural detail that serves as testament to the timeless, yet contemporary clothes inside. A graduate of the Academy of Art, Keneuoe’s creations are made locally with the finest fabrics from around the world –be it hemp, silk charmeuse, wool, satin or lace. Keneuoe Vivere clients can purchase ready-to-wear designs, have them fitted and tailored, or, choose a design and have it made in the fabric of their choice. Every garment is made in Berkeley, so every purchase contributes to the local economy. — Jan Mabry