Alanna Rayford is the owner of Urban Stitch.
The Boutique, formerly known as Runway Style House, is decorated with tree branches that serve as clothing racks, hanging from the ceilings. A dress made of hangers replaces the typical mannequin in the window. The space is long and surrounded by windows through which the sun illuminates the already tempting clothing, accessories and home goods.
Alanna is so damn personable that I had to corner her in her own store, between customers, to interview her. Even so, she was not really cornerable and the customer became a part of the interview. It was fun and different, just like Urban Stitch.
Alanna places the experience above all, her objective being to connect the customer to the designer they are interested in, as well as to a larger ongoing community. Her customers are directly reflected in the individual choices she makes about which pieces to carry. If a customer doesn’t find a piece that speaks to them at Urban Stitch, Alanna will direct them to a place that will be most likely to have what they are looking for.
While money spending hasn’t stopped, it has changed. Alanna believes that people have become more emotionally invested in their purchases. Not only are Oaklanders interested in supporting local, up and coming artisans, designers and thinkers, but they want to connect to what they are buying. (Yes! Finally, emotional is trendy!)
Urban Stitch is all about the curated shopping experience.
At one point during the interview, as Alanna converses with a customer, looking lovely in a Jeaja top, she turns to me and says, “see, we are family here.” It is kind of impossible not to find her entirely charming.
The store is on the second floor at 17th and Broadway, in a space that used to be a hair salon. Alanna tells me that the energy has stayed in the space and people really feel comfortable here, as they would when coming to get their hair done, a place where a service is offered, but an entire community comes together and connects, talks, vents, expresses, problems solves and unwinds. Urban Stitch houses emerging and established local designers, hosts mixers, fashion shows and is available for community workshops and events.
Alanna knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur, back when she was a kid making stories about bears and binding copies of them to sell to her neighbors. She always liked the concept of building something and getting people excited about it. A physical space was essential, as creating something touchable, visible, actual, was important. This would influence the type of people that were drawn to the space.
From visual merchandizing to wardrobe for commercial print and film, to being a buyer for a big company, Alanna worked in many aspects of Fashion before venturing off on her own. Urban Stitch was originally a series of shopping socials, which took place in bars or clubs in San Francisco. From 12 designers, she grew her database to over 450. A little over five years later, and Urban Stitch resides in the heart of Downtown Oakland.
Alana at the Indies
Nominated for Oakland Soul and Innovative Newcomer in the Oakland Indie Awards, coming up this Friday, she will be collaborating with WYV to bring to life her dream child ”Behind The Seams’ a live photo shoot.
Urban Stitch houses cohesive merchandise, reflecting a “real time fashion” that may include shorts and knit sweaters at the same time, if this is what people are wearing in Oakland. Rather than promoting the impersonal and prescriptive styles and trends that result from adhering to buying seasons, Urban Stitch is as nonconformist as the city it lives in.
Every piece of clothing we own has a story. At Urban Stitch, Alanna is a part of that story. The narrative is also known and can be passed on. This sort of connectivity and accessibility to the designers, the materials, the inspiration and history of particular pieces and the people that made them, is what the growing Fashion scene in Oakland is all about. Fashion is not just for some bubbly twigs of beings. It is an art form. It is a story-telling medium. It is a way of wearing your voice, your city, your community and your aspirations. Fashion is a way of creating a home.