Heading to South by Southwest? Shop the 6 Best Stores in Austin
Not to worry, once the awards frenzy culminates in the Oscars and Fashion Month comes to a close in Paris, the fun keeps right on going with festival season. Aw, yeah. But before all the It girls rock their flower crowns, overly cut-off denim cut-offs, and white lace dresses at Coachella in April, South by Southwest kicks off the music-filled extravaganza in Austin, Texas. The interactive and film portions start on March 11 — with a keynote by President Obama — and the musical performances begins on March 15 with a diverse roster of artists, ranging from country legend Loretta Lynn to indie Brits Bloc Party to Japanese arena rockers [Alexandros].
Clearly, Austin is the place to be this week, not just for all the tech-y and entertainment culture you'll soak up at SXSW (or "South by," as they like to say), but also for all the excellent shopping Austin has to offer. From the hipster-cool South Congress (or "SoCo") strip to tony specialty shops on North Lamar—forget your SXSW panels or waiting in line at Franklin BBQ, play hooky and hit these six stores, instead.
Kind of like that speakeasy that's hidden below a hipster coffee shop or a permanent pop-up, Archive offers immaculate designer vintage pieces in the back of the contemporary (and also very good) Co-Star boutique in SoCo. The owner, Kerry Bonnell, specializes in pieces from the '60s to '90s from brag-worthy labels, including Chanel, Dior, Thierry Mugler, Yves Saint Laurent, and Azzedine Alaïa. Considering Archive also happened to carry the exact circa '92 Versace leopard print jacket (with matching pants!) that Cookie wore for an eventful day at the Lyon Dynasty offices on Empire, who knows what treasures you'll find on the racks.
The chicest, most sartorially in-the-know Austinites head to By George for its Isabel Marant dresses, A.P.C. denim, Common Projects kicks, and Mansur Gavriel bags. The 35-year-old shop, formerly owned by husband and wife Matt and Katy Culmo has two locations: a more chill spot on the It kids stomping grounds of SoCo and a larger flagship on North Lamar, which is only going to get bigger when it moves a block over in late 2016.
While the word "curated" is, yes, overused, it's just so accurate to describe the vintage stock at this SoCo boutique. From the perfect high-waisted denim cut-offs that were impossible to find before your visit to '70s peasant tops that are very-right-now to studded leather hot-pants that you need to wear to Coachella, everything in the store is just so, so good. Even better: A look at the price tags won't give you sticker shock. Feathers also offers original re-worked vintage just to mix it up a bit. We're also seriously obsessed with the shop's Instagram, which basically offers up daily temptations of pristine throwback finds, flawlessly styled into an outfit that we want to buy in its entirety.
Fashion nerds all head to this 12-year-old downtown boutique that stocks edgily minimalist and more experimental international brands, like Acne (Sweden), Won Hundred (Denmark), Samuji (Finland), and Creatures of Comfort (U.S.). Owner Wendi Koletar has an eye for spotting and bringing up-and-coming lines to the Austin fashion connaisseurs and keeping their closets stocked with Lemaire (France).
Housed on a cute, quiet block in East Austin, this adorable boutique feels a little like Brooklyn in Texas. Owner Laura Uhlir thoughtfully stocks her sun-filled shop with an edited mix of pieces from hip indie labels, like Ace & Jig, Whit, Dusen Dusen, and In God We Trust. You'll also find stacks of reworked vintage jeans from L.A.-based Denim Refinery and a tight mix of accessories, from fringe-y patchwork-hued mules by Charlotte Stone to minimalist hair barrettes by Sylvain Le Hen.
Basically the best-kept-secret of the South, UAL is a discount design shopping paradise—think of Century 21 or your nearest high-end outlet mall distilled into a manageably sized boutique. Like its four sister stores scattered throughout the region, the SoCo locale offers 70 to 90 percent off of retail prices on all the most sought-after designer labels, including Tom Ford, Saint Laurent, Isabel Marant, and Alexander Wang. The last time we visited, we snagged a majorly discounted Jonathan Simkhai metallic cocktail dress (and a pair of 70-percent-off Tom Ford gunmetal high-tops, which were still on the designer's website, when we went to the New Orleans outpost. So yeah, we're addicted).