1880 N. Damen
From the outside Malabar looks like another one of those Bucktown boutiques where $300 is cheap for a blouse. So it was a pleasant surprise upon browsing to find high-heeled platform shoes by Oh . . . Deer! in red patent leather ($110) and leopard-print ponyskin ($120) and a black sweater minidress from Paris-based Aoyama Itchome on sale for 25 percent off its original price of $125. Owner Claudia Kleiner, a native of Venezuela, says her inventory reflects the way people dress back home, mixing the clean lines of European fashion with trendy accessories, and the lineup features a smattering of South American designers as well as Europeans and locals. A brown cotton pleated skirt with a pleated underskirt from a new ready-to-wear line by celebrity-gown designer Angel Sanchez (who is Kleiner's distant cousin) is $120, while tall Italian-made leather and suede boots by Chicagoan Kathryn Kerrigan come in at $250. Dresses and separates with body-skimming lines and gathered busts by prominently featured local designer Orlando Espinoza are among the more expensive items, topping out at $575. There's a "boyfriend section" with patterned Nexo button-down shirts (price range $80-$85) and a Max Taylor purple-and-green color-block sweater (marked down 40 percent to $87). Be sure to check out the jewelry that Kleiner makes herself, such as a hand-carved bone ring in the shape of a curled leaf ($70) and a striking necklace of cylindrical red coral ($150). She's also designed some bikinis, in poppy patterns like blue, pink, and green stripes or studded with beads ($90 to $150), with bottoms that split the difference between Brazilian exhibitionism and American modesty.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo Robert Murphy.