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Buttons & Bows: How an e-tail dream leads to a boutique

To many, EBay is a website for discovering rare designer gems or selling castoffs that are gathering dust.

But for Karen Marley (daughter of reggae legend Bob Marley) and Monique Aquino — co-owners of Los Angeles boutique Buttons & Bows — EBay was more than just a way to make extra money; it was a trial run for the two entrepreneurs.

When the pair met through mutual friends, Marley had quite the collection of vintage wares, and Aquino was a veteran of the retail business. They quickly became fast friends and business partners, starting a fashion-centric blog they hoped would elevate their presence in the e-tail community.

"We created the blog in 2009 and named it after a hydrangea bush called Buttons 'n' Bows that I discovered while walking the Brooklyn Botanic Garden," Aquino says. The site became a hub where the women would post inspirational images and look books. One year later, it was time to grow again — this time with a bricks-and-mortar store in downtown L.A. There, they sold hard-to-find items, such as a Pierre Cardin clutch, along with more modern pieces from the likes of Alexander Wang, Rebecca Minkoff and J Brand.

Marley and Aquino soon outgrew that first humble space. Now you can find the duo busily engaged in steaming a violet Thierry Mugler jumpsuit, tweeting about Burberry Prorsum booties or arranging display racks at their new location on Spring Street.

Sun-drenched and flanked by tightly packed racks, the shop feels like a fabulous walk-in closet. Shoes, such as two-tone 3.1 Phillip Lim flats and purple Fendi platforms, sit front and center atop

vintage suitcases and wooden crates. A Louis Vuitton wallet and Cartier silk scarf are protected by glass cases, and a range of designer jeans doubles as homage to Southern California's lengthy denim history.

"When we first met, we had the same dream," Marley says, "we both wanted to own a store to curate the things we love."

One thing neither woman will tolerate is a knockoff. When offering advice to amateur collectors, Marley stressed the point: "Invest in what you love, but educate yourself. There are a lot of good fakes out there."

image@latimes.com

Buttons & Bows

When: Noon to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays

Where: 548 S. Spring St., Suite 112, Los Angeles

Info: (213) 622-0648

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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