How the West Was Worn Part 2 | Andrea Clark’s Style Council

- April 10, 2017

While we explored the stores Double Take and Cowboys and Indians last week, here are some more stops along our western shopping trail that winds its way around downtown Santa Fe.

The holy grail of boot shopping is undeniably Back at the Ranch (209 East Marcy), with a mind-blowing selection of high-end, custom artisan boots in a variety of materials—from leather to exotic skins. The shop has a following of fashionistas and celebs, which owner Wendy Henry says are drawn to the juxtaposition of exotic skins and classic design. Opened in 1996, Back at the Ranch evolved (in 2006) into its current footing as a purveyor of fashion-forward boots of exceptional craftsmanship. The meticulous handmade boots are created by second and third generation craftsmen in the company’s own factory in El Paso, Texas.  With luxurious materials such as alligator and ostrich leather and intricate tooling and explosions of colors, these boots are definitely made for walking—and showing off. And, as expected, fine work comes at a price. Expect to pay upwards of $798 for mules and $2,000 for a fabulous pair of bone-colored boots with pink flower tooled design. Another stunning pair featuring tooled birds is priced at $2,898. Henry says that she and her design team have many influences including couture fashion, travel, young adult fashion on the street, and the excitement of experimentation. “I love visiting leather factories and seeing the availability of textures and colors. I never get tired of the elation we experience when we create a new boot that merges high fashion and craftsmanship.” She’s not above the “repurposement” movement when it serves her aesthetic and clientele well. For instance, a collection of mules and boots uses canvas converted from Louis Vuitton garment bags.

What was most unexpected about Santa Fe Vintage Outpost (202 East Palace Ave.) was how it evoked a sense of being in a carefully curated museum dedicated to Americana and other vintage items from around the world. According to co-owner Julienne Barth (Scott Corey is the other half of the equation), that is their intention and they are very thoughtful about what they offer. Here, you will find authentic and fine western wear such as H Bar C Ranchwear, Pendleton vests and blankets, and Ortegas from Chimayo hand-woven wool vests and jackets. Prices reflect the craftsmanship and rarity of many of the items—a wonderful embroidered western snap shirt from the ‘40s is priced at $425, a leather tooled purse is $175, and Ortegas vests are $225. Other unexpected items that showcase the owners’ multicultural slant include vintage kimonos and a selection of old French work wear. Barth explains that the only non vintage merchandise is her own handcrafted, one-of-a-kind sterling silver jewelry that uses natural high-grade American mined turquoise – which she cuts herself. Barth’s patience with her customers is commendable as she was witnessed carefully explaining the value of southwest mined stones and the science behind the range of coloration of real turquoise.

For an unexpected “western” shopping experience, take a peek inside the relatively new Quoerk (203 W Water St.) with its selection of western-inspired bags, shoes, bracelets, and more. Made from Portuguese cork fabric, Quoerk offers sustainable leather-look merchandise that are water and stain resistant and can easily be cleaned with a damp cloth or sponge. While some items use a bit of leather in the trim such as the Flapper new leather trim bag ($159), others can be available as strict vegan styles.  Check out the fun bracelets that have a western sensibility, priced at just $49.

So git along little doggy—and have fun exploring the many ways to incorporate western style into your fashion life.