Girly couture weaves into Iowa City


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Sassy zebra couches, affordable couture, and a friendly, customer-oriented environment fill the space next to Java House. Once the home of Vortex, the store now houses trendy designer items.

With its eye-catching window display and hip interior decor, Lyla’s Boutique, 211 E. Washington St., has certainly captured the attention of Iowa City. Flirty pink flowers and fun patterns meet the eyes of patrons, drawing in people of all ages.

“There’s a good variety in the clothing,” said regular Lyla’s customer Elizabeth Krause. “The style is eclectic.”

Having once worked at a boutique in California, she said, it has been hard to find the same designers on Iowa City shelves until Lyla’s Boutique entered the scene.

The first Lyla’s, established in May 2008 in Clear Lake, Iowa, was the brainchild of friends Twyla Tindall and Lisa Barillas.

Barillas, a former school teacher, said she and fellow fashion-lover Tindall found that the Clear Lake area lacked the type of shopping they enjoyed.

“To find decent shopping, you either have to go two hours north to Minneapolis or two hours south to Des Moines,” Barillas said. “And Twyla and I both enjoy boutique shopping more than mall shopping, so we decided to take a big step and put this together.”

The store’s name has numerous meanings for the owners. “Lyla’s” is a combination of Lisa and Twyla, but it also means “Love You Like a Sister,” a statement that describes the close friendship the two women share.

Barillas and Tindall opened an Ames location in September 2008. The Iowa City location followed in June.

“We kind of always wanted a triangular effect of inventory,” Barillas said. “And we always liked the college-town areas.”

In fact, the stores added a clothing line exclusive to Lyla’s, For the Love of School, which features vintage style T-shirts and tank tops screen-printed with Iowa university mascots. The line’s motto?

“Fiercely independent clothes that are spirited enough to wear to the game and sexy enough to wear after.”

But Lyla’s target customer is not just for fashionistas with school spirit.

“It’s for the young and the young at heart,” Barillas said. “We tend to target to a younger market, but we also target to a younger woman who is anywhere from a college girl to 32 to a 55-year-old woman.”

Besides carrying in-demand clothing, Barillas said, customer satisfaction is a top priority for all Lyla’s employees.

“It’s all about the experience,” she said. “It’s all about coming into the store, sipping champagne or wine, sitting on our zebra couch, and having a wonderful time.”

Not only can customers shop and enjoy the atmosphere, they can host “parties” in the store after-hours in which Lyla’s employees provide a personalized shopping experience for the guests. Hosts receive 10 percent of the party’s total sales through free gifts, clothing, or cash donations.

“These parties are a fun thing that’s kicking off for us,” Barillas said. “It puts us one step above in customer service.”

On Nov. 23, Lyla’s Iowa City will welcome new store manager Lauren Burgmeier. The University of Missouri-Columbia graduate is a longtime customer of the boutique and has known both Tindall and Barillas for years.

“I’ve always wanted a job that would allow me to have some creativity, rather than sitting at a desk all day,” said the 22-year-old Mason City native.

She is looking forward to living in Iowa City and managing her own Lyla’s store, a dream she’s had for years, she said.

“Lyla’s is all about looking your best and being comfortable at the same time,” she said. “It’s about the girl that shines through the clothes.”

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