Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Muse: A Fashion Xanadu. . .3/2/11

As a seasoned shopper, I like to pride myself on the fact that I can take a passing glance at any store front, or even take a quick peek in the door, and within three seconds determine if it is worth my coming inside. With Muse, however, I merely had to park six feet from the door to know that I should definitely come in and I should definitely leave my credit cards in the glove compartment of my car. With its signature lamp-shade-head mannequins donning the latest fashion trends in the front windows, Muse is a store begging to be walked into for browsing AND buying. It’s the kind of store in which a gal could do A LOT of damage.

It’s been nearly four years since co-owners Margaret Morris and Lindsay Mousoudakis opened their stylish boutique in River Oaks and as I walk in with my six-week-old fashionista-in-training in tow, I begin to salivate at the rich colors and variety present in every square foot of the boutique. I might even go as far as to say it is sensory overload, but in a good way. Everything is so tempting in fact that I almost don’t know where to start shopping – I mean browsing – first.

Should I start at a wall cleverly displaying a collection of multi-hued ruffled vests in a way reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s color-block? Or should I eyeball a tiered round table near the front door that parades Boho style summer kurtas in every shade and pattern imaginable? If neither suits me, shoes, jewelry, handbags and playful trinkets to complement every outfit are strewn about the store in inviting arrangements as well.

I’m still barely taking it all in and already feeling a bit like Veruca Salt in the Wonka Factory; the only thought running through my mind at this point is, “I want it daddy! I want it!” Good thing I left my wallet in the car. I finally make my way over to the counter where I introduce myself to Morris. Though elegantly understated, she is as in vogue and up-to-the-minute as her tasteful boutique and as she speaks I begin to wonder if she is wearing-slash-advertising the store’s merchandise.

Morris is one half of the mother-daughter team that dreamed up Muse and she is quick to tell you that her daughter Lindsay is the actual mastermind behind the store. “I always wanted to open a tea room and one day Lindsay asked if I wanted to open a boutique together instead and we just went for it. She did all the work and got everything together."

Indeed, Mousoudakis, who started out in public relations before moving to Los Angeles and helping open the Tory Burch boutique in Beverly Hills, has definitely done her homework and pulled together an enviable assortment of designers that even Neiman’s and Saks don’t carry. “We are the sole carrier of the Calypso brand in the entire city of Houston,” says Mousoudakis. “I just love that brand so much. It’s so different. Any age can wear it and when you do you look dressed but feel comfortable.” “Even women my age can wear it,” echoes Morris, to which I have to roll my eyes and laugh because despite knowing she has a daughter my age, Morris has the ageless beauty of Lynda Carter and even eerily resembles the icon.

The vibrant boutique offers a blend of fragrance, clothing, accessories and even splashes of home accents by designers including the Dori Collection, Roberta Freymann, Avenue Montaigne, Fifteen Twenty, 49 Square Miles, Calypso, Jarbo, Linea Pelle Handbags, Tracy Reese, Nanette Lepore, Hila and much, much more. And with luxe brands like those ranging anywhere from $25 to $600 plus, what type of woman shops at Muse I wonder? Mousoudakis, who counts Roberta Freymann among her favorite designers, tells us the store typically caters to women between the ages of 30 and 45. “Our customers are fresh, modern, funky, colorful, youthful women; lots of young hip moms too,” she says.

With such an eclectic array of styles and colors, the question begging to be answered is who are Mousoudakis’ and Morris’ muses? “I’m very inspired by my customers. They are always so stylish, darling, fun and they let me play; they give me ideas,” says Mousoudakis who describes her personal style as that of “funky, classic, not quite bohemian but eclectic. I like to mix it up.”

Mix it up she does indeed. The newlywed is wearing black shorts, a tee and a loose silk tank over it – the kind of effortlessly chic outfit that would take the average women several outfit changes to pull together. Seeing her style, I get the sensation that she is actually the one that inspires most of her customers. “We just want people to be able to come in here and know that it’s comfortable. It’s like your best friend’s closet; come in, try on and hang out,” she says.

Muse is located at 2411 W Alabama, Houston, TX 77098. Visit them also at http://www.musehouston.com.

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