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Diamonds In the Rough

Destiny Shopping in Mill Valley

For ladies who love their labels (and their bargains), Diamonds in the Rough has become a must-visit stop on the Bay Area upscale consignment circuit. Much in the vein of My Roommate's Closet, Goodbyes and Retail Therapy in San Francisco, this friendly little Mill Valley consignment boutique sells nearly new designer clothes at 50% to 60% off of retail prices.

On a recent visit, the loot was looking good: gorgeous burgundy open-toed stilettos by Manolo Blahnik, worn once at $525, now go for $248 at this Miller Avenue outpost. Missoni taffy-stripe shades, normally $300, ring up at $148; a kitten-soft, hot pink cashmere Prada twinset (worth $600) sells for $154; brand new, mahogany leather Louboutin slides, never worn, retail for $400 but sell here for $148; and a pristine, black lace Blumarine couture dress that retailed at $1500 is marked to a livable $348.

If that's still steep for some, the $10 rack is overflowing with Lucky jeans, Goldsign pants, and tops by Michael Stars, Giorgio Armani, Paper Denim & Cloth, Green Los Angeles, Linq, and up-and-comer Deborah Lindquist, who fabricates her line from repurposed materials. The merch moves quickly through the store; after two months on the floor, most unsold items are donated to Marin Abused Women's Services or to the Buddhist temple down the street.

"I try not to take anything more than one year old," notes down-to-earth owner Sybil Mayfield, who opened the store with her husband Zack in 2006. "Some of our pieces are even still in stores, like this one," she says, holding up a black leather Tano NY carryall tote, which retails for $200. The price tag: $74.

Other handbag deals are even more significant, with prices ranging from $100 to $200 for finds like an $800 Kooba bag or a $1000 lime green Miu Miu purse. Coach bags dominate, originally $200-$300 but marked down to $78-$128. Mayfield does sell knockoffs as well, but she is well aware of the difference and makes it very clear to customers.

"I've always been a fan of consigning clothes," say Mayfield, an avid sports fan and mother of one. "I think recycling clothes is a great thing to do environmentally," she continues. "I like to call it 'destiny shopping' -- the buyer has to love it, and it has to fit. There is no 'Can I get another size please?'"

When the Mayfields' son A.J. was born in early 2006, they made the leap to buy the store after seeing an ad for an upscale women's consignment boutique for sale in Marin. "My husband and I had decided to start a business that would allow us time to raise our son," recounts Mayfield. "When we took a look at the store, we thought, 'What? In our price range, too?' The labels already in the store ranged from Tory Burch to Betsey Johnson to Burberry, Prada, and so on," she notes. "I saw so much potential."

They jumped, and their offer was accepted. After running the store as a family (including the dog) for the first six months, they now split time equally between the store and their home. "Fashion has always been a passion of mine," states Mayfield, as she attaches a $98 price tag to an $800 Yigal Azrouel runway dress. "I always dreamed of having a hand in it somehow. It's fabulous."