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OKW: An Upscale Boutique with an Urban Vibe

By Mariah Cole

Boston’s Tremont Street does not get as much recognition as the city’s beloved Newbury Street, yet Tremont holds just as many gems. Located at 631A Tremont Street in the South End is a small boutique called OKW (pronounced oh-koo). Established twenty-five years ago, the boutique sells high-end clothes that draw in a clientele of established businesswomen, aged forty and up, and the store offers a wide range of sizes from 2 to 24. Co-owner and curator of OKW Ibrahim Ali-Salaam said, “The women of OKW buy clothes that are fit for them and not clothes they have to fit into.” Waheeda Ali-Salaam is a co-owner and main designer behind the OKW line. The clothes created by Ali-Salaam, her partner Henry Wong, and a stitcher are all adorned with the OKW tag and label. Every piece of clothing is an original design. Many customers come in with ideas or images of what they want to have, and while Waheeda is open to their input, she never wants to put out what already exists: she produces her own.

Upon walking into the store, one is greeted by the colors of an orange sunset and a relaxed atmosphere. The calm ambiance does not take away from the sophisticated clothing or the art that covers the walls. On the left side of the store are mirrors and curtains that act as fitting rooms. On the opposite side are racks of clothes, designed both by OKW and by other designers they believe represent their store. In the back of the store is a glass table and a shelf that features colorful scarves. Walking through the store makes one feel as if one has been visiting the boutique for years: there is a flow. One is comfortably drawn to the back of the store, and then back to the front.

The store acts as a high-end boutique, as well as a display for local Boston artists. During the month of October, Carol Daynard’s work was showcased around the store. Each wall represented a country she visited. The artwork reflected either the country’s landscape or people going about their everyday tasks. Daynard also happens to be a longtime OKW customer. When asked why they choose to display art in their boutique, Ibrahim said, “Because we have a lot of white walls.” Typically the store features five artists at a time but decided to go with a full display of Daynard’s work. OKW allows anyone to feature art in the boutique, but there are a few requirements: the artist must be local and must be a new artist, either in college or just emerging in the art world. Ibrahim is a painter himself; his works around the boutique focus on bikes. The art chosen is always related to the clothes on the mannequins.

To keep ahead of OKW’s competition Ibrahim said he hopes to reach into the twenty-something market, offering a greater variety for all women. For the store, he wants a more monochromatic look and has plans to pull up the carpet and expose a hardwood floor.

OKW is an upscale boutique that offers a different type of designer closet for the trendy, established older female. OKW is a business based on a deep designer-customer relationship, which caters to the buyer instead of telling her what to wear. It is a mother-and-son business that creates wonderful high-end garments, yet provides a relaxed vibe you may not experience anywhere else.

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