Concept Shop Gives Shoppers a Complex; B’ham Mom Makes Knitting Chic

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Newsroom

KNIT ONE, PEARL TWO … HOW CHIC!
About 10 years ago, Bonnie Laker was going to a party. She looked everywhere for a bag to suit her outfit but couldn’t find what she wanted. And then, when she did, she said her first thought was, “I could do that so much better.”

So she headed to a knit shop, picked out some yarn and needles — and taught herself to knit. She then produced a “spectacular” fiber confection. “I knit this bag and made a beaded handle and thought, ‘Huh!,’” says Laker.

The Birmingham resident says she always had a creative streak in her, painting here and there and creating a children’s clothing line when her kids were younger. While going through a divorce at the same time Michigan’s economy began to turn south, the mom of three turned to her knitting and has turned a passion for textiles into a business, BLW Bag and Accessories.

In addition to working for Jewish Hospice and teaching religious school at Congregation Shaarey Zedek, Laker produces bags for every mood — clean-lined, elegant evening bags; funky, furry creations (like the one shown, made of cotton, bamboo and alpaca yarns); girly little bat mitzvah bags; wristlets; and more.

“At parties, I like to have a cocktail in one hand and food in the other,” Laker says. “So I always make a bag you can put on your wrist [to] have your hands free!”

Laker hand-selects all the yarns then twists and manipulates them to create the color, pattern and texture she wants. She knits all her own purses and embellishes each with various handles, straps and details of wood, beads, stones and leather. She also hand-knits kippot, rag rugs, women’s tallit, gloves, scarves and more — hitting art shows, home parties, synagogue boutiques and showings by appointment. Bags start at $35 and top at $300.

BLW Bag and Accessories: blwbag.net.

ON THE HEELS OF FRED SEGAL

Downtown Birmingham is slowly but surely working to restake its claim of being the destination for edgy, charming and eclectic shopping experiences. The latest to crop up is a concept mega-boutique from partners Doug Schwartz and Annie Leblanc, owners of the former incarnation of Annex, also in Birmingham.

Their new baby, Complex, just opened at the end of 2010 and is a 6,000-square-foot, two-level, gallery-style space that offers eight multiple-concept tastes of the newest and coolest for everyone: The Lab is a gift and music lounge; Garment Society offers contemporary women’s clothing; David & Davis Home provides home furnishings and interior design; and Annex has settled into its new home here, too, offering the same cool jewelry, accessories and home decor it did in its previous location.

In addition to the eight static concepts, Complex will host an exclusive, ever-evolving pop-up shop, to be filled by anyone Schwartz and Leblanc deem unique. The coming lineup for the 215-square-foot space includes wine tastings, book launches, a line of fedoras and newsboy caps, shoes and private-label women’s clothing and more — ranging from one-day trunk shows up to 30 days of availability.

Inspired by the retail spaces they’ve visited in their travels from Miami to L.A., particularly the Fred Segal concept, Schwartz, a real-estate developer, and Leblanc, a former kindergarten teacher, wanted to bring the Fred Segal “all-in-one” concept to Michigan and be the first of its kind locally. “It’s all working really well together, like a big family,” says Schwartz. “It’s a great energy.”

168 W. Maple Road, Birmingham. (248) 792-2495; complexmi.com.

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