There’s something peculiar happening with fashion. It’s become seemingly homogeneous. Walking through Jessie Square, you can spot at least four people in flat-brimmed felt hats. Every store window on Market Street features rose gold jewelry. And, as you approach The Palace Hotel, you notice that almost every woman’s purse is a basic black.
You’ve found yourself craving something different. Fashions impossible to replicate on a large scale. You cross through the lobby of The Palace Hotel to pull open the doors of The Rafael’s, and that’s where you find it. A long gallery of displays, more museum than department store. Near the entrance, mannequins wear handwoven scarves, jauntily positioned to appear in motion. Further into the shop, handbags and wallets are artfully dotted across tables and counters.
Instead of running your fingers over the fabrics, you stand back and take them in, admiring these pieces of contemporary wearable art. In the corner is a mint-colored wool coat by designer Teresa Maria Wudich. The fabric is substantial, yet a chain of round cutouts render the coat useless in cold weather. It’s a bold statement that draws you back several times.
Then, you come across a case filled with jewelry by Patricia von Musulin. Her arm cuffs are clear and chunky, twisting into unconventional shapes. Intrigued, you ask to try a few on. The first has a series of close together ridges that reminds you of a slinky. The second coils off into a tight spiral, appropriately named the Rams Head Cuff. Although the bracelets are fairly dense, the glass and Lucite make them appear weightless.
Gloria Vanderbilt famously said, “The jewels of Patricia von Musulin are sculptural works of art created by a genius.” You have to agree, picking out a smooth bracelet without any creases—the Bubble Cuff—and pairing it with the matching Bubble Ring. It’s a refreshing aesthetic, so wonderfully different from the crush of sameness outside.
Glancing around the shop, you find even more fascinations. Handbags with intricate beadwork, handstitched fedoras, structured coats with sharp angles. In a neighborhood filled with museums and art galleries, The Rafael’s stands alone as a curated collection of bespoke fashions. You’ll certainly be back.