A little bird told me a local designer just opened a boutique in the North End (on Fleet Street, a block down from Twilight). No signage was up the first time I stopped by, but two dresses in the window were definite signs of life: One of them, a drapey, off-white gown fit for an unconventional bride; the other, a modern-day Cinderella dress with a satin corset and embroidered peacock feathers.
Manning the shop that day was the namesake himself, Luke Aaron Brown. A costume designer who earned his MFA in stage design at Yale, Luke recently moved up from NYC and opened the boutique in July with his sister Heidi Brown, owner of The Training Room fitness studio in Somerville. So far the shop has stayed under the radar.
When I return a week later to take photos, Luke tells me the gowns are oggled by many passerbys who stop, stare, ooh, ahh, and keep walking. “I think a lot of people think, ‘oh, it’s a bridal boutique,’ or that it’s too fancy, and keep walking,” Luke explains.
Quite unlike a typical bridal shop, Luke Aaron is streamlined and decorated with vintage home items including lamps, a bird cage, an 1850s bingo game and a typewriter (all of which are for sale). “I try to make all these things relate to the clothes,” says Luke, eyeing a copy of Peacock Feathers by Temple Bailey, and glancing back at the blue dress with a proud smile. “See that!”
What you may not see through the window are his beautiful, structured ready-to-wear pieces that beg to be worn by the likes of Kate Middleton and Michelle Obama. His concise collection is youthful and classic, with a handful of tops, dresses and pants made of silks, chiffon and cotton. The racks feature one sample size of each design (colors and fabrics vary with the seasons), and customers are able to order directly from the store. The jewelry is crafted by Heidi, who works with one-of-a-kind antique finds.
Between photos, Luke and I discuss his collection:
A: Your background is in costume design. How did you make the transformation to RTW?
L: You know, in fashion, one of the worst things to say is that something is “costumey,” but in the ’30s and ’40s that’s what people did. Designers had their own stores and were inspired by costumes. I’m bringing it back!
A: Then there is an element of costume design found in your RTW collection?
L: I always felt like fashion designs influence costumes and vice versa. It’s a little bit like you put a costume on every day. Everyone can use a little pick me up and deserves to get excited to get dressed in the morning. Costume design is very seldom about the actual costume. It’s about the actors and the plot. I’ve been happy to find that a lot of women like drama in the way that they dress.
A: Where do you get your fabrics?
L: I usually get them from the Garment District in NY. I commit to a few colors a season. Some of the silks we get from silk suppliers who I’ve built relationships with.
A: Talk to me about this peacock gown…
L: It’s taffeta, underneath organza. The bodice is duchess satin and it’s lined in taffeta with the corset made out of silk faille. There are 30 yards of Balenchine net underneath it! It weighs 9 lbs.”
After a couple of hours taking photos, Luke, Tim (Spreedia photographer extraordinaire) and I get a little punchy. I learn the peacock gown has never even been tried on, so at Luke’s suggestion (and with Tim’s encouragement), I decide to christen it. I’m not saying I chose this career path to play dress-up on the job, but I’m not saying I didn’t.
When you need to do a gown justice with sandals, runny mascara, and unwashed hair:
1. Pull that mess into a bun.
2. Call it a “chignon.”
3. Turn your back to the camera.
4. Let the window shoppers ooh and ahh.
Made-to-order dresses: $250-$800; Gowns: $1,200-$8,000; Bridal gowns: $4,000-$5,000, and up to $12,000; Jewelry: $45-$150.