We know a quirky used bookstore with a cat or two, but it seems that our local designers prefer dogs. At both Rene Ropas and House of Fashion there is a small friendly dog to greet you, and an intimate, offbeat style experience waiting to be explored.

Rene Ropas designer Morgan Carson wants to dress up Seattle in her novel, handmade creations and then accessorize us all with recycled vintage jewelry. Carson calls her designs eco-friendly; she recycles old clothes, remaking them into new and striking pieces. It’s something she’s been doing since childhood.

What makes the shop different than other spaces offering locally made cocktail dresses and the like? Carson’s Belltown boutique also serves as her workspace and is by appointment only. She is currently in process of moving the business to the old Hollywood Video location on Capitol Hill next to Dick’s. No matter where she’s based, what she offers is a very personal experience. Carson actively seeks risk-takers (we know, we’ve been solicited, often) and seems to genuinely thrive on creating garments unique to her subject’s physical form.

Talk about vintage: this used to be how everyone bought their clothing, before the days of ready-to-wear.

Another boutique featuring local up-and-comers, and a cute dog, is Marta Kappl’s House of Fashion. Located just south of Rene Ropas, right behind Baby & Co, off First Ave, the House of Fashion is a place for local designers to get their start. Think of it as a co-op of sorts.

Kappl, who was born and raised in Germany, comes from a family of tailors, and although she never enjoyed sewing much, she learned all she needed to know about fit from her family. After business school, and spending time designing her own line, Kappl chose to settle down in Seattle because it was the closest thing to home she found in America. (In fact, she says Seattle is the American city most like Europe’s urban centers. Take that, Seattle detractors.)

Using her business training, Kappl started the House of Fashion as a workspace and storefront for local designers. Ambitious designers—graduates from local design programs as well as international students—can apply to be apart of Kappl’s post-grad training camp. She offers them access to marketing materials, workspace, and classes to improve their business skills, and their sewing. Of course, she offers a retail showroom. And she offers you a retail showroom.

You’ll find everything from casual jersey dresses to evening gowns, hats, and jewelry, all designed and made in Seattle. Most of the clothing you see was made in the house itself. The back is an open workspace, where the designers take turns creating throughout the week.

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