By staff February 1, 2007

Exploring Westfield Southgate

An anything but Middle-America mall.

Is America a mall culture, or do shoppers define the culture of a mall? Under the glass dome of Westfield Southgate Mall, the ethos is one of chic refinement, with stores uncannily attuned to Sarasota’s worldly clientele. Even the most recognizable retail brands have fine-tuned their selections here, often with special products and services typically reserved for flagship stores.

This is Sarasota’s go-to mall for savvy shoppers. With 61 stores, high-end salons, a luxury spa and surprisingly good restaurants, you’ll stop by for an hour and want to spend the day.

The Queen—Victoria, that is—chose this hand-painted china for Windsor Castle and catapulted an obscure Hungarian workshop to instant fame. Herend Porcelain still produces its exquisite Victoria pattern with 24K gold trim; only the price has changed since 1851. $450 for a five-piece place setting at Ashley Avery’s Collectibles, 121 Southgate Plaza, (941) 366-3444.

Craving Cartier? Look no further than Mayors, proud new purveyors of the iconic jeweler’s timepieces, belts and more. This new diamond bezel Roadster watch ($26,600) is so named because it’s actually a convertible, and comes with both white gold bracelet and black leather band. Mayors, 119 Southgate Plaza, (941) 952-1945.

Grey’s Anatomy stars Ellen Pompeo and Katherine Heigl wear clunky MBT Shoes on camera; Gwyneth Paltrow and Sarasota Memorial staffers believe the weird round heels help build better anatomies by restructuring the walker’s gait. $259 at The Walking Company, (941) 906-8282.

Cocktails, everyone? Judith Ripka debuts at Sarasota’s Saks Fifth Avenue with her own take on couture’s newly re-incarnated cocktail ring. Ripka’s Montana statement rings are designed for a fan base that includes Naomi Watts, Kate Hudson and Sarasotans clamoring for her line. Saks Fifth Avenue, 100 Southgate Plaza, (941) 364-5301.

Tuscan Terrace A table under a pergola? Everything’s authentic about this trattoria, from wood-fired pizzas to velvety bean soup. The vodka sauce (with your choice of four pastas) is as good as any you’d find in Italy, infused with the lightest touch of cream. Cosimo’s Brick Oven, (941) 363-0211.

Runway Real-Time Wall Street is marveling at department stores’ newfound appeal to fashionistas, who love their ability to turn on a dime. We marvel that Gucci’s smash hit Twirl watch teleported from the Milan runway to Sarasota in just the blink of an eye. $1,650 in laser-cut steel with revolving diamond bezel. Macy’s, 600 Southgate Plaza, (941) 953-9309.

Night Coach The new Madison shoulder flap bag re-interprets Coach’s signature fabric for evening with luminescent Lurex yarns and metallic leather trim. Tiny and soft enough to stow in a suitcase for travel; $228 at Coach, (941) 953-2553.

Benchmark Restoration Hardware sets the standard for fresh interpretations of classics and new color directions for the home. The sage linen and ebony wood of the Hudson piano bench ($249) are right on the fashion mark. Restoration Hardware, 105 Southgate Plaza, (941) 952-9666.

Lip Service Viva Glam lipstick and gloss, the brand Debbie Harry and Dita Von Teese endorse, has raised $80 million since 1994 to fight HIV/AIDS. Every cent of the $14 you pay is donated to the cause. MAC Cosmetics, 116 Southgate Plaza, (941) 362-4123.

Don’t Forget To…

Check out Sunglass Hut’s oversized shades by Prada, D&G and the Swarovski-studded Versace shield ($340).

Get some Rapture while you can. Victoria’s Secret fans have been known to weep when the vanilla-scented cologne ($35) and lotion ($20) are out of stock.

Sample the demo fare at Williams-Sonoma, where the cool-colored cooking gear is as enticing as the food.

If nothing fits, head over to TooJay’s for comfort food: The Florida chain sells a million cups of chicken noodle soup a year.

Who’s In Store?

It’s a beautiful world at BeauMonde, a State Street boutique as fashion-forward as any on the planet. The clothes are London hip and SoHo chic, decidedly directional, and skewed to Sarasota’s cool young Turks—especially the guys.

“You’d be surprised how many men tell us they travel outside of Sarasota to find the right clothes,” says owner Renee Wilson, who intends to fill the shopping void with a formula she perfected in Grand Rapids, Mich.: “Seventy-five percent menswear, plus key wardrobe essentials for women.”

BeauMonde outfits men from head to toe, with classy Ted Baker shoes, Ben Sherman shirts and even the newest Jack Spade sunglasses, socks and travel bags. Wilson leans toward a mod British cut so slim it should appeal to Sarasota’s youngest and fittest specimens. “It’s a tailored lifestyle that isn’t defined by age—we carry sizes from small to double XL—and only one of each item in every size,” she says. What happens when an item sells out? “We’re already on to the next new trend.”

Carnaby Street comes to Sarasota by way of Scandinavia with 4-You of Denmark’s mod fitted shirts, coveted for their great detailing. Beau Monde also carries Ben Sherman shirts favored by rock stars and musicians across the globe.

These Boots Are Made for walking through Notting Hill, but designer Ted Baker’s spot-on look works equally well this side of the pond. BeauMonde carries his impeccably styled clothing and accessories for both men and women.

Can’t Live Without a great accessory. Wilson personally loves to dress up basics like her silk Original Penguin blouse ($575, above) with “killer” accessories like this unisex Tatossian watch ($300) in fashion colors. BeauMonde, 1529 State St., (941) 953-5111.


Art Couture

Anna Taylor just opened the Vogue and Virtuoso Gallery inside her Belle de Jour boutique. The work of 25 local artists is displayed, including Astrid Frerich’s dressy red top and the necklace (a Diana Reinhard design) worn here by Taylor. Belle de Jour, 401 S. Pineapple Ave., (941) 330-9811.

Dolce Vita

Life just got sweeter for majolica fans: The famous pottery of Florence and Perugia is the specialty at this new shop, among the first in the world to offer custom-painted countertops with a majolica ceramic glaze applied over durable lava rock instead of weather-sensitive, chippable clay. Florentine Ceramics, 1405 First St., (941) 365-8783.

Inside Track

When Kristen Horler invented Baby Boot Camp, it was to get her own post-natal body back in shape. Six years and 150 franchisees later, the exercise guru has moved to Sarasota, where she leads Southgate’s baby stroller fitness brigade. Baby Boot Camp, Westfield Southgate, (941) 955-0900.

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