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Fashion Forward

Does Boise have a style of its own?


Boise fashion. Try not to laugh. Admittedly, Boise doesn't have a reputation for being on the leading edge of fashion—or for being anywhere on the scene for that matter. But just because sightings of a label that reads "Prada," "Gucci" or "Elie Saab" are few and far between doesn't mean that the city doesn't have some style.

"There's fashion and there's style," said Boise photographer Thomas Lea, who created Boise Style two years ago.

"Fashion is the latest from New York or Paris ... Everyone has a style in my view."

Lea's camera is his constant companion on his wanderings around the city as he waits for someone to catch his attention.

"I'm looking not just for tailored or off-the-rack. I'm looking for more creative in what they put into an outfit. It looks like they're trying to make an effort," he said.

Lea calls the photo selection process for his blog highly unscientific and something that can't be taken too seriously—kind of like fashion in Boise.

If he were to offer a broad category for local fashion, it would be "super casual and outdoorsy."

For those in the Treasure Valley, the labels that matter read "North Face," "Keen" or "Patagonia."

"I don't think you can be underdressed in Boise," he said with a laugh. "It's just the way it is here, and people who live here want it that way."

Lea loves looking for fashion subjects at the Capital City Public Market, where he scans the crowd for those feeling adventurous with their fashion, be it particularly colorful displays, breezy patterns or incorporation of vintage pieces.

Taking a chance on fashion is what former Boise resident Elliot Soriano sees as the biggest challenge for Boiseans. Soriano, who grew up in Boise and recently graduated from Boise State, is an assistant stylist for T, The New York Times style magazine, as well as for Details, Interview, Vogue Japan and Wonderland magazines.

"The biggest challenge is having the confidence to test the boundaries of what people in Boise will respond to," Soriano wrote in an email. "It's all about making a statement with what you're wearing for the sake of style, not just to draw attention to yourself. You can still turn heads in Boise for the right reason. Whatever you're wearing, you just have to own it. A good outfit will give you enough charisma to achieve anything."

He believes Boise's style falls too across-the-spectrum to be categorized, but from his perspective, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

"Places like Seattle and L.A. have their own specific style that is very true to the area, but Boise doesn't, which is what I loved about Boise—everyone is a character," he wrote.

Residents have become more aware of fashion trends in recent years—something Soriano partially attributes to the addition of big-name retailers.

"Of course, trends come and go and, for the most part, Boise is pretty good at following them—[It needs] to work on letting them go, though."