These couture confidants keep their clients stylish and self-assured.
The Bay Area’s best dressed possess their own eye for fabulous fashion, though it’s likely that many routinely receive a bit of help in defining their look. Assistance might come in the form of an astute clerk at a large department store, or a chic best friend with a particularly keen sense of style. Inspiration can be found within the pages of magazines, or by perusing the accounts of social media fashion influencers. But nothing beats a personal relationship with a high-end boutique and a staff that fulfills its clients’ best fashion interests. These three boutique owners (and their teams) do just that. Each is a couture confidant and a trusted source for the best in the latest, greatest, and trend-setting clothing and accessories. Elyse Walker has a talent for mixing unique, high-end designer pieces with moderately priced items from new and emerging designers. Helen Lyall is known for her ‘stand out in a crowd’ outfits, and Heidi Sabelhaus Myers is forever exploring new trends and designers as style directions change course.
One of fashion’s most powerful retailers and an authority on premium curated apparel, jewelry, and accessories, Elyse Walker learned about the fashion business as a young girl working in her mother’s shoe store, which she eventually inherited. She opened her first eponymous boutique in 1999 in Pacific Palisades, and today oversees seven elysewalker stores throughout California, two in New York City, as well as a robust online business; her St. Helena boutique is a favorite of stylish Napans. The magic of Walker’s retail power transcends the clothing. She and her team create, establish, and maintain client relationships, helping to build wardrobes that suit personality and lifestyle. “We are very lucky in that we have been working with some of our clients for almost 20 years and we not only know them very well but we know their lifestyle,” said Walker, whose personal everyday outfit is a blazer, soft denim, a platform boot, and copious jewelry. (For evening, she simply swaps out her tote for an evening bag.) Her current closet favorite are her Zip Boots from The Row. “I call them my “sneakers” because they’re the most comfortable shoe I own,” said Walker. “I have every color and wear them almost every day – on the plane, at the office – they’re my perfect shoe.”
Walker’s loyal clients love the personalization and customer service that she and her team provide. “Elyse and her team have been styling me for a few years and they know what’s in my closet better than I do,” said Leslie Frank, founder of Frank Family Vineyards. “They know my taste and I love that they sometimes push me out of my fashion comfort zone. They understand style and trends, and have a talent for tying in new pieces to my existing wardrobe. No matter what the occasion or where I’m traveling, I can rely on Elyse and her team to help me sort out my fashion needs.”
Walker believes in wardrobe staples—pieces that are timeless and can be styled with the latest trends. “A great way to stay on trend are seasonal updates, styling your basics with the season’s latest looks,” said Walker. “For this season, we are really loving minimal maxi skirts in denim, jersey, or silk, and platform sandals because who doesn’t want to be a little taller!”
Helen Lyall is known for her elaborate fashion shows that reflect Hollywood-like productions, such as those she stages annually for San Francisco’s Saint Francis Yacht Club and the San Francisco Yacht Club in Tiburon, each of which support various charitable organizations. Well into her 90s, she is an iconic role model for generations of clients: grandmothers, mothers, and daughters. Her Helen Lyall Clothes for Women boutique in downtown Napa carries unique lines and styles that reflect the lifestyles of her globetrotting customer base. (Her son Scott oversees an adjoining retail store for men.) Favorite labels include Alice & Olivia, Zenia, Autumn Cashmere, Kokun, and LaMarque Leathers. Lyall herself shops the European and U.S. markets to bring her clientele the most current fashion trends. For her, quality is of the utmost importance. “The fabric, the tailoring, the ease of wear, this is what matters most,” said Lyall, whose own go-to outfit for everyday is leggings, a cashmere sweater, and a leather jacket—thought she touts a pair of black pants as the most indispensable item that every woman should have in her closet. Her own pair are leather trimmed; she wears them with a splash of the dramatic such as a unique sweater, a piece of statement jewelry, or a shawl. Like Walker, Lyall learned about fashion commerce at a young age; her family owned a store that sold everything from fabric to work boots and moccasins to confirmation gowns. She opened her own boutique 35 years ago, and since has continued to provide personal service and wardrobe coordination for her loyal clients. For spring and summer, Lyall forecasts fringe, as well as see-through fashion, halter and cropped tops, and soft print dresses. When asked for one suggestion for updating a closet or a look, the vivacious Lyall recommends thinking young and living life to its fullest.
Heidi Sabelhaus Myers
As the family and friend requests for style advice became more frequent, Heidi Sabelhaus Myers decided to open her own boutique where she could gather all her favorite lines and pieces in one place. Now 21 years in, HeidiSays has been a Fillmore St. mainstay boutique, carrying labels such as Tibi, Nili Lotan, Ganni, Ulla Johnson, Apiece Apart, Vanessa Bruno, Malene Birger and many others. In addition to shopping the New York and Los Angeles trade shows, Myers sources from Paris and Milan; new designers often reach out to her directly. “Our list of designers is fluid and we are always exploring new trends and designers as style directions change course,” said Myers, who derives great satisfaction in helping customers find their voice through their style. “Dressing our clients from head to toe and completing their outfits is one of the most rewarding parts of owning the boutique.”
“Heidi is my saving grace when it comes to creating a business and casual wardrobe that is both timeless and current,” said client Valerie Houts. “I rely on her as my ‘style North Star,’ charting a totally reliable course toward all I need to look and feel my best at every occasion that’s filling my calendar. I trust her immensely and love working together!”
Quality, fit, and style relevancy are Myers’ three most important factors in choosing her collection. “It’s my responsibility to offer my customers well-edited styles and trends. Many enjoy taking risks with their look and want to creatively express themselves through new shapes, textures and colors. I want to make our clients feel pretty, confident, powerful and tasteful. I am very purposeful in my job and I truly spend time and effort considering what our clients need.” For her personal every day “go to” outfits, Myers reaches for a monochromatic silhouette for everyday—for instance a navy cashmere sweater with navy trousers, or for summer, a white blouse paired with white denim and quality accessories such as a statement pair of shoes or belt. For date night, she loves anything leopard. Her own closet ‘go-tos’ are a Brazeau Tricot Cashmere slouchy black sweater, Malene Birger leather pants, a Ganni leopard dress, and leather booties from Tibi. She recommends that every woman own one or two crisp, slightly different white blouses that fit perfectly, one pair of flattering black pants, and a high quality, well-fitting black blazer. And for a quick closet update, she suggests studying the new denim shapes and investing in a few pairs that best fit your figure, and exploring new heel and toe shoe shapes to update your look. “In the end, fashion and trends are creative, but investing in classic shapes and a few quality pieces can always make a woman feel well-dressed.”