Shopping in Scottsdale is truly Southwest chic

Scottsdale outdoor cafe and trolley stopSCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. – “Good morning on this beautiful day,” greeted James Meeks, The Phoenician’s official hotel ambassador. He’s a tall, imposing gentleman with a baritone voice that resonates throughout the luxurious lobby.

“What are today’s plans – golf, tennis, hiking?” he queried.

The resort’s pleasures are plentiful: 27 holes of golf, 11 tennis courts, nine pools (some with private cabanas) and a full-service spa – all on 100 manicured hectares at the base of Camelback Mountain.

Somewhat embarrassed, I answered with a smile and non-committal shrug because my activities would include none of the above.

I was going shopping.

Phoenix/Scottsdale is universally known for its Native American heritage, authentic cuisine and stylish desert living. But with its own distinctive flair – part Southwestern, part sophistication, pure style – its shopping has become legendary. And I wanted a part of it.

I began with the Shops at the Phoenician, in Seasons. Though a small boutique, it has a bit of everything – from a simple tank with faux-turquoise enhancements for $110 (all figures U.S.) to an Angela Frascone “styled by hand” $135 purse.

Across the way is Saddlebags. Owner Bill Joseph worked with Ralph Lauren and brings a classic Western style to his custom-designed belts and buckles. His clientele (including golfer Greg Norman) is as impressive as his merchandise.

Saguaro cactusNext, I tackled the malls. But here, a mall is not just a “mall”. Biltmore Fashion Park is the self-proclaimed “Nirvana for the passionate shopper” and is the favourite of many locals. Nearly half of this outdoor complex’s 70 shops are one-of-a-kind or Arizona exclusives.

Flip Flop Shops specializes in sandal-like footwear like Havaianas flip flops adorned with Swarovski crystals ($100). Objects carries women’s, men’s and home fashions.

Every item, whether clothing, jewellry or home décor is unique: Pucci-style champagne flute ($48) or a leather “face” handbag ($175).

It’s worth the five-minute detour to the Arizona Biltmore, the only existing Frank Lloyd Wright inspired hotel.

Found in the gift shop are replicas of his sculpted figurines called “Sprites” (located on the grounds) and his “Saguaro Forms and Cactus Flowers” stained glass (displayed in the lobby) for $3,000 and $112 respectively.

Back on track, I headed to Fashion Square – Arizona’s largest upscale shopping centre and home to its sole Nordstrom. Retailers including Louis Vuitton and Tiffany are there, but I headed to Nemtoi. It’s a blown glass art gallery featuring Ioan Nemtoi’s famed work at reasonable prices (better than elsewhere).

The Borgata, designed after a medieval European village with cobblestone walkways and flower-strewn courtyards, has stores like The Beach House Swimwear and This Little Piggy Wears Cotton (children’s apparel). The Shops at Gainey Village offer the area’s newest and most exclusive shopping. Via Veneto sells shoes (from Italy and America’s best) like Jimmy Choo. Jan de Luz (French linens), provides on-site embroidery while you wait and Pickles & Ice Cream Maternity Apparel sells “guess what.”

For a taste of its cowboy past, I visited Historic Old Town Scottsdale (Main Street). Among my favourites is LeKAE Gallery, featuring Thomas Roy Markusen’s metal work, set of candlesticks ($1,500). Guidon Books has new and out-of-print Western Americana and Civil War books.

When you reach the landmark fountain – it’s surrounded by sculpted galloping horses – you’ll know you’re at Fifth Ave. Its shops and galleries are long-time favourites.

Statue of IndianIn the same area, Marshall Way’s contemporary art district is a two-block span of upscale choices. Gauthier and Cornelis Hollander (both noted jewellry makers) have on-site workrooms. Segi gallery was a discovery – with Richard Garriott-Stejskal’s clay art and Ken and Tina Riesterer’s hand-painted clay pieces (bowl, $150).

Don’t overlook Art One Gallery – it represents students from Arizona universities and local colleges, as well as local artists and the price is right.

After my shop-‘til-I-dropped day, The Phoenician’s spa was a welcome finale. My treatment: Barefoot in the Lemongrass, their signature leg and foot exfoliation and massage ($135). Ahhhhhhhh.

Just the facts: