The grand opening-night party of Allora by Laura, one of the newest women’s clothing and accessory boutiques to open recently in the 93108, did not disappoint.
This renaissance of women’s-focused retail boutiques in the Village has shopaholics lightheaded with options. Needing a GPS to navigate all the new choices, the Sept. 12 official kickoff at Allora was certainly the place to see and be seen. The elegant and polished showroom — white furniture with warm wood floors, white walls and graphic art — was filled with white flower arrangements by Montecito Flowers and music by Anthony Ybarra.
Located on the prestigious high-profile corner of Coast Village Road and Coast Village Circle, Allora was buzzing with excitement and flowing with Charles LaFitte champagne. The storefront was beautifully uplit in hot pink lights, a true red carpet event replete with a backdrop for photo-ops, libations supplied by The Liquor & Wine Grotto next door, and food by Omni Catering and Recipes Bakery and Confectionately Yours.
Taking advantage of low tables hugging the outdoor alcove and some high-top cocktail tables, many of the 250 guests broke out of the noisy "body press" inside to enjoy a balmy night sans fog. The valet parkers were kept busy as the traffic flow continued well past the invitation time. Jeffrey Florentine of JSF Design Inc. coordinated the event.
Laura Dinning, a familiar face and stylist on the women’s clothing landscape for the past 25 years, is the former creative director for Antoinette in Montecito, mom to three children and the wife of uber-dentist Dr. Ron Dinning. In addition to her entrepreneurial responsibilities, Dinning is a also a supporter of Angels Foster Care of Santa Barbara, the first local family agency to specialize in the unique needs of foster babies from birth to 2 years old. Brochures introducing the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to the community were on display, and an opportunity to bid on a piece of art by photographer Bobbi Bennett was also a highlight.
Dinning began her career in 1984, working with iconic fashion houses like Dolce & Gabbana and Versace in the 1980s and now current fashion houses such as Etro, Yohji, Yamamoto and Martin Margiela, to name just a few. She was able to buy and sell the most important collections of the day.
Branching off into her own store this summer — “a big move" she would be the first to admit — Dinning is working side by side with her daughter, Taylorjane, or TJ for short, a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) with a degree in visual communications. TJ brings a young fashion-forward eye to the inventory, and she also understands the European silhouettes that her mother loves.
Allora has merchandise that will satisfy everyone, but the opening-night party crowd was strictly interested in schmoozing rather than buying (although Dinning told me there were some sales and special orders). Starting with a soft opening over the summer with a minimum of her stock delivered, the current inventory of clothes and glass jewelry cases — with current collections by Will Brown, modern fine jewelry Sablina by Natasha Wehba and fine jewelry by Tobie Bloom — are now filled in but not overly crowded.
There is plenty of floor space to move around and become part of the well-tuned environment. Collections by Sally Lapointe, Tapeet, Hache, Charli, Amina Rubinacci; Borbonese handbags; boots and shoes by Free Lance; THVM jeans; and Allora by Laura’s Private Label are some of the lines she will feature for fall /winter 2013-2014.
Allora by Laura carries many collections, but the opening-night featured guest was designer Peter Cohen. Born in Zimbabwe in 1960, Cohen has been designing under his own label for 25 years. Known for his passion for deluxe fabrics and what he calls “my strongly held design principals of relaxed sensuousness and longevity,” the Los Angeles-based designer — "feeling a bit like a rock star” — was enjoying the overflow crowd that was on hand for the meet and greet. The evening provided Cohen an opportunity to interact with his fans and make some new ones.
Like Armani, the cut and the fabrics are luscious and sophisticated. The crowd of men and women 25-80 were dressed for the occasion. Not a pair of shorts or athletic wear in sight. This new surge of fashion-envy stores and the rollouts that have been taking place will continue into late September and October, and seems to have encouraged many to notch it up with their attire.
Knitwear is a particular favorite category of Dinning's and her choice of merchandise, from cashmere to a soft pant or gown, reflects this silhouette. According to Dinning,” the marriage of fine Italian clothing with a soulful California attitude provides a great foundation for luxurious everyday style.”
The beauty of this store, for Dinning, is the opportunity to "work up close and personal with customers and to also inspire and expose them with what is new and wonderful to wear."
"This is my life’s passion and work, and I love it!” she exclaimed.
Allora by Laura is open daily at 1269 Coast Village Road in Montecito. Click here for more information, or call 805.563.2425.