After a Fashion

Always avant Austin retailer By George's new store is alight with style; starting this week, SoCo stays up late on the First Thursday of every month.

BY GEORGE, I THINK THEY'VE GOT IT "People say the key is 'Location, location, location,'" according to By George co-owner Katy Culmo, "but it's not. I've had many stores -- it's 'Lighting, lighting, lighting.' That's the key." And By George's newest location, at Sixth and Lamar, was flooded with light for its official opening party last Thursday. With an almost museum-like calmness and spaciousness, the new store mixes minimalist modern with early-Sixties Atomic Age glamour in a relaxing, inviting color scheme. As befitting By George's reputation for fashion pioneering in Austin, special attention was given to the dressing rooms. Joel Mozersky, who worked on lighting and decorative aspects of the store with the By George team, says, "The worst thing is walking into a dressing room with a single, bright overhead fixture. Nothing is more unflattering, and, frankly, when a customer is trying on clothes, the store wants them to look their best." Mozersky oversaw the installation of large, inverted cone-shaped shades for the dressing room lights -- a shade that diffuses the light for a warmer, softer effect. With enormous mirrors, the dressing rooms are spare yet spacious, and the intricate, faux-suede drapes carry out an abstract theme. The softness of tone is offset by the cool, polished concrete floors, which have isolated areas defined by patches of inlaid wood and leather. By George pretty much stands alone at the apex of high fashion in Austin, and the new store is an appropriate flagship to represent their achievements.

The By George woman is as stylish as the babes in any major metropolitan area. Retro Seventies and Prada-ish prints pair up with the sleek and simple. Separates in breezy chiffons, laser-cut eyelet, gingham, denim, and beaded and embroidered twill, by Yansi Fugel, Nanette Lepore, and Girbaud, provide a myriad of choices. Faux-Pucci and delicate florals make up fluttery summer dresses by Tracy Reese, Helen Wang, and Milly. Accessorizing is easy, with bags by Kate Spade and BCBG, in a variety of shapes and sizes. Jewelry ranges from the casual beauty of semiprecious stones on ropes and chains to glittering star-flower brooches that could perch charmingly on an evening wrap or a halter top. And the shoes? Dazzling.

The By George look for men was evident on the guests as well as on the racks -- boxy shirts worn untucked, or a little knit shirt, flat-front pants, simple belt with a minimalist buckle, and the ever-present semi-chunky black shoe with square toes. Not especially groundbreaking, but definitely the cleanest, most stylish look for men today. The store carries beautiful knits by Farhi and J. Lindenberg, Diesel jeans, fun and casual Italian shirts by Retrospettiva. The men's shoes are very cool -- BCBG, Kenneth Cole, Trussardi, Reaction, Giraudon Sport -- and pair nicely with accessories from Jack Spade.

Co-owner Matthew Culmo was a busy host, with a guest list that was a who's who of Austin service merchants and retailers, including Stephanie Moore of Cush Cush, Diane Humphreys of Susan Dell, Margaret Tompkins and Liz Lambert of the Hotel San José, Gail Chovan of Blackmail, Evan Voyles of the Neon Jungle, Jon D of Avant, Heidi and Richard Adams of Central Homegoods, personal shopper Paula Lundgren, Raul Garza of TKO, Marika Rudy, band manager Tim Neece (formerly of the Backyard, Neece just got his client Jeff Klein a record deal), Brian and Barbara Frisbee, and One Eleven Design's Joel Mozersky, of course.

"There is no doubt that By George has raised the bar for retailing in Austin," says Barbara Frisbee, and it was evident everywhere. The fab food and service was from Liberty Catering (don't they seem to be catering all the most stylish events these days?), and the gorgeous and unusual flowers were by Big Red Sun -- who also seem to be appearing everywhere these days. It was a fitting christening for the space that By George will call home for a very long time. "No more moving," says Katy -- but once you'd seen this place, who'd want to?

FIRST THURSDAY Thursday, June 7, will be the first First Thursday on South Congress. All businesses in the historic South Congress area will stay open until 10pm on the first Thursday of every month to encourage all ages to come rediscover South Congress Avenue. The eclectic mix of businesses on the SoCo strip will be hosting an array of activities throughout the night, with festivities including bands, art openings, exhibitions, massages, makeovers, fashion shows, and much more. Participants include Therapy Clothing, Wet Salon, Antiqua, Pink, Jo's, Chimera, Uncommon Objects, Mi Casa, Prima Dora, Dragonsnaps, Terra Toys, Turquoise Door, Under the Sun, the San José, the Continental Club, El Sol y la Luna, Rue's Antiques, Off the Wall, Armadillo Bazaar, Tinhorn Traders, Yard Dog, Gallery Soco, New Bohemia, Lonestar Illusions, Aqua, and so many others.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

By George, Katy Culmo, Joel Mozersky, Yansi Fugel, Nanette Lepore, Girbaud, Reese, Helen Wang, Milly, Kate Spade, BCBG, Farhi, J. Lindenberg, Diesel, Retrospettiva, Kenneth Cole, Trussardi, Reaction, Giraudon Sport, Jack Spade

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