And this spring, so do the outfits.
by Mick Kelly . photos by Zaire Kacz
To market, to market… to buy something in tangerine. Last month, as big-city designers rolled out their fashion-week collections in New York and Milan, and a handful of Asheville-area boutique owners headed to fashion shows at Market in Atlanta, we started wondering: What’s the hot look for spring 2012? And do national fashion trends matter to Asheville women?
The answer, as we interviewed locals about what they wear, is unbelievably... layered. But one thing is clear: after years of recession-era dressing, all scaled-down designs and drab colors, people are tired of toning it down. This year, the Pantone color of the year is the peachy-orange Tangerine Tango. Other “in” colors, according to local boutique owners, are bright blues, yellows and pastels. “People are tired of being depressed,” says Tara Ellis, co-owner of the boutique Bette in Biltmore Park Town Square. In addition to bright color blocks, she and co-owner DeDe Souza are seeing hints of the late ‘80s, or perhaps the early ‘90s: leopard and python prints in bright blue jeans; snake-print tops and pops of neon.
Jenny Lane, manager of the downtown Asheville boutique Frock, traveled with her mom (and Frock’s owner) Betsy Bradfield to Market in Atlanta in February. What she saw there, for spring in particular, might be summed up in a word: optimism. “Our store isn’t known for bright colors, but we have them now,” she says of their five-year-old boutique. Lane says she’s seeing, and will be selling, more sporty and athletic-inspired clothing for spring and summer, including mesh cottons in neon colors, pastels and wild stripes.
To be sure, Asheville marches to the beat of its own fashion drum. While boutique owners may track trends, they’re savvy enough to understand that they translate differently in a smallish mountain city. Ellis, of Bette, says copper overalls, for example, or pleated lamé sundresses—are just too over-the-top and won’t play well in Asheville. And Souza says she simply will not sell tie-dyes or cut-off denim. “People in Asheville can do that themselves,” she says.
And while Ashevilleans may be interested to learn what celebs are wearing—one of Kate Middleton’s bright green dresses is apparently all the rage this spring—it’s still a stretch for Asheville women to run out and buy look-alikes as a result. Lia Pardy, an ex-New Yorker who owns a Biltmore Park Town Square yoga studio, says she’s too busy to look at many magazines. She’s likely to pick clothing with classic lines anyway, because she doesn’t want to dress like a teenager. “If it just so happens that an actress with a similar body type to mine is wearing something, that’s fine,” she says. “Most of the time, I’m thinking, if it fits me, that’s great.”
Longtime Bette customer Laura Cable, who’s 47, frankly admits that she’s got a closetful of fashion-forward clothes that she rarely gets to wear. “It would be nice if more people got into the style thing,” she says, explaining that she sees Ashevilleans sporting an edgy, alternative look more often than anything else. “Don’t get me wrong—they pull it off well, especially the younger girls,” says Cable. “But it’s not what you’d see in a more urban area. People here find their own style.”
Jennifer Sellers, a 32-year-old makeup artist who moved to Asheville from Philadelphia, admits she’s a bit of a fashionista, checking fashion blogs often. Like Cable, she sees Asheville as an undeniably dressed-down community. “Anything that doesn’t look casual enough doesn’t fly here,” she says. But even if it is mostly anti-trend, she’s pleased to see more colors around this spring. And she plans to step out in her new peachy oranges, teals and red skinny jeans too—just to spice things up.