With the opening of her East Austin clothing boutique, Alta Alexander is out to show there’s still adventure to be had in the experience of shopping.
By April Cumming, Photos by Dwayne Hills and Jason Bennett
It’s a sunny, oddly 70-degree September afternoon in Austin, and Alta Alexander is standing proudly outside her eye-catching, bright-yellow boutique, Altatudes, on East 12th Street. It would be a stretch to call this area of town a fashion district. After all, the shop sits next to a barbershop and across the street from a church and an auto body shop. In Alexander’s words, this is what’s known as the “historic part of town.”
“I’ve always wanted to be in East Austin,” she confides. “This was once a thriving business community, and I’m hoping to be a part of making that come back to fruition. I know what [this area]can be and I can feel it, I can feel it. It is going to grow into something even more beautiful than before.”
The inspiration to open her shop, one might say, stretches back 17 years ago, back to when Alexander and her now-husband, a successful entrepreneur and real-estate investor in Austin, were on their third date. He turned to Alexander and asked, “If you were an entrepreneur, what would you want to do?” She paused, pondering the question. “I would open a boutique with clothes that I would want to try on,” she responded.
Fast-forward to a couple years ago, when her husband showed her the space she now confidently walks through. It was one of his newest real-estate investments and needed a lot of TLC. The space could possibly be used for the expansion of the planned barbershop next door, she proposed. “No,” her husband said. “This, right here, is going to be my wife’s boutique.” Her response, Alexander recalls, was nothing short of shock, screams and “a lot of tears.”
Then reality hit and to-do-lists started becoming a reality.
“I’ve been putting a lot of blood, sweat and tears into here,” she says, her eyes scanning the room around her, “just trying to bring it to a look and feel that is inviting so that the shopper feels good about being here.”
Step inside and you’ll soon discover Alexander has a knack for making the most of a small space. The interior is a clean palette of bright whites, gray metals and hints of yellow—a decorative nod to Alexander’s alma matter, Huston-Tillotson University. Almost every piece, whether a hand-built armoire focal piece surrounded by locally made handbags or antique chairs facing a shrine of shoes, has a story to tell.
Alexander has a dual-purpose mission with the shop: to showcase new, up-and-coming clothing designers—from Tracy Reese to Noel Asmar—while also empowering women to embrace their inner beauty. Signs throughout the boutique tout witty sayings and quotes like, “Shopping is the only sport I need,” and “You go, girls.”
Giving back to and involving the local community, Alexander says, is indispensable to the success of her store, noting that a Hearts & Handbags event catering to young, underprivileged girls in Austin is already in the works.
Asked where she gets her sense of style, Alexander says she counts her grandmother and her mom as her biggest fashion role models.
“Even though we came from meager beginnings, my grandmother always seemed to look really well put together. She was always a fit-and-flare girl and I’m a fit-and-flare girl all day long,” she says, laughing. “I really do miss my grandmother. I think she would have been proud of this undertaking.”
Inside the Shop
Project Runway season 15 alum, Alex Snyder of AMS Atelier, is one of the clothing designers whose work Alexander chose to showcase in her boutique. Alexander says Snyder’s designs are “very elegant, thoughtful and feminine.”
“Nothing inspires me more than women feeling beautiful!” Snyder says. “I am very excited that Altatudes is carrying our collection in all sizes. Alta was tremendously considerate of all the pieces that she chose to make sure they accommodated everyone.”
As a young kid traveling for his father’s medical research, Snyder found himself in and out of hotels, playing with the sewing kits to keep himself entertained.
“Random stitch marks became patterns, and patterns became cohesive lines,” he says.
After many bed sheets, towels and other household fabrics disappeared, both his parents invested in fabrics for their determined son.
“It was a love affair from there on,” Snyder says.
Throughout his career, Snyder has worked for leading fashion, cosmetics and marketing companies. He has achieved his associate, Bachelor of Art and master’s of fine art degrees in and became a business scholar through Babson College and Goldman Sachs’ 10KSB initiative.
“My woman has always been the Upper East Side woman who isn’t afraid to get onto a motorcycle. She is powerful, fierce and amazingly independent,” Snyder says of the inspiration behind his fall/winter 2017 collection, The Hitchcock Blondes.
He adds that he and his team are proud to say AMS Atelier is American-made. Everything, he says, is made within the four walls of his San Francisco-based studio.
Altatudes is located at 1717 E. 12th St. To learn more about the boutique, visit altatudes.com.