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Three new clothing boutiques share passion for fashion

Three new apparel boutiques have opened recently in the Village, which could mean that 2007 will be a banner year for fashion.

Open for just six weeks, Venus Fashion is owned by Val Unzens. She has been in the fashion industry for years and was in manufacturing until about three years ago when she went into retail clothing with her sister in Florida.

A Los Angeles resident for 10 years, she just couldn’t get California out of her blood.

Unzens’ mission is to provide La Jolla women with quality clothing that won’t break their bank accounts.

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“The concept is boutique-style affordable fashions,” she said. “My prices are really good, much lower than you would find on Prospect Street. I cater to people who live in La Jolla as hairdressers and at the checkout at Vons.”

Lulu Belle Boutique is situated in the long corridor walkway of the International Shops off Prospect Street near La Dolce Vita Ristorante and Siamak Art Gallery. The boutique prides itself on the right assortment of clothing for the fairer sex.

Lulu Belle bills itself as carrying the ultimate in girlish couture.

“I like the smallness, the quaintness of this space,” said owner Lisa Engstrom. “I carry mostly contemporary designers either from New York or Los Angeles. My store is very girlie, very feminine.”

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Engstrom started out selling clothing on her Web site and then opened a retail shop.

“I’ve had the Web site for about a year,” she said. “The Web site basically pays for the (retail) space.”

Elizabeth Patterson, owner of Elizabeth’s Closet on Prospect, is living her dream of owning her own boutique. Her store sells apparel for men and women and reflects her personal taste and the latest trends in the fashion industry.

“I wanted my boutique to look like a walk-in closet,” said Patterson. “This stuff is definitely a little bit of me, a little bit of glamour, a little pizzaz. It’s what you want in your own closet: variety.”

Patterson stocked her new boutique with merchandise she purchased at an apparel convention in Las Vegas. She carries a full range of clothing lines, including Black Halo, Catherine Malandrino and Christian Audigier.

Unzens of Venus Fashion likes the work space she inhabits.

“The positioning is quite nice,” she said, “near a gym, a luggage place and a hairdresser. It’s a local kind of place, and that’s the person I’m aiming for.”

Venus carries casual and formal clothing, with a section of jeans and sportswear and one of cocktail dresses. Her merchandise is sorted by color and style.

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Unzens said wearability and affordability are what women are looking for in their clothing these days.

“It’s got to be comfortable,” she said, “a good cut, a color that fits into their wardrobe. I’m not so sure the brand names are so important anymore.”

Clothing lines carried by Lulu Belle Boutique, named for the owner’s pet rabbit, include AnnaSui,Hello Kitty Cashmere and Mint.

Mini dresses are a hot item right now, said Lulu Belle owner Lisa Engstrom.

“The Miguelina line does really well with a lot of mini dresses,” she said. “I can’t keep them in stock. They’re cashmere.”

Cashmere is also a favorite in Elizabeth’s Closet. Patterson is also big on jeans, which she carries a wide assortment of, especially in larger sizes.

“I have jeans with jackets to match,” she said, “and polos that are really elaborately embroidered.”

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All three boutiques sell jewelry for those wishing to accessorize their wardrobes.

“We have jewelry, earrings, rings, necklaces, handbags,” said Unzens of Venus Fashion, “a whole variety of different accesories, whatever is in fashion. I also have a small selection of giftware, holiday gifts, vases and candles.”

Lulu Belle carries a special line of jewelry.

“I do Tarina Tarantino jewelry,” owner Engstrom said. “I do well with her rings. They’re very original. I also have Hello Kitty costume jewelry you can wear any time.”

Patterson of Elizabeth’s Closet also carries jewelry.

“I have turquoise jewelry from a Brazilian designer,” she said, “and 14-carat-gold jewelry as well as silver jewelry that is so dainty.”

Open just a couple months, Patterson is involved with charity. She and shop co-owner Antonio Gates, a San Diego Chargers receiver, are collecting donations for a local children’s charity, A Reason To Survive.

“The money goes to kids who are sick and need some surgeries,” Patterson said, “and to homeless shelters for people who have lost their homes. Every $1 we collect, Antonio and I are going to match it.”

Unzens prides herself in offering merchandise you can’t find elsewhere at her prices.

“I know where to buy for less,” she said, “and get the same good quality. I can retail a blouse for $60 or $70 instead of $300. I’m aiming for sending a lot of people in here and shopping and loving what I have and buying it.”

Previously in real estate, Engstrom of Lulu Belle said she’s found her true calling.

“I encourage people to follow their passion and do something they love,” she said. “It’s very important because there are too many people out there just working for the money rather than doing something they really enjoy.”

Venus Fashion is at 7556 Fay Ave., suite B, in Sycamore Court. Lulu Belle Boutique is in the International Shops at 1237 Prospect St., suite D, Elizabeth’s Closet is at 1261 Prospect St., suite 2.