Arts : Gotham glamour, SA style

Antsy for the Apple? Get your big-city shopping fix right here at home

I spent last weekend shopping in New York City: buying fabric and trimmings in the Garment District, stocking up on cheap basics at Scandinavian superstore H&M, and delighting in fantastic fakes in Chinatown (Frendi, anyone?). A transplanted New Yorker commented that it must be hard to find good shopping in a conservative little town like San Antonio. Granted, it’s not New York City, but San Antonio has some priceless gems I wouldn’t trade for all the sample sales in Union Square. A few of my very favorite stores — solamente en San Antonio:

The best way to refresh your look is to update classic pieces with the latest accessories, and Francesca’s, in the Alamo Quarry shopping center, is the girlie-girl emporium that makes it easy. A wonderland of tables heaped with inexpensive necklaces, bracelets, and earrings runs through the center of the store, with charming handbags and shoes tucked into shelves along the sides. Francesca’s also has a great assortment of stationery and toiletries, and a few racks of fresh, easy-to-wear clothes in the back. I still get compliments on a nubby, bark-cloth, pleated skirt in a vintage palm-leaf print I bought there a few years ago.

On Leigh’s spring shopping list: A Jarbo calla-lily T-shirt from Penny Lane and a metallic bronze clutch and bamboo bangles from Francesca’s.

Can’t resist: Metallic bronze clutch, $28. Bamboo bangles, $18.

Francesca’s Collections, 255 East Basse, 822-1598.

Moda Luna has been in its new location next to Broadway Daily Bread for almost a year, but owner Sandra Luna has been offering her “unique, yet reasonable” styles in Alamo Heights for a few years now. Heavily influenced by fashion bibles, but at a price point anyone can afford, Luna’s clothes make it easy to break out of the mall mode. This spring, try a brightly colored sundress with sequined waistband or embroidered baby-doll top.

Coming home with me: Y5’s khaki cargo pants with ruffled hems and appliqué detail, $37.

Moda Luna, 5164 Broadway, 822-0700.

If it’s New York style you’re really longing for, break open your piggy bank at Penny Lane. With designer names like Nanette Lepore and Trina Turk — and prices to match — this little store feels very big-city. But don’t be intimidated: The clothes are arranged by color for easy access (heaven for the visually anal — try sorting your books by color and see how it improves your bookshelves) and the staff is warm and friendly. There’s even a $20 basket with some fabulous finds if you don’t feel like splurging.

Worthwhile indulgence: Jarbo calla-lily T-shirt with cut work and embroidery, $88.

Penny Lane, 5928 Broadway, 826-9007.

On Leigh’s spring shopping list: A Jarbo calla-lily T-shirt from Penny Lane and a metallic bronze clutch and bamboo bangles from Francesca’s.

Across the street is Wren, a little house so endearing you’ll want to move right in. Wren’s home-furnishing treasures are primarily “metropolitan Asian,” but a lovely display of Native American turquoise and some retro blue-ceramic bedside lamps recently caught my eye as well. Jazz up your next Chinese takeout with silver fortune-cookie place-card holders by Jonathan Walker, $4.50 each, and pick up some quality silk table linens, cheeky baby clothes, and one-of-a-kind handbags while you’re at it.

Instant exotic: large glass Buddha, $65 (smaller versions online at $25 and $45).

Wren, 5625 Broadway, 828-5305,

In a city where you can’t turn around without knocking over some punched-tin hearts or a display of Frida Kahlo post cards, it’s easy to get jaded about Mexican folk art. San Angel Folk Art, in the Blue Star Arts Complex, keeps it fresh with hand-stitched guayaberas in truly unexpected fabrics. Owner Hank Lee experimented with circus tents, old curtains, and feedbags before finally importing pop-art cloth from New York and Japan to his team in Mexico. Look for guayaberas printed with pin-up girls and crafted from traditional kimono fabric soon. $95 for the wild ones, $45 for those made of traditional vintage shirting.

Must have: Maya Gracia chandelier earrings of tin and silver, with an image of the Virgin Mary behind resin, $54.

San Angel Folk Art, 110 Blue Star, 226-6688,

Walking in to Life by Design, the new furniture store in the Scholastica Convent on South Alamo, your first thought may be, “Death by kitsch!” followed quickly by, “That’s so ugly it’s kinda cute,” which is swiftly and finally replaced by, “Wow. Those lines are beautiful.” Filled to the brim with mid-century vintage furniture and accessories, Life allows you to create the retro décor of your dreams, whether that décor happens to involve a blue-and-green burlap lampshade trimmed with pom-pom fringe, or a sleek, black-leather-and-chrome, tufted Barcelona sofa.

Seriously wanting it: child’s roll-top desk and chair, $275.

Life by Design, 1115 South Alamo, 224-7772.


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