A Stellar Store for Women

Friday, April 5, 2013

The open, clean lines of the Stella Carakasi store echo the smooth and wearable styles of the clothing and accessories. Every woman I saw who entered the store was drawn to the flowing lines and interesting cut of the varied separates in organic fabrics and luscious colors.

Bearing the name of the designer Stella Carakasi, who for 20 years has had the design studio and catalog Two Star Dog, this is the signature store for her new line of clothing that combines a casual California style with a European architectural sensibility. They offer eight seasonal collections each year, with each collection building on the previous ones, allowing customers to build a wardrobe of certain basics and adding new colors and styles over time.

The fabrics are almost all soft and drape beautifully, and for spring include organic cotton, linen jersey, printed georgette, twill, Tencel cotton, and wool-silk blends. Winter fabrics include boiled wool, alpaca, hemp and cotton sateen, and the clothing is all made in the USA. Ranging from tops, cardigans and tunics to jackets, dresses, skirts and shrugs, all the pieces work together in a variety of interesting combinations, and almost all are wash and wear.

The early spring collection included colors like Bliss (taupe), Haze (pale grey), and Aloe, a lovely green, along with black and white. Up next is the spring collection, which includes Lemongrass, Havana (a warm brown) and Apricot, along with a beautiful new print. Each collection adds seasonal colors to the neutrals and basics to build a wardrobe.

The separates all have interesting names as well. You can try on the basic Sure Thing Tee, the floaty Cloud Cover Tunic, the Ready To Wear Leggings, the long-ish After All Tunic, the simple Front Page Pants, the lined Ever After Skirt, the Headliner Tunic layering a print tunic over a chiffon under tunic, the draped Made You Look Tunic, the Day Tripper pants with inverted pleat front, and the Second to None Tunic. Many of the styles feature gentle draping, unusual twists and asymmetrical cuts that flatter almost every shape and size. The website offers more info on the collections, and even has a video of store manager Yarra McClure showing three ways to wear their lovely Winning Ways cardigan.

The clothing comes in sizes from 4 to 18, is aimed at fitting many sizes and shapes of women. The store offers complimentary hemming so that the fit is perfect. And because their headquarters is in Berkeley, a different size or color can usually be easily gotten. Accessories include a wrap belt in Havana (brown) or Caviar (black) that fits over various tunics and dresses, and floaty scarves dipped in multiple coordinating colors or studded with small silver disks to complement many of the outfits.

In addition to the beautiful clothes, the store carries a variety of stunning jewelry, ranging from earrings at $18 and necklaces that start at $26 - perfect for a quick gift or to add something to an outfit. The Karine Sultan line from Paris includes wear-with-anything double and triple strands of small linked disks in rose gold or sterling silver with matching earrings, and a bold rose gold over pewter cuff. Lauren Wolf from Oakland shows ocean-inspired jewelry, some featuring a texture like the skin of a stingray. Zina Kao from Emeryville shows jewelry made of a series of delicate disks, simply and with a lot of style.

Store manager Yarra McClure noted that she finds the neighborhood "awesome, really friendly, a great area for women to shop for a variety of clothing, and the merchants are all very supportive and welcoming of each other." She noted that women who have bought Stella Carakasi clothing on the East Coast often visit this signature store when in the Bay Area, since it is only a short BART ride from San Francisco. So take a walk on College Avenue and stop by Stella Carakasi, a half-block from the Rockridge Library.