A pair of shoes can say a lot about someone.
Especially Laurence Dacade's studded sandals — with their round, open toe and silverstone studs.
AnneMarie Brandi not only dons the daring footwear with an expert's swagger but opts for a version swathed in midnight-blue goat suede.
She also sells the shoes in her Newport Beach boutique, Atelier 7918.
Brandi's footwear choice fits the shop's character, with its curated collection of European and Asian haute couture by the likes of Italian fashion designer Stella Jean — who is considered to be Giorgio Armani's protege — and Enfants Riches Deprimes, a French street label that translates to "depressed rich kids."
Situated in the Crystal Cove Shopping Center, the showroom, which opened in September 2015, reflects wildly varied influences — from jewelry collections offering gem-encrusted trinkets to handmade clutch bags featuring embroidery on the front.
Amid this eclectic mix of avant-garde clothing produced by the fashion industry's most promising upstarts is a glass case evoking a modern jewel-box effect.
Inside are uniquely crafted jewelry creations that balance retro and futuristic aesthetics.
This is not a place for the financially faint of heart.
"Conda," a ring featuring a snakeskin pattern by London-based jeweler Venyx, is priced at $3,590.
A signature cuff bracelet titled "Cleopatra," which was designed by Monica Sordo, a Venezuelean-born designer who has boutiques in Madrid and Caracas, goes for $650.
Carole Shashona, a local jeweler and spa and home accessories designer who has a workspace in Laguna Beach, also has pieces in the shop. Shashona leads an exclusive jewelry line at Barneys.
Shashona's "Fire Wing" diamond earrings feature pave black diamonds in a butterfly fastening, a combination of aesthetic beauty with spirituality designed to bring feng shui properties like love, health and positive energy to upscale products.
The pair cost $6,650.
In addition to the coveted baubles in the shop, Brandi showcases ready-to-wear clothing that crosses boundaries in fashion, design and culture.
"I saw a void in the market," Brandi said. "I wanted some playful European and feminine pieces where the customer could see the value and focus on the more unique quality."
Particularly for summer, Brandi suggested that shoppers find pieces that are casual and easy but still exhibit a certain womanliness.
Such an essence is found in Greek fashion designer Mary Katrantzou's playful prints, textures and designs defined in floral skirts and silk dresses.
The collection's "Algernon" skirt, short and featuring a cinched waist and pleats, can easily be paired with a loose sleeveless top or backless tank, Brandi said.
To master the evening look, Brandi pulled out a knit racer dress and accessorized it with sapphire earrings and a M2Malletier shoulder bag, a modern and minimalist-design inspired by medieval armor and medical instruments.
Brandi, an attorney who was born in Romania and grew up in Germany, lives with her husband in Santa Ana's Artists Village. A fashion enthusiast, Brandi would pore over international fashion magazines and note the latest in fashion news, lifestyle and runway coverage.
Her mission was to open a boutique that would set the standard for covetable couture with luxury brands typically not found in department stores.
To keep customers on the pulse of current fashion trends, Brandi said she is constantly changing merchandise in the store, creating an element of surprise for returning shoppers.
But even the fashion maven concedes that dressing with confidence is more than wearing the latest in-thing.
"You shouldn't take it too seriously," Brandi said. "It should be natural."
Spoken like a true connoisseur of chic.
Atelier 7918 is at 7918 E. Coast Hwy., Newport Coast. For more information, call (949) 715-0899.
Kathleen Luppi, email@example.com