The bumbling electric feel of buses, cars and people of Old Town Pasadena can only be matched by the establishments that occupy the area. One gets their fair share of cafes with people sharing coffees and teas, of the specialty sorts. The alleyways are home to tucked away treasures of desserts or vintage finds, and the parks and charming little music venues are other worlds to get lost on their own. But just off Colorado and Oak Knoll, two somewhat large windows and glass doors allow a peek of the modernity inside, with shiny gold mylar balloons shaped in the letters that match the black and white sign above; this is Lavish.
Upon first walking in, it’s as if one has stepped foot into an elegant boutique that may be found in West LA. White walls with words such as “stay gold” and a rap quote, amp up the ambience of allure. The sleek white mannequins are in a variety of graceful poses, the clothing is chic with the times, with sheer material and crop tops galore. Music is booming, and as a lyric of “strawberry champagne” hums over the store, one starts to see a “rosy” motif take hold before one’s eyes.
On the right is a full length mirror (one of quite a few), with crimson blooms hanging over the top, and a neon sign next to it that reads “Kinda Classy, Kinda Hood”; the mantra of the store. A rose neon sign accompanies it, along with many roses just like it, found throughout the place.
Roses are on shirts and dresses, as well as on the checkout counter and glass table in the back. One may think it is a purposeful theme, since Pasadena is known for the flower. But the owner, PCC’s Inam Fraihat, says it’s just a happy accident.
“I love roses,” she exclaims with a smile, “I love that even if you’re having a bad day, you can go out and find something like that in nature. It’s beautiful.”
Her positive outlook on roses is only matched by the warm nature she carries towards her store and the community her customers come from. She talks of how she strives to have an open and welcoming place where people can come to have their own dreams come true, just like hers did.
“This is a place that allows you to grow,” said Fraihat. “There was this girl, a customer, we just randomly ended up talking to, and she said she had a book that just came out and we were excited to have her come in and have her book launch in the store and she sold out and I was so happy for her.”
She even makes it a point sometimes to extend this helping hand even further into friendship, as she happily recounts that one of her customers is an up and coming rapper Reverie. She and her friends went to her show to cheer her on and, as Fraihat says, “[tell] her we were her biggest fans.” Store stylist and merchandiser Malia Lew shared her sentiments of being connected to all customers, beyond just a typical greet and check out.
“We are not only fashion experts but we genuinely love and appreciate everyone that walks through the door…we listen to our customers and find out who they are and what they have going on in their lives,” said Lew. “Me and Inam find ourselves not only giving out fashion advice but real-life advice in all aspects from food to family and relationships, we genuinely care.”
The dedication this young owner has to her customers manifested into starting sit down interviews, called “The Pink Room”. Though it is currently on break, it was here that she got to know her customers on a more personal level.
“I asked customers different questions, like ‘what was your biggest heartbreak’, and it let me know more about them,” said Fraihat. “There’s so many people you come across and you never know their story. It’s cool to get to know my customers by asking them questions.”
From her iconic pink couch near the back of her store, under the fuschia light of the “i feel lavish” sign, she allowed any person passing through to open up to her, in a way most businesses never really do.
While it may seem that Lavish was something born of recent hard work, this blooming boutique somehow found its beginnings in one of her forgotten notebooks. In it, she found that she had planned out all she wanted for her store, practically every detail laid out in front of her. She explained how she probably came up with the idea one day when she was a teen and bored, but nonetheless, it is now a brick and mortar reality. To have her first store in Pasadena, she thinks only makes it all better.
“The good thing about being in Pasadena, is your surrounded by so many talented people and I meet new people everyday and I want this to be a place where anyone can realize that,” said Fraihat.
Pasadena made sure to welcome her as well.
At the start of her grand opening, dusk still lingered as Old Town’s night life was just beginning to awaken, but inside Lavish, the nightlife was already in swing.
Upon walking in, the mood was intimate, that of a party with friends in someone’s apartment as laughter erupted in bursts. The attire of shoppers and guests were that of a hip bar or club, with sleek dresses and heels and golden hoops. On a table nearby, rows of pink champagne in glasses sat as both a refreshment and decoration that fit perfectly into the store’s aesthetic. Across from the pink couch, ebony henna ink was intricately swirled and looped on a customer’s hand, as many waited in line to have a design of their own, all while the DJ spun hit list favorites and a couple 2000’s throwbacks.
In the middle of this, there was Fraihat as she weaved through the crowd, making sure everyone was in good spirits, smiling and greeting whoever walked in, and even taking some Polaroid photos of her customers and friends.
Clusters of people rotated and maneuvered through the venue as well, eyeing the sweatshirts and dresses hug on the wall, some bringing their purchases to the checkout and receiving a complimentary, gleaming rose pin. Among these individuals, were fellow Lancers (student and alum) Melissa and Madalyn Mosto. They had come to support, as well as to find some nice clothing, and for them it all fit in really well.
“I really like the decor, it all looks really nice,” said Madalyn Mosto.
But they also admired Fraihat and her friendly demeanor that she had extended to them as well as everyone who came in, and that it’s a place where practically anyone can find something.
“She’s really nice, always smiling, she even let us come in early,” said Melissa Mosto. “If PCC students have a unique style, they could definitely come here and pick out what want to wear [or whatever] looks nice on them.”
Soon, the entertainment came upon the evening, as musicians Cat Clark and Chi Nanhak had their separate mini sets right in front of the dressing rooms and DJ. They swayed as they performed, and the crowd listened and even swayed a little with them.
In reflection, Lew thought the grand opening was more of a gathering than a formal event.
“The energy was all love, laughter and good vibes. It was so nice to celebrate life and success with our clients,” said Lew. “To see the smiles on their faces when they indulged in the Henna, braid bar, and good music we had going made it all worthwhile.”
As for Fraihat, though her store is now a reality, as is her title of being an owner, her efforts remain the same. To listen to and help anyone who comes into Lavish, in that’s it’s almost a community of its own.
“We walk by people everyday and you know never what they go through, and I never know, and I’m sure there are people that feel left out,” she said. “This is a place that says, ‘hey I’m here, I care, I know you’re not just some other face, you have a story.’”
Reina Esparza is the Managing Editor at the Courier. She is majoring in Journalism, with her career goal being a writer for a magazine writing feature stories. She also loves writing outside of a journalistic sense, be it poetry or prose, and hopes to write a book (or many) someday. In whatever free time she has she can be found attempting to read (and finish) her stack of books, being amused by Twitter, and spending time with her friends.