Ahh, Albany, New York. The seat of state government. A center of burgeoning nanotechnology research. And an icon of the fashion world.
Albany? One of the best-dressed small cities in America? That’s the word according to a new survey by the nationwide real estate company Movoto, which ranked Albany No. 7, alongside the couture-conscious small cities of Santa Monica, California, Boca Raton, Florida, and Evanston, Illinois.
Even Randy Nelson, the LA-based editor who compiled the survey, says he was surprised Albany ranked so high.
"I look at the data we collected and it’s not subjective," Nelson said. "It was surprising…but I knew everything else checked out."
Movoto.com looked at 153 American cities with populations between 75,000 and 99,000. The results came from taking a tally of the high-end clothing, jewelry and shoe stores in the area, as well as the number of tailors and dry cleaning shops, and dividing by total population.
"The way that this looks at things, is not that these are the cities overtly fashionable," Nelson says. "If you’re someone who’s really into fashion and you’re looking for a place with more access to high-end retailers, these are the small cities where that’s possible."
If you ask local fashionistas, the reaction to this high praise for Capital Region couture is a little different. Metroland News Editor Erin Pihlaja put out the popular end-of-September Fall Fashion issue of the alternative newspaper. Her take on the Movoto survey?
"At first my initial impression would be what? Really?" Pihlaja said. "But at the same time if I really think about it I don’t think it’s that surprising."
Pihlaja has extensive background in the fashion and style industry, both as a licensed stylist and a boutique manager and buyer.
"I was in that life. I was going down to New York City showrooms and I met Betsy Johnson and I was buying things and bringing them up here," Pihlaja says. "I actually found in terms of trends, we would buy things that were really fashion forward and they wouldn’t necessarily catch on for two years. They weren’t necessarily hitting the streets of Albany, but there were always people that were really interested in it."
Albany is not New York, Paris or Milan. The streets don’t double as runways. But according to Margaret Partyka, owner of the popular Some Girls Boutique in Troy, the Capital Region’s sense of style is pretty keen.
"We’re loving sweaters--I think that really funky, chunky knit sweaters are in right now," Partyka says. "We’re loving a lot of the vegan-friendly leather details…We’re loving the color olive and a lot of camouflage and military inspired…it’s sophisticated but it’s also a little bit urban chic. And plaids, we just can’t get enough of plaids right now either."
Partyka says Capital Region couture is also driven by its seasonal transitions.
"Transitional pieces are something Upstaters definitely need," Partyka says. She points to transitional lighter jackets in particular, which can help ease the changes in weather from hot to cold and vice versa.
And what’s some good advice for Capital Region residents looking to build up their style?
"Find a piece that you love," Partyka says. "And if you don’t love it, don’t buy it."