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GRAND RAPIDS’ by Melissa Black |

ment show on WOOD-TV8, because fashion isn’t just an occupational necessity for Ruiz. She loves to shop. While she rarely turns down an opportu-


nity to stock her wardrobe at metro Detroit’s Somerset Collection or the boutiques in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood, Ruiz usually shops closer to home these days. And that’s not just because she’s a busy working mom with a two-year-old and jammed social calendar. “I’m shopping in Grand Rapids a lot more

than I used to because the options are a lot bet- ter,” she says. “The Grand Rapids fashion scene is evolving.” Ruiz not only knows who she is and what

belongs in her closet, she knows where she can find it locally. She rattles off a list of Grand Rapids boutiques where she feeds her fashion habit: Lamb in East Hills for Indian-inspired jewelry; Gina’s Boutique downtown for stylish, professional dresses she can wear to work; Renee Austin Boutique for a sassy cocktail or knock

‘em dead formal dress; Lee & Birch for scarves and jewelry; East Hills’ Pink Blvd. for one of her favorite dress lines called vfish; and Rockford’s Jade for all-purpose work or play. “It’s a time when you need to stand out from everyone else. Fashion makes that happen. It says,

‘This is who I am.’ Who wants to be ‘that girl’ or ‘that guy’? Personally, I want to be Rachael,” she quips. Fashion has arrived in Grand Rapids — and

not a moment too soon. These days you need to put almost as much thought into what you’re wearing as to where you’re going. Whether you’re hitting a club to check out a new indie band or settling into a museum on a Friday night, the perfect outfit/venue combination is as crucial as assembling a mix-tape for a crush. If the ques- tionable dive bar requires distressed skinny jeans and a “don’t look at me that way” black leather jacket, or posh surroundings call for a boutique chic dress and gumball-sized pearls, fashion is a vehicle for expression. It’s about movement, change and evolution. The Grand Rapids scene has certainly been


evolving over the past year, with high-profile events like Runway on Monroe, Style Battle, Fashion Week and Fashion’s Night Out. Likewise, you can hardly go to a fundraiser these days that doesn’t have a fashion show. It doesn’t matter if you’re raising money for shelters, af- fordable housing, children’s hospitals or a dog sanctuary — if there is a gathering, there must be a runway. And the hotly anticipated arrival of Anthropologie to Breton Village has local fash- ionistas daydreaming of other wish-list retailers like H&M, Levi’s and Urban Outfitters.

IKE MANY LOCAL ME- DIA PERSONALITIES, Rachael Ruiz gets a cloth- ing allowance to spend on her wardrobe. That’s an especially great perk for the co-host of “eightWest,” a lifestyle and entertain-

If you ask Jim Murray, general manager at

A.K. Rikk’s, a contemporary fashion boutique, Grand Rapids has a strong following for style. The success of Fashion’s Night Out last fall is one indicator of the town’s growing love affair with style. “People love to shop — even people you wouldn’t think love to shop enjoy it,” he said.

“I think deep down everyone wants to look nice and have that perfect jean, but it’s a chore. If it can be fun and you can enjoy it with your friends and feel like you’re doing something good for your community, it’s going to be a success,” he said. Alyssa Schutter would agree. Schutter was

the creator and producer of last May’s Runway on Monroe contest, which garnered more than 4,000 online voters and drew almost 2,000 at the live fashion show at Rosa Parks. If Grand Rapids isn’t hungry for fashion,

then somebody should break it to Tina Derusha, founder of Spotlight 616, which brought us Style Battle 2010. The September event showcased local clothing retailers, photographers, makeup artists, models and hairstylists squaring off for $2,000 and, more importantly, bragging rights among the city’s fashion elites. Like any good fight, Style Battle drew a big crowd. Tickets for the event sold out and hundreds of ArtPrize gawkers pressed to the windows to catch a glimpse of the fabulousness inside. “We were full inside and full outside,” said

Derusha, who attributed the interest in Style Battle to more than just trendy togs. “Hair is a big thing in this town, [and] make-up has its own following and crowd.” If you look at the city as a whole working

collectively to foster a fashion playground, you’ll find a group as tight-knit as, well, a tight sweater. When talk of the evolving local fashion scene surfaces, there is namedropping, retail wish lists, and the kind of gushing normally reserved for teen slumber parties. Like those parties, the popular boys — er, brands — are the talk of the town. “You look at some

of the brands like Isaac Mizrahi and Valentino Red — those types of brands are amazing and are being sold right here in Grand Rapids. It’s exciting for the local fash- ion market,” says Rebecca Wierda, president of Leigh’s, an upscale women’s special ty s tore in Breton Village.


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