shoppingsmycardio interviews: le train bleu

dear readers, today i’d like to introduce one of the true stylemakers: bria of le train bleu. her store (both the online site and the “real” version, located in portland, oregon) is positively notorious in the world of fashion for epitomizing that rare talent of mixing the best of upcoming trends with timeless, unique pieces. any true fashion addict has bria’s gorgeous finds for le train bleu at the forefront of her fashion radar. bria was kind enough to offer to guide us through some of her favorite styles, trends, and advice, and i’m thrilled to share it with you.

shoppingsmycardio: i have to start by gushing a little – i just love le train bleu. you do such a great job of picking really wearable pieces that are still so unique, and i love that you manage to mix in vintage and a few key home accessories as well, without making the store feel disorganized at all. how did you come up with the concept for the store? 

le train bleu: Ah, thanks – that totally makes my day. The homewares, apothecary, and vintage selections are fairly new and just stages in a long evolution. It’s a little known fact but Le Train Bleu actually started as an activewear store, albeit a very eclectic and eccentric one. I started out selling activewear as fashion. We had a lot of dancewear – high-fashion legwarmers (there was a terrific company called Dosty that we couldn’t keep in stock), cool dancewear imported from a company in Italy called Dimensione Danza. You can see a vestige of these roots on the site now if you look closely: we still sell leotards!

SMC: you have a knack for finding designs (and designers, for that matter) that really are “up and coming” – your shoppers get the high fashion look without necessarily the high fashion price tag. how do you decide what pieces and designers to stock?

LTB: It’s very instinctual—I buy whatever makes my heart race. I’ve gotten smarter about it though as I’ve gone along. I do make a concerted effort to have a range of prices. There are some surprises in regards to price though: my core customer is not very hampered by price and it’s not because they’re rolling in dough. It’s a very small niche market of people who are hard-core fashion collectors. They are the trendsetters and will scrimp and save and blow half their paycheck on a pair of high-waist jeans from Australia, because they just have to have them. This means that I can just as easily sell a $600 dress as a $60 pair of boots. It just has to be the right dress. The right boots too, for that matter.

SMC: tell me what trends you’re most excited about for fall ’08.

LTB: Midi hemlengths! I am shocked by how hard it is to find a skirt or dress that falls anywhere below the knee right now but for Fall we’ll have some more options: I’m very excited by the Tibi collection. And the color red—I can’t get enough.

SMC: what trends from last year are you counting on to stick around, and which pieces should we send to goodwill?

LTB: I guess I think more in terms of moods and stories than trends. I would be heartbroken to know that my customers were casting off things they had purchased one season earlier from Le Train Bleu—that runs totally contrary to what I feel about clothes. For me, clothes become dear friends and we might have periods in our lives where we fall in and out of each other’s lives (I do have some things in boxes that I’m not wearing right now, but I know in a year or two they’ll be back in my closet).

SMC: if a woman wanted to choose one special piece to update her wardrobe right now, what would you point her toward?

LTB: A trench coat is timeless and ageless and there’s one for everyone. I think a little structured tailoring is always cool and flattering.

SMC: what are your 3 favorite pieces in store right now?

LTB: On my shopping list right now would be the Speak Easy candle (vapors of gin, pipe tobacco and wood), The Vera Blouse from the Australian line Fleur Wood (very me – a slightly 1970s style via the 1940s in an amazing print and color), and the Bianca Dress from Heidi Merrick (her dresses are so well tailored).

SMC: what is your favorite piece of clothing (or accessory) that you’re wearing today?

LTB: Well, it’s morning and I’m still at home in my ritual of answering emails and drinking my coffee. I’m wearing my beloved cotton Thai fisherman’s trousers.

SMC: tell us about your favorite, never-fail outfit.

LTB: A wrap-around skirt, a very slim cut printed blouse (I love the 70s cut again, lean through the torso and cut high in the armhole) and a pair of heeled boots. If it’s cold, a really tailored great wool coat.

SMC: what one style secret do you wish you could teach every woman out there?

LTB: Relish the choices we have and when the marketplace offers up a style that is perfectly you, stock up. I haven’t worn a babydoll dress or a pair of skinny jeans in my life because they don’t suit me at all but I have been taking full advantage of the high-waist styles that have been offered in the last few years, because that style works well for my body type and my personal style, being a lover of the ’70s silhouette.

bria, thank you so much! i know you’ve given me loads of new ideas for my wardrobe, and can’t tell you how much i appreciate your taking the time to share your advice with all of us!

oh, and for those who are now lusting after everything on the le train bleu website, you might recall from my last le train bleu post that they currently have a lucky mag discount code for 25% off, good through june 1. use code luckybreaks1 at checkout!

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