Best Crafts Shop 2007 | Willow | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Helen Rice's Willow is one of those hidden finds, a showcase for local artisans. Small and friendly, it's pleasantly filled with bright Fimo clay makeup brushes and quilted fish mobiles, handpainted furniture and pottery plates etched with leafy fossil patterns, not to mention a candy-colored army of glass wind chimes and sun-catchers. Fall head over heels for Nina Sampsel's collection of knit and boiled-wool Sweet Cakes chapeaus, heart pillows, bags and pins, as well as the exquisite beaded jewelry of Jane Albright, whose rustic woven-sunflower necklace will break your heart with its beauty.
GlowFur garments are the ultimate nightlife accessory, thanks to their internal battery-powered light system that can be switched on and off like a lamp. Designed by Colorado Springs entrepreneur David Lee, the illuminated faux-fur coats, boleros, handbags, scarves, leggings and bikini separates come in eight rave-ready lighting colors that glow in the dark like a Flokati rug on fire. Baby, it's hot in here.
Long before that corporate punk invaded Denver, there was FashioNation, which celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year. The homegrown boutique took its name from an episode of the 1960s Batman TV series in which the vixenish villainess Catwoman plotted to steal clothing from a fashion show sponsored by "FashioNation Magazine." A few years back, the shop moved its groovie-ghoulie digs into the space formerly occupied by Wax Trax vinyl, which gave owner Paul Italiano room to expand his awesome inventory of Docs, goth garb and punk paraphernalia -- and to pump up the volume to eleven. Oy!
Clothes make the woman -- and Susan Matthews creates some stunners. In addition to doing basic alterations, she restyles clothing for the transgendered community, helping clients to fill out fabulous frocks or power-pack their pants. She's also developing a series of interactive workshops to enable them to better recognize and select styles that will flatter their figures and give them curves in all the right places. And who couldn't use that?
Jaider Sanchez knows a thing or two about turning a girl into a woman -- or a man into a woman, for that matter. This drag queen/stylist is the expert that many Denver padres turn to when it's time for their daughters to celebrate their fifteenth-year quinceaera. They know that Sanchez will make their girls beautiful and prepare them for their first step into womanhood. Cha cha cha.
Here's the skinny on too many women's boutiques: The clothes they sell fit only willowy sylphs, teens and anorexics. But the rest of us -- and that means most of us -- want to look good without having to fit into one of those narrow, clingy, nipple-loving things that hang on countless clothing-store racks. A friend to local and small-run designers, Harriet Gibson champions garments stitched from good-looking natural fabrics in saucy colors that complement your shape. How novel.
Sarah Lilly-Ray has raised the cheap shoe to stiletto-heel heights at her Broadway footwear emporium, where the prices rarely climb above fifty bucks a pair. And what pairs! Lilly-Ray's shelves are proficiently stocked with nearly 100 styles of inexpensive shoes, from ballet flats to knockoff wedges, made predominantly from vegan-friendly materials and oozing with personality. Walk on!
Tiptoe into Elyse Burja's posh shoe palace, breathe in the sexy aroma of butter-soft leather and keenly crafted stacked heels, and you'll know how shoes become a fetish. Swoon over the black Bronx peep-toe pumps with front-buttoned straps or a pair of teetery, strappy Kaju wedges. Never have shoes looked so cute or irresistible as they do sitting in this sleek, modern shop.
Bruise carries what must be the premier selection of pre-owned sneakers, including Adidas, Puma, Nike, Reebok, Converse and other favorites of the city's fleet-footed. Owner Dennis Bodley claims to personally scrub, oil, polish and waterproof every pair he puts on the shelves, so what's old can be new again. And stink-free.
Don't know what to do with that worn pair of jeans, a skirt from three seasons ago or your stash of old T-shirts? Chances are good that Tricia Hoke and Kimberly Robertson of Potential Fashions would have more than a few ideas. These ladies have made an art form out of reconstructing thrift-store clothing into something more whimsical and fashionable than the original ever was. Sweater collars made from the tops of jeans? You'd better believe it's cute. These girls have serious Potential.

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