Creative fashion

Downtown shops offer a space for local designers to show off—and sell—their wares

A few years ago, I caught a wild hair, bought a sewing machine and some fabric and started to make things, mostly purses and totes. The satisfaction of turning a stretch of cotton into something else—something pretty and useful, even—was a little intoxicating. I started with store-bought patterns and then, after getting a feel for it, began to create my own.

When a half-dozen projects turned into more than 20, I began to wonder what I was going to do with my creations. Everyone said Etsy was the way to go if I wanted sell them, so I labored over photos, descriptions, price points. After a month of no sales at my online shop, however, I became discouraged. Were my handmade bags not cute enough? Were they unfashionable? What was wrong with them that nobody wanted to buy them?

Determined not to fail, I decided to look a little closer to home. I ended up at Konjo, the funky little retail/consignment shop on Second Street near Naked Lounge. I walked all my bags over and presented them to one of the owners, Kirk Johnson. And a bit to my surprise, he liked what he saw. We set up a consignment deal and my purses were hung on racks inside his store. Most of them even sold.

Browsing the shelves, I noticed I wasn’t the only one around town with a creative bug—I spied everything from funky hair clips to feather earrings to full-on gowns.

Konjo isn’t the only shop that’s fostering that creativity. Most obviously, there’s Made in Chico (between Main and Broadway on Third Street), whose name says it all. And a few blocks south on Main Street there’s Three Sixty Ecotique, which sells cool fashions by Chico designers. I stopped in recently to check out the offerings and, as usual, found a great selection of fun clothing and jewelry.

One of the local designers whose stuff I’ve seen around town—most recently at Three Sixty Ecotique—and love is Chicoan Amy Waltz ( Her hammered metals and use of stones (I’m a sucker for turquoise, which she uses a lot) are stylish and a bit bohemian. There’s nothing quite like wearing a one-of-a-kind piece, and the fact that these are all made by hand contribute to their unique charm.

There’s also Hobo Chic Designs, created by Orovillian Samira Morrar. Her bold use of metals like copper and wire-wrapped stones and crystals is enough to make me want to go home, break out my craft box and try to make something beautiful.

These fun shops are integral to Chico’s charm and are part of the funky allure of our downtown. And the fact that someone like me—who hadn’t sewn a thing since a summer sewing class when I was 14—could get my bags in a local shop window was pretty neat. All it really took was a desire to create and the motivation to get my stuff out there.

It’s been a while since I’ve sewn anything to sell, so these days I just browse the racks and shelves at local stores to see what has inspired my fellow Chicoans. I’m so thankful that this town’s shop owners—and customers, of course—appreciate locally made fashions and can only hope the trend continues.