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Local Talent AZ Boutique Aims to Make Scottsdale the New Fifth Avenue

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Phoenix isn't exactly known as a fashion hotspot. With our sunny climate, tourists and outsiders probably imagine residents all wear nothing but comfortable cotton shorts and flip-

flops year round. Sigh. Local business owner and Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising graduate Shannon McRae aims to change that perception with Local Talent AZ, a new boutique on 5th Ave. in Scottsdale that carries clothing, jewelry, accessories and home goods made by local designers.

What's in the shop? On the low end, there are headbands and t-shirts for around $30. On the high end, there are gowns for over a grand. Fab finds include custom corsets by BriBridge (right), sushi print t-shirts, Rebecca Turley's vintage-inspired skirt with huge, modern pockets and Angela Johnson's "Inspired" recycled t-shirt gown.

Designers who sign up to showcase their wares at Local Talent AZ pay a flat monthly rate starting at about $200 and a 20% sales commission on items sold.  

More on the store, plus expert fashion tips, after the jump. 

McRae opened the boutique after seeing how many talented designers were forced to leave the Phoenix area due to a lack of opportunities -- even though Scottsdale is known for trendy boutiques and upscale retailers like Barney's New York. "It opens up a venue for local designers, so they can live here and enjoy the benefits of the Southwest without having to relocate to more mainstream fashion markets like California and New York," she explains.

It might seem risky to start a new business when the economy's in the crapper so tumultuous, but McRae isn't stressing about the timing. "People budget differently and think differently and that's fantastic," she says, "but I'm not worried about the economy." Fashion-conscious types will always buy good clothes, even if it means buying less often and pinching pennies to save up for a splurge gown.  

What fashion trends does McRae expect to hit the runways this fall? Before you start loading up on unflattering sack dresses or pleated pants just because they're big this season, she urges you to consider your body type first. "What should be 'in' is what looks good on us, not what you find all over the rack."

One of her pet peeves is the empire waist tops and dresses that have regained popularity in the past few years. "They make everyone, even skinny models, look pregnant," she quips. According to McRae, that was the empire waist's original purpose; because in the Middle Ages, women who looked preggers were considered more beautiful. So unless you have an actual bun cooking in your oven, ditch the empire waist. Now.

"It's frustrating to see women buy such things because they're being fashion followers," she says. "You can be a leader by buying clothes that look good on you and by being a little different." In fact, that's the first thing on her list of current fashion trends.

What's hot right now:

  • Individual style - no cookie-cutter looks
  • Accessories - headbands, hair accessories
  • V-neck t-shirts - bye, bye boring crew neck
  • Lots of color - the economy is depressing enough; no one wants to look at drab grey and black
  • Buying local - it's not just for fruits & veggies 
  • Clean-cut clothes for men - the grunge look is finally over

Fashion Tip: "One of the things I learned in school is that you can wash almost anything rather than taking it to the dry cleaner," McRae tells New Times. "In the end it ends up being taken care of even better because there are no harsh chemicals involved."

AZ Local Talent has no shortage of designers signing up to showcase their goods, though McRae is always looking for more menswear and children's clothing vendors. She also plans to host more events in the store, including weekly "model walks" around Scottsdale and an upcoming signing of local author Marcia Fine's new book, Stressed in Scottsdale

Though buying local is definitely the trend with everything from produce to fashion, it's ultimately the quality of the designs here that will win over the public -- and, if McRae is right, turn Scottsdale into more than just an art district. "This is Local Talent. It's not a 'local yokel' concept," she quips. "I don't think the buyer comes in here and thinks they're doing the designer, or me, a favor by buying local. I think they're doing it because they respect and admire the product and want to have it." 

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