Blanche DuBois, that fashionable and tragic heroine of A Streetcar Named Desire, would have felt right at home amongst the fur-collared jackets, oversized baubles, and brazen party frocks at Belle Reve, Aisha Ghanchi’s new East Hennepin boutique (also, not coincidentally, the name of DuBois’ lost and longed-for plantation). And while at first it may seem hard to connect the dots between post-World War II New Orleans and the burgeoning style district where Ghanchi has set up shop, a quick journey into her story will help you understand.
During college at Tulane University in New Orleans, the Minneapolis native developed a strong love for the specific and singular culture and style of the city, a vibe she also felt on East Hennepin. “The location [in Denny Kemp’s old salon space], grabbed me aesthetically. I love crossing the bridge from downtown Minneapolis—you feel a certain style and character all around.” Add to that a fashion background that includes an internship at Liberty of London, gigs in merchandising and buying at Marshall Field’s, work as a freelance stylist, and, most recently, a job as the clothing buyer for a West Hollywood boutique, and it starts to make sense.
Opting not to fill Belle Reve with expected brands and safe sellers, Ghanchi sought out designers regularly featured on the pages of Lucky, Marie Claire, and Nylon, but nearly impossible to find here—everything from party dresses by Plastic Island, Maria Bianca Nero, and Foley and Corinna to eco-minded threads from Mika and Risto Bimbiloski to accessories by L.A.M.B, Tarina Tarantino, and Andrew Hamilton Crawford. “It might take shopping here to ‘get’ all of the lines, but I have bought with a focus on femininity and flattering tailoring—clothing that encourage curves.”
The homage to New Orleans goes beyond the name. Décor that is Prince circa 1980 meets Gothic French Creole meets Marie Antoinette’s dressing room—purple damask walls, dark wood floors, oversized rococo mirrors, scrolling gilded fixtures, and a smattering of groovy chairs. Add to that a flat-screen TV rotating the most influential style movies of all time—Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Flashdance, and The Thomas Crown Affair (both old and new)—and you’ll soon find your own set of style inspirations.
320 Hennepin Ave. E., Mpls., 612-333-3148