Fashion versus function: Is there a more hotly debated topic when it comes to shopping for everyday Alaska wear?
The cynic in me says that's a silly question given our way of turning workingman's wear into elite trends. I'm talking about how Carhartts give you street cred, and your XtraTufs are considered casual cool. We are masters at forcing a practical-clothing peg into a trendy style hole; maybe so we don't have to choose?
But that's why I love that a few local shops have figured out how to make it easy to have both without stretching for style. The formula is simple: Start by focusing on high-end options for outdoor Alaska, but make some of the options multi-functional and offer casual counterparts in the same aesthetic.
"The idea is to absolutely be able to dress up and dress down with everything," said Romney Dodd, co-owner of G Street Fox, a tiny boutique wedged in among the bars and galleries in downtown Anchorage.
G Street Fox opened in October 2011 and caters to active women who appreciate style, Dodd said. A staple brand in the shop is Skhoop, the makers of the popular feminine-yet-functional insulated skirts that Alaska women like to wear everywhere from the dog park to dinners out. But G Street carries more Skhoop options—coats, long underwear and accessories—than you can probably wear at once.
Other outdoor standards include Swedish brands Fjallraven (think backpacks and classic cold-weather clothing with a vintage vibe) and Ice Bug (shoes for traversing all kinds of winter terrain from trails to sidewalks).
The flipside of G Street's offerings include jewelry, with an emphasis on Alaskan artists, cowboy boots and the product that made Dodd a name in some Alaska circles: Her hand-painted Dansko clogs.
"We sort of played with this sporty boutique style," Dodd said. "And we just brought in things that we love."
Around the corner on Fourth Avenue, Zak's Boardroom isn't really the new shop on the block, but the initial ambition that motivated the late 2008 opening is the same.
"Zak kind of wanted to start a store in Anchorage that hadn't existed before," said Will Ingram, the store's man of many roles, including floor manager and buyer. "The goal was to cater to people who knew what they wanted — a really nice, clean boutique that focused on the skateboard/snowboard lifestyle."
Zak's is first and foremost a snowboard and skateboard shop, and right now the only locally owned full-service shop in Anchorage where you can find the gear and performance wear for the sports. But it's the added focus on fashion that has turned it into a shopping destination for anyone savvy in cultivating their casual style.
"The fashion, it goes along with the lifestyle, Ingram said. "We like to help people built a kit, we call it. You bought a snowboard, and now you need the coat, the hat ..."
Zak's is the only Anchorage store with a Nike SB account, a line of exclusive, limited-release sneakers sold primarily in independent stores. Having an SB account is coveted, and in bigger cities releases have been known to cause hysteria among "sneaker heads". (To put this in perspective for the uninitiated, think something kind of like Best Buy on Black Friday morning.)
The focus on exclusivity in other lines, such as Burton Restricted, is just more evidence of Zak's status as a true boutique, with products curated for the cool.
"We try to get stuff people don't have," Ingram said, "exclusive products that you can't buy online or in the mall."
Anchorage freelance writer Leslie Boyd writes a regular column on local shopping and style. Ideas, information or tips? Contact her at akshopgirl(at)gmail.com