The Politics of Shopping

Where to buy stuff that you can wear proudly.

The word is out: Shopping is no longer just about buying things; it’s about supporting the local economy, being socially and ecologically responsible, and building community. Accordingly, it seems like many of the boutiques sprouting up in the East Bay carry predominantly locally or independently made (or vintage) goods that are green-friendly as well. Storeowners tout not only their products’ origins but also the various projects they’re involved with in their community. Thus, walking into a store has become somewhat of a political act rather than a strictly economic one.

In Oakland, there’s perhaps no more appropriate place for local-pride boutiques than downtown, and that’s where you’ll find the trifecta of Oaklandish, Oakollectiv, and Show & Tell (500 12th St., Oakland, 510-912-4118, The latter has been open for only a few months, but owners Alyah Baker and Nichole Payton are already creating a positive community vibe in their “concept shop.” From its eco-friendly hangers to its chalkboard wall scrawled with positive messages to its craft workshops, Show & Tell oozes feel-goodness. As a shopping destination, it’s still finding its footing, but among the more notable items are Raleigh Denim, PACT Organic Underwear, and men’s shirts by Menk.

On the other side of Lake Merritt, on a rapidly developing block, the vintage store Halmoni (1601 2nd Ave., Oakland, 510-788-0296, adds a little funkiness to Oakland’s vintage specialists (alongside Pretty Penny, Rare Bird, and Mercy Vintage Now). Owner Natasha Harden is super friendly and bubbly, and her store is definitely a reflection of her personality (“halmoni” means “grandmother” in Korean, a nod to her maternal roots, and Harden’s halmoni is pictured on the store’s earring cards). Given the small space, its selection of vintage Seventies and Eighties dresses, sweaters, sweatshirts, and T-shirts is limited, but that also means items are specially selected, and you won’t have to dig to find them. Best of all, Harden (who’s originally from New York) has a community-minded ethos, and is already organizing clothing swaps, First Friday art parties, and women of color business-owner networking events. We think her halmoni would be proud.

If you’re looking for scented candles, delicate perfume, exquisite soaps, crafty screen-printed cards, or other gifty items, then definitely check out Bells & Whistles (2011 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland, 510-482-4633, Nestled in the homey Dimond District, this newish boutique is small but jam-packed with goodies. Almost everything in the store (save for one table) features products that are locally and independently made, and items are reasonably priced compared to more upscale home-decor shops (even the exact same items). You’ll have a hard time leaving without something.

Unless you were visiting a departed loved one, you may never know that CH Good Stock (4454A Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-658-7394, existed, which would be a damn shame because this boutique ranks among our current favorites in the East Bay. While location (on the north end of Piedmont Avenue, near the cemetery) is not its forte (but there’s parking!), the strength of this place lies in the amazing taste of its owner, Dana Olson. Everything in this accessories store — from Matt Bernson shoes to vegan bags to the Lovely Bird hats — reflects Olson’s impeccable sense of style, which was influenced, in part, by her time living in Brooklyn. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s still an inspiring place to visit.

Speaking of beautiful, exquisite things, Mignonne (2447 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-388-5830, has to be our favorite furniture store. While it’s not exactly a new business, it has changed its focus since moving from Old Oakland to West Berkeley three years ago. No longer a purveyor of fancy soaps and candles and other home items, Mignonne now specializes in refashioning vintage furniture, reupholstering, and renting pieces. Whether you’re looking for a midcentury modern couch or a loveseat that’s more glam, there’s a strong chance owner Johnelle Mancha will have something like that — or something she can transform into that — in her possession. It’s more affordable than you’d think, and totally worth it.

Up the street, James Rowland Shop (2447 Dwight Way, Berkeley, 510-848-8180, is another one of our go-to vintage boutiques. Originally started as an Etsy store specializing in revamped vintage shoes and boots, the business became a brick-and-mortar last year, and added belts, purses, and clothing to the mix. You’d be hard-pressed to find better vintage on this side of the bay — but finds this good (think Burberry trench coats and Donna Karan jackets) don’t come cheap. We’re currently swooning for one of those Southwestern-print bucket purses.

We’ve long been fans of Viv&Ingrid’s simple but gorgeous hoop earrings; now the design team has expanded its business into a new retail store. In addition to their own jewelry, Viv&Ingrid at Oxford Hall (2142 Oxford St., Berkeley, 510-524-0662, features lots of beautiful, delicate little things that you might find in some Parisian boutique: soaps, cards, perfumes, nail polish, and sweets. Much of it — surprise — is made by small, independent businesses, but there’s zero sacrifice in quality or aesthetic. Now that’s something we can put our money behind.

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