Express yourself

By Kate Opalewski

<SUBHAED Detroit's Peacock Room does fashion with a twist>

The Peacock Room has established itself in Midtown as "the little boutique with big architectural treasure." Not only are people who work and play in Detroit attracted to the museum-quality space, but owner Rachel Lutz has these fashion-forward individuals bagging up her brand-new vintage and quality consignment clothing and accessories.

Open for less than five months, the boutique is located inside The Park Shelton, a grand landmark next to the Detroit Institute of Arts. A masterpiece of colorful interior murals, The Peacock Room was designed and created by American painter James Abbott McNeil Whistler. The entire room was shipped to Detroit where it was installed in the Ferry Street mansion of prominent industrialist and art collector Charles Lang Freer.

Lutz made a worthwhile investment to properly restore historical features which create a feeling of grandness - marble floors, mirrored panels, beautiful lighting and a gold-painted ceiling - but the 1,000-square-foot room is still small enough to feel intimate.

"That's the kind of feeling I want my customers to have - boutique shopping that's affordable and accessible to everybody," says Lutz, who takes customers back to a time when personalized service mattered more. Whether it's the simple act of remembering a customer's name or going as far as contacting a customer when a new piece arrives, Lutz is doing business in a special way.

That includes hand-selecting everything in the shop ranging from fun print dresses and rompers, bright-colored clutches, scarves, blouses, embellished fedoras and handmade vintage-style jewelry by designers like Ollipop and Sweet Romance. The mix of brand new and old fashions include high-end consignment items from J Crew, Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers and Anne Taylor, to name a few. For men, The Peacock Room offers a modest selection of shirts, ties, blazers and cuff links. Basics like Spanx and good quality socks are also available.

Lutz said there is new merchandise almost every day and she rarely carries the same thing in the boutique. Although the boutique is not a home store, The Peacock Room features antique furniture and artifacts, like a 1928 Victrola Phonograph or a 100-year-old Royal typewriter. In the process of being cleaned and restored are four Hudson's display cabinets.

"Whatever you buy from The Peacock Room should get you a compliment," says Lutz, adding that she travels to Chicago, New York and overseas to draw inspiration for her merchandise with Victorian and Art Deco influences. "People might not recognize the brands, but they will recognize the attention to detail."

Lutz said she prizes European makers for their tailoring and materials, but also local and American manufacturing. "We get excellent service at fair prices from the Detroit Store Fixture Co., Detroit Hardware, Motor City Party Supply (formerly Zakoor's), and others," she says. "I love to support groups doing good things in the city." She has made room in the boutique for fashions by Desiree Cooper, Detroit Snob founder, journalist and long-time InsideOut Literacy Arts Project board member, and the clothing line, G.R.inD - Girls Raised in Detroit - designed by Detroit natives Lamar Landers and Sydney G. James.

As a second-generation Midtown entrepreneur in her early 30s, Lutz said there is an obvious and documented need for retail. "Midtown has always been a great area, but people are noticing it now. It's grown richer over the last 20 to 30 years," says Lutz, who serves on the board of Equality Michigan and served on the board of Preservation Wayne for three years. She coordinated a crowd-sourcing campaign with the nonprofit organization to ensure whatever money is raised goes toward the preservation of The Peacock Room, and not toward building her business.

While she doesn't consider herself a fashion person, Lutz said she is a "style person" and believes it is instinctual. "People need to express their style," says Lutz. This is one of the many things she learned at her job at Nordstrom during high school and college. "I enjoyed helping women feel good about themselves through fashion."

And she still does. Lutz puts a lot of effort into helping her customers decide what to wear. "I never want someone to walk out the door with something on that they don't look good in. I try to be honest," says Lutz. "A lot of people know what they like and what they look good in. They just need a little reassurance."

The Peacock Room is open 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and from 12-5 p.m. Sundays. For more information on The Peacock Room, located in the Park Shelton at 15 E. Kirby (Suite 110) in Detroit, visit the store's website: http://www.peacockroomdetroit.com.

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