A Berkeley Boutique Owner Shows Off Her Insane Style And Store

[UPDATE: This story was originally published on August 24.]
We have a soft spot for scouring Etsy, no doubt about that. But, despite our affinity for the craft-centric e-shop, we’re always tickled to come across a head-turning bricks-and-mortar spot. So, when one of our go-to Bay Area Etsy vendors, James Rowland, opened up a store in Berkeley, we knew it had to be stuffed with the same online goodies we’d adored for eons. And boy, is it … and then some, thanks to a collection of vintage pieces from Prada to Jil Sander, local artisans galore, a muted color palette, plant-laden decor, and a memorable soundtrack.
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So, naturally, we’ve wanted to meet the chic mastermind behind the curtain, James Rowland’s co-owner Amy Blaustein. The pretty lady granted us entry into her eye-popping vintage collection (which she proudly modeled for us) and her quaint shop. Want to see just how this Berkeley babe rolls, sartorially speaking? Trust us, you'll be inspired.
Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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Tell us about your shop.
"James Rowland Shop is an ever-evolving collaboration between co-owner Dan Peck and myself. We started selling vintage footwear on Etsy in 2008 and opened our first physical store in Berkeley in 2010. Our shop contains a mix of hand-picked, highly curated vintage, and independent designers."

Where does the name James Rowland come from?
"James Rowland is a fictional character — we like to pretend he's the overlord of the business who guides our decisions and tells us what to do!"

A slew of shoes greet you upon entering James Rowland.

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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How and why did you make the switch from Etsy to a brick-and-mortar?
"We actually didn't realize we wanted to have a physical store until the opportunity came up. We took it on as a creative experiment and to this day we have a sort of mysterious attitude about it. We view the store as a separate living entity, and we like to let it reveal itself and its desired directions to us. It's very grounding to have a physical space that people can walk into and interact with, versus the intangibility of the internet. Fortunately, we now have the best of both worlds! We're very excited about integrating our physical store and Etsy store with one another."

Amy in a vintage top and skirt, Prada heels, Tiffany & Co. bracelet, and a Metalsmith bangle.

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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What does an average day look like for you?
"It's very different from day to day, although I'm trying to work on developing more of a routine. I'm very into health and healing, so there's a lot of focus on that. I'm usually either in the shop or out finding things for the store. One time Dan and I drove to Fresno to do a little thrifting and decided to keep driving to Tucson. You never know where the day might lead!"

Designs by local artisans pepper the walls.

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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We love all your vintage treasures here! How did you get into thrifting?
"Thrifting has always been a form of therapy for me. It's a creative, meditative, and inspiring act all at once. I got particularly hooked when I lived in Eugene, Oregon — the thrift stores were so amazing! My roommate and I had six couches in our house just because we kept finding great couches!"

Pretty palettes!

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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Does your personal style differ from the store's aesthetic?
"No, although occasionally I'll wear a piece that, as Dan and I like to say, 'only a mother could love.' I view getting dressed as a game, I love to rescue very challenging pieces and try to form positive relationships with them."

A close-up of Amy's striking necklace and rings.

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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Who are your style icons?
"My mom and her friends were huge influences on me growing up. As far as I'm concerned, they were the coolest, most daring women in the world! My mom would pick me up from elementary school wearing zebra-striped hammer pants and a huge blonde afro — you could say she stood out from the PTA crowd!  And I'm totally inspired by my friends, sometimes it feels like we exist in our own style bubble and just dress to please ourselves and each other. I'm also obsessed with the women in my neighborhood of North Berkeley, they all look so good. Sometimes I feel like I'm an honorary Berkeley lady."

Amy modeling Issey Miyake pants, a vintage top, and Acne shoes.

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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What's the coolest item you've encountered while thrifting?
"Almost every cool item I've ever encountered has been through thrifting! However, I was pretty blown away to find a pair of Acne pumps at Goodwill."

Can you spill any vintage secrets?
"Sure! If you can't find anything you like at the thrift store, consider shifting your perspective. Anything can be cool through a different lens!"

Flora and footwear.

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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Any upcoming projects on your radar?
"Starting next week we'll be curating the vintage section for the General Store for a couple months while the owner is in Australia. We've admired the shop for a long time and we're super excited to merge our aesthetics!"

Take a peek at the pretty merch.

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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How would you describe your personal style?
"I like simple things that have potent energy. I wear a lot of natural fibers and things that flow. I guess I'm standing somewhere near the crossroads of Japanese-slash-Scandinavian-slash-U.S. design. I like playing with contrasts — feminine versus masculine, natural versus synthetic, flow versus structure. I'm not into anything that's too designed and I love anything with Ramie in it! Most of my clothes have a rip or a stain, nothing's perfect!"

Amy wears vintage pants, a Laura Schoorl sweater, and a Metrode necklace.

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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What brands and designers can we expect to see in James Rowland on any given day?
For vintage we gravitate toward Issey Miyake, Comme des Garçons, Jil Sander, Prada, Moschino, Versace, Robert Clergerie, and Stephane Kélian. On the more casual front we love '90s Gap, The Limited, Flax, and DKNY. We also feature new designs by local and international designers such as Sven clogs, Lila Rice, Milena Silvena, Laura Schoorl, Job and Boss, Yokoo, and more."

Wowza! Bright bottom alert!

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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We're noticing a cool, earth-toned color palette — do you guys aim to buy items that fit this hue scheme?
"Twice per year we clear out the entire store, install new collections, and have a huge party with a different theme. Depending on what we've been working on, the store will have a completely different palette each season. This fall we're going to feature a lot of black, white, and aubergine, with a special focus on texture and luxe synthetics."

A pair of earth-toned oxfords sit pretty in the shop.

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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We're smitten with this Nicole Miller dress, tell us more about it!
"It was part of a series of limited-edition prints she did in the '80s. This particular print is an alligator head with the word 'help' next to it."

Amy sporting a vintage Nicole Miller dress, Anne Klein shoes, and a vintage necklace.

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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Describe the James Rowland shopper.
"I think the James Rowland shopper has great style and a real awareness of fashion. Our regulars know that we hold ourselves to a very high standard, and there's a reason we've chosen every single piece in the shop. We really are lucky to have such an impressively diverse clientele."

Greenery floods the stylish storefront.

Photographed by Molly DeCoudreaux
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