Small Business Spotlight - Featuring Allora by Laura
The Allure of Allora
Step in and see what all the fuss is about….
Upon entering the front doors of Allora, you are greeted with a somewhat intoxicating scent of fresh cotton and leather. Natural light cascades in from the clean bay windows. You immediately feel welcome, and slightly underdressed. A friendly sales person approaches you with an equally intoxicating presence. You want to know her, and you want her to make you feel as beautiful as the store. This smiling face is TJ, daughter to Laura, the store’s owner. She is the very essence of Allora. Poised, glamorous, yet all over approachable and sweet. In a word - the girl with which you want to drink rosé and enjoy a Sunday brunch. After she escorts you around the store, she explains whats new for spring, and begins to educate you on how to put key pieces together - classics everyone needs in their closet, and on-trend accessories that one can’t live without. It is an overwhelming comfort one feels wandering around the racks of beautiful brands, as well as a pure, unwavering class that exudes from its staff and owner, that have undoubtedly made Allora a booming success on Coast Village Road for more than 5 years. We wanted to get to know what is the true allure of Allora. Who better than to tell us but Laura, the store’s owner.
What inspired Allora by Laura? Where did the name come from? Why fashion?
My boutique, is a culmination of my dream of self expression through fashion and a venue for assembling captivating attire. I am blessed with an awesome opportunity to delight and inspire every person who steps in the store. In that sense, that is my inspiration... fashion's ability to excite an audience through creative expression.
"Allora" is a little bit of a mysterious word that you hear a lot in Italian and it's used in many different ways. It can be loosely translated as "then","so", "therefore". However, it is mostly used in expressions like: "so what else is new?", "so see you soon", "got it?", "so let's go" and more. Its used to bring the conversation into an immediate presence - it literally means "now". When I worked in Italy many years ago, my Italian colleagues would use it constantly in conversations that I was either part of or listening too and invariably, because 'allora' is pronounced similarly and sounds almost exactly like 'Laura', I would think that they were speaking to me! This caused me great confusion at times and looking back, it's a funny thing to remember. But, I always loved the way it rolled off their tongues...it sounded romantic and easy. This translated perfectly to my concept of fashion: romantic, fun and captivating and something that is always happening right now!
What sets you apart from other clothing boutiques? What drives your inspiration?
We carry many collections that are not only exclusive here in Santa Barbara but also, in California and the U.S. The fabrications and designs must represent a caliber of luxury goods that fit the landscape of our store, reflecting our brand of dressing. For example, we love representing luxury labels that are not necessarily the recognized brands of high end companies like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Prada.
We like keeping our clothing intriguing and storied and set apart - items that are not that easy to find! Sourcing and importing from Europe and even South America help insure that we are bringing our customer very special merchandise. We also believe that our clients should have a truly customized experience. We spend a lot of time thinking about and purchasing for specific people.
What is your background in fashion? What did you do before Allora?
Today, I like to think that my career is a combination of my life's favorite experiences—my mother and grandmother's style, my quintessential "Southern California girl" upbringing during the most inspiring of decades—the 1960's and 70's. I started over 35 years ago working with the finest Italian and European fashion agents. I ran both the retail and wholesale divisions of European and American Fashion organizations. This has all greatly influenced my knowledge and passion for well designed and inspiring creations.
Who is the “Allora customer”?
She's actually a self- curator. She's in charge of her self-expression. The most enjoyable aspect to working with my customers is discovering how different our lives can be and also how much alike. Women who appreciate fashion and want to wear what represents their unique tastes and lifestyle appreciate the landscape of clothing that we offer. They love to look set -apart, sometimes in a sophisticated way, sometimes in a laid back way and everything in between. I think we help provide that selection. Also, they're ageless.
What would you consider your biggest success to date?
Well, as it pertains to my business I would say that my biggest success is being measured all the time - It's when the audience I am trying to reach actually "get it" and they understand our concept and approach to fashion. To be appreciated by anyone who loves fashion and to have customers return to see "what's new in" is so rewarding to me. Also, to have surrounded myself with an outstanding staff. Without their integrity and talent, I would not be in business today.
What is your key piece of advice to someone looking to start their own creative business?
You really do need to trust your own vision. You can get so distracted with the worry of who will like what you're doing and try to manage pleasing everyone. If you stay true to your ideas and presentation, this always shines through. Then, you have authenticity and that is something that is alive and positive and in my opinion, a very important ingredient for success.
Describe a typical workday.
Wake up, coffee & water, pack lunch for teenager, drive her to school, workout - or not, get dressed (best part of the morning), check emails, check in with TJ (my manager) for important to do's and updates. Depending on that information, I'll get to the store sometime between 9:30 and 11am-ish. Determine if the store looks "shop-able" and re- merchandise accordingly. Work with bookkeeper, chat with the team about boyfriends, customers, food, music, clothes, hair, makeup, fashion and goals. Espresso and some lunch if I have time. Somewhere in my day, I try to post something on my personal Instagram and always fail! My personal social media is a sorry situation. Sometimes I stay until closing and much later (depends on the attention the store requires ) and sometimes I leave before traffic starts. Either way, the time with just myself allows for reflection and prayer and quiet. I eventually head home by 6 and re-group with my family (my husband cooks dinner -he's amazing).
I love what I do and I look forward to each new day!
Where do you see Allora in the next year? Next 5 years?
This year will be a year of "catch up" and letting the dust settle from all of the struggle caused by the disasters. We have learned a lot from those difficulties. We're very confident that Montecito, it's businesses and residents, will continue to a full recovery in the next few years and be better than ever. I see Allora being part of that success
What is the one thing no one knows about Allora? (ie. Mascot, unusual ways you communicate, team brainstorms, how you select styles)
We, as a team, actually have routine meetings where we put together up to 3 or 4 outfits independently including all accessories - like we're styling an ad or editorial of our own tastes. Then, we take turns showing each other what we've put together, why we're inspired by that look, where we'd wear it etc. And, it's a powerful exercise. Interestingly, it's those clothes that end up being sold that day or that week. It's an Allora magic trick. We are true fashionista's.
If your business was a famous book, song, or movie, what would it be and why?
Well - "SCATTER MY ASHES AT BERGDORF'S" of course.
I think all of us at Allora, are absolutely passionate about Allora. We love to inspire passersby's with thoughtful, enticing windows. We love to be personal shoppers for each customer. We are as excited as Christmas morning opening that first delivery of Spring or Fall merchandise. We love beautiful things, dressing up and helping clients look fabulous - captivating. Now, we are definitely not Bergdorf's but we like to think of ourselves as our own mini Bergdorf's! Coast Village Road is our 5th avenue - it energizes us and gives us a venue that we get to use to dress amazing people. If an iconic department store can have a soul, then we like to think that we're kindred spirits!
What’s your team’s favorite lunch spot?
We love the avocado toast at Juice Ranch on CVR! It's delicious.
What is your favorite quote?
It's something my mom has always said:
"When you don't know what to say - say the truth."