Stylish Boutiques Make Local Heroes in Madrid

Merin is a New York City free-lance writer .

Spain's flourishing economy has turned Madrid into a city of fashionable shops, with Calle Serrano--a broad, tree-lined boulevard in the exclusive Salamanca district--being the focal point for knowledgeable buyers.

Boutiques and specialty shops provide rich diversions for the most discerning shoppers.

Some outlets sell prestige-label international designers, including Loewe (No. 26 and 34), Gianfranco Ferre (No. 29), Ted Lapidus (No. 53), Christian Dior and Yves Saint-Laurent (both at No. 100).

Most intriguing are the locally owned shops that show collections from around the world or that specialize in Spanish-made clothes, shoes and home accessories. While strolling down Calle Serrano, don't miss the following:

Confecciones Alba (No. 44) offers a chic collection of neatly tailored casual men's clothes ranging from comfortable cotton shirts (from $27) and short suits (from $35) to handsome poly-wool blend two-piece suits (from $200) made from interestingly textured fabrics of basic gray flecked with touches of red and blue. There are woolen two-piece suits (from $250) that coordinate nicely with Christian Dior's lovely silk ties (from $42).

Muebles Aurelio (No. 48) sells Spanish traditional furniture, along with a terrific selection of home accessories, including lamps, decorative crystal pieces, porcelain and rugs. The ceramics, including lovely pieces from Talavera de la Reina and other small towns throughout Spain, are especially appealing. There are elaborate multi-armed standing plant holders for $19 and sets of table china to serve up to a dozen diners for $420.

Perfumeria Esteban (No. 50) features fine French scents at higher-than-duty-free prices, but the shop also has an extraordinary array of women's hair accessories, including clips and combs shaped like stars or leaves covered with a galaxy of glittering brilliants (from $45 per pair). One-of-a-kind barrettes have lovely neo-deco designs (from $83), and metal-look headbands are etched with light-catching geometric patterns (from $8).

Breton (No. 66) tailors custom-made suits (about $700) in two days. Ready-to-wear fashions include leather jackets for about $500 and up, and suede jackets in olive, teal and other pretty hues for about $1,500. Rich-looking velvet trousers with roomy front pleats and deep pockets cost about $140.

Alfredo Villalba (No. 68) is a top-ranking Spanish designer who shows various collections throughout the year at his own boutique. Pedal pushers, a favorite Villalba fashion component, come in deep-green wool ($250). Villalba's wonderful leather shoes sell for $83 and up.

Diana Turba (No 68) sells equipment for hunting and fishing and other outdoor sports. In addition to a wide selection of guns and rods, the shop offers fabulous outdoor sports accessories, including men's and women's walking shoes (from about $130 to $250), woolen sweaters in deep greens and other forest colors with suede patches covering elbows and shoulders (from $121), or designs resembling deer antlers (from $66) as well as all-leather carry-alls with lots of pockets (from $425).

Marquitos (No. 70) is a children's shoe boutique. The shop's staff is expert in fitting fashionable children with well-made oxfords (from $45), loafers (from $45), jogging shoes (from $20) and patent-leather party pumps (from $44). Soft baby shoes (about $9) are available in white, pink and blue and a palette of other colors.

Maika (No. 76) sells women's clothing with Spanish themes. A beautiful bolero jacket with braid trim costs $350 and can be worn with a modified straight skirt that has a double-kick pleat ($65). Other styles are entirely international. Denim suits with skinny little miniskirts are priced from $50.

Zetatres (No. 78) specializes in fine woolen sweaters, sweater-coats and jackets. Stock includes traditional V-necks in brilliant contemporary colors and unusual sports styles with a variety of distinct color combinations and knit patterns (from $156). Some of the attractive woolen jackets are styled like updated pea coats and colored navy blue ($414).

Gancedo Y Gonzales (No. 82), a men's haberdasher, sells handsome conservative double-breasted business suits in subtly hued gray-and-blue plaid woolens, and more modish suits stitched from exotically textured and patterned woolen blend fabrics (from $583), as well as top-quality cotton dress and casual shirts and fine accessories.

Manuel Herrero (No. 76) makes and sells fine leather shoes and boots in a wide variety of styles and colors, ranging from $30 to $67, as well as superbly designed and crafted leather jackets for about $350 and up.

Cromo Boutique (No. 82) sells outstanding dressy dresses, including a wonderfully suggestive black velvet dress with a deep-cut back that ends in a modified bustle ($157), and a stunning black satin extravaganza with a ruffled skirt and red roses at the hip ($218). Daytime attire includes a chic brown business suit ($204).

The building at No. 88, known as Multicentro, has several interesting shops, including Nacha's, which has terrific casual clothes for women. There are superb oversized alpaca sweaters with unusual snake designs in the knit, appliqued with leather geometric shapes (from $188), as well as lightweight woolen shorts suits (from $83) sold with or without broad belts of leather in contrasting colors (from $39 to $70). Then pantsuits (about $138) in solid colors or stripes and attractive cotton skirt-and-shirt sets (from $75) that are accented with large zippers.

Zurron (No. 88) has superb leather handbags and other accessories. Especially attractive are the doctor's bag with an extra-long shoulder strap and the envelope bags in a wide range of sizes and colors, all with shoulder straps (about $250).

Leather and metal key holders (from $11) are shaped like apples and automobiles. The shop also has linen and leather pocketbooks with signature fox cartoon logos. Zurron's second shop next door has pricey patent-leather bags and accessories. Handsome portfolios and briefcases cost from $120 to $190, depending on size. Cosmetic cases are about $46.

Boutique Zocco (88) has separate sections for men's and women's clothing. Designer Maria Louisa Navarro adds rabbit-fur accents to fabulous leather and/or lambskin jackets, or leather and suede are mixed to create interesting patterns on jackets and coats (from $2,500).

Other leather jackets feature suede sleeves and collars (from $2,000). The shop also carries fake fur jackets in a rainbow of colors (from $500). The men's shop sells unusual shirts in stretchy fabrics with coordinated suspenders (from $100).

Shakuntala (No. 88) has stunning taffeta dresses in snazzy, slinky styles, as well as full-skirted high-style gowns in a wide range of attention-getting colors, priced from about $800.

Ascot (No. 88), especially popular with Madrid's chic crowd, sells the high-priced haute couture and ready-to-wear collections of Spanish designer Maria Teresa de Vega, along with a splendid selection of excellent Italian labels.

Adolfo Dominguez (No. 96), one of Spain's best-known young designers, sells his fashions around the world. This shop, one of three Dominguez boutiques in Madrid, features the latest men's and women's clothing and accessories collections. Attire at Dominguez's boutiques is high-priced, but slightly less costly than it is elsewhere.

Just off Calle Serrano, Ceramica El Alfar (at Calle Claudio Coello No. 112, across the street from the Los Galgos Hotel) should not be missed. This superb shop has one of the finest selections of ceramic tableware and home accessories in Madrid.

Items are brought from Talevera de la Reina, Valencia, Barcelona, Seville and other special ceramic-producing areas. Talavera plates with pretty pictures of bucking horses cost about $84, ceramic sailing ships made in Barcelona are about $76, a clock from Valencia costs $112 and a table top from Seville that features a landscape painted on tiles costs about $887.

There are also candlestick holders, planters on pedestals, coffee sets, water pitchers, mugs and dinner sets.

Prices quoted in this article reflect currency exchange rates at the time of writing.

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