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A Splurge in the Sunset

In San Francisco, we pride ourselves on having style that doesnít cost a monthís rent and looks artfully put together. However, there are occasions that we like to splurge. When that moment comes, a good place to try is Alaya, on 9th and Irving.

It has a mustard yellow exterior and a colorful display of eccentric clothing in the window. This display, that changes once every couple months, has intrigued me on more than one occasion, enough to force me to take a minute and see what clothing they are holding ransom.

The old barn doors of the shop swing open to a bright boutique with color-coordinated racks of womenís clothing on display. This store prides itself on offering name-brand merchandise. The only pieces that are made by local designers are the jewelry.

The first rack I inspected was a collection of Michael Stars pieces. It was a spread of must-have basics for a womenís wardrobe. The next few racks I sifted through were color-coded. The sectioned wall that held the items looked like a rainbow. Each piece was artfully designed.

Simple ruffled blouses, rose-printed tees and flowing skirts filled the store. The designers ranged from Level 99 to Splendid to LA Blend. Most of the clothes I found were stand-alone pieces; items you could wear with black pants or a simple top.

Everything was on the dressier side. Although there was a fair share of graphic tees and cargo pants, the collection was not typical San Francisco wear. The long skirts and delicately embroidered shirts screamed ďIím-going-outĒ.

There was also a cabinet filled with jeans that were 30% off. The sale items consisted of Christopher Blue and It Jeans. This was an exciting find in itself, but then I found the sales rack. Stuffed with mostly last seasonís favorites, I was invigorated.

We all know that San Francisco weather goes from windy to foggy to occasional sunshine. This spectrum of weather has transformed my wardrobe into pieces that are easily layered. And that is exactly what I found.

With an armful of clothing I marched to the dressing room, excited about the new possibilities for my closet. After trying on a few hits and a few misses, I started chatting with the cashier, who Iíd written off as a snotty saleswoman at first, uninterested in giving customer service. But as she explained the idea behind Alaya, I came to the conclusion that she honestly feels the clothes sell themselves.

She also informed me that Alaya had been at this location since 1990. Before Alaya was born, the store was a stitchery. The owner back then had sold most of the clothing to the Zen center, making robes and other comfy cotton clothing for meditation.

The Zen center stopped buying from the stitchery and the new owner, Karin, bought the space and spruced the store up into what it is today. The history of the stitchery is apparent in the soft cotton dresses and loose fitting tees. The owner hand picks each item and has turned Alaya into a place for sophisticated and comfortable fashion.

This style does come with a price. The price tags range from $40 to $300 for clothing items, with most shirts falling around $50.

The jewelry is a highlight as well. Each item is delicate and classic. The boutique offers a selection of beaded necklaces to sterling silver hoop earrings to colorful bangles.

Karin gets her jewelry from all over the United Stated and some international artists as well. The jewelry ranges in price from $12 stud earrings to $200 handcrafted necklaces. Youíll also find pieces from local designers Roxy and Dragonfly.

The main attraction at this store was by far the bags. The store has beautifully crafted purses. Fine leather bags with flower cut outs and jeweled straps are displayed in the back of the store. For those of who donít have $350, there are also sporty Hobo satchels for $150.

This store is a splurge, but if you have a little to spend, the clothing will be a staple in your wardrobe. And if you donít have the big bucks, check out the sales rack and see what you can find.