What is Benicia fashion? A blend of new trends, classic styles, an artistic flare, and quality above all. A day of shopping in Benicia brought BM Social Media Specialist, Maura Sullivan, and I to some of our favorite shops, a few of the newer boutiques, and even to some unexpected fashion treasure troves.
We started our outing at newly relocated boutique, Collektive, at 935 First Street. It’s here that you’ll find some of the trendier style du jourpieces, hitting stride with the growing young adult demographic. Go here to find your whimsical summer romper, dresses (yes, with pockets), festival sun hats, and boho-chic jewelry. With sweater weather around the corner, they’ve even started sprinkling the shop with some fall fashion pieces that will make you wonder when it’ll be pumpkin-spice latte season, already. Collektive also offers unique experiences like leather working workshops and the opportunity to book a private shopping time so you and your friends can have the collection all to yourself (while sipping the bubbly you packed in the clutch you bought there last week).
Another newer boutique, Pink Arrows, which opened its brick and mortar store in 2017, can be found tucked away at 301 First Street. Specializing in classic basics with a beachy flare, go here to find quality denim, flannels, dresses, and shoes, all from carefully curated brands like Free People, Bella Dahl and Citizens of Humanity. Their “good vibes only” attitude can be found displayed on their graphic tees and cheeky trucker hats are both clever and fun. Pink Arrows offers a VIP program based on a point system for discounts on future purchases as well as private shopping parties.
Next, Maura and I ducked into a couple unlikely fashion destinations: The Steffen Collection Antiques at 627 First Street, and Happy Life Pottery Studio at 632 First Street.
To the untrained eye, the collection of plastic jewelry in the locked case in the center of The Steffen Collection may seem like pretty, perhaps common costume jewelry. But, while it is costume jewelry, it is far from common. These colorful plastic bangles, earrings, and necklaces are vintage fashion items made out of something called Bakelite, the first ever synthetic plastic developed in the early 20thcentury. Bakelite became especially popular in the 30s and 40s as an inexpensive way to polish one’s look when wartime efforts demanded much of the metal that might otherwise have been used in the manufacturing of jewelry. The upshot of the introduction of Bakelite jewelry is that it allowed designers to play with shape, color, and patterns in a way that deeply informed the way jewelry is designed today. A piece from The Steffen Collection will make you the envy of all your vintage jewelry buff friends.
Walking into Happy Life Pottery next, we found much more than pottery wheels and clay. All along the walls of the front of the shop are crafts and items created by artisans from within and outside Benicia. There is a variety jewelry from artists who are local, national, and international. We were especially drawn to the hand-crafted leather bags by Italian artisan, Rodolfo Grandi, whose work is world renowned. The bags are all unique in design, often using multiple tones of stained leather to create dynamic patterns. The quality of the craftsmanship is palpable, with thick, durable leathers. Happy Life co-founder, David Stellato tells us that Grandi has also tried his hand at making artistic gas tank covers for motorcycles and even a prototype of a leather vest for Harley Davidson. If you’re in the market for a unique leather bag to complete your wardrobe, look no further.
Maura and my final stop was Christina S, a well-known Benicia fashion destination, at 370 First Street. Since 2006, Christina S has been the place to find high-end, unique fashion. A self-described “fashionista” from a young age, owner Christina Strawbridge makes it her business to fill her shop with the latest trends from Europe and inspired pieces for every woman’s needs – from social, to business, to casual day-wear. With a range of pieces capturing styles from mod to retro to boho-fab, at Christina S, you’ll find something all at once trendy, classic, and utterly unique. Even with our differing styles, Maura and I each found something we liked. For her: a vibrant plush leopard print track jacket. For me: a mod, 60s inspired jacket, a la Jackie O.
It’s only fitting that the fashion found in Benicia is as unique as our community. It honors the past and promotes artisan craftsmanship. It keeps with the changing times but remains rooted in the demand for high quality goods. The Steffen Collection slogan may be correct, “you never know what you may find in Benicia,” but you can bet it will be good.