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ShopLocalSD: Couture Queen

King, in model mode.
Courtesy photo

King Kouture doesn’t look like much from the outside. Set among a strip of stores along Highway 101 in Solana Beach, you wouldn’t even notice if you didn’t know it was there.

But what a treat. Owner Elizabeth King opened the store in September 2009, hoping the economy would rebound. Only a woman like King, with her good looks, strong work ethic, great design eye and unusual background could keep this little boutique afloat.

The shop is full of unique items--every piece has been hand-sewn by King. She wasn't trained as a designer and she didn’t grow up sewing. She began by making clothes she wanted to wear, but couldn’t find in stores. Every piece she designs starts as an empty canvas. Then, using vintage fabrics, old belts, her father’s old ties and you name it, she creates dresses and tops that are sexy, wearable, and creatively constructed.

Call it thrift store meets haute couture—the pieces are fun and affordable, with prices ranging from $75-$200. One of her customers urged her to charge more. Let’s hope she doesn’t listen.

She has a degree in art and architecture from University of California, Santa Barbara. In addition to designing and making clothes and running the business, King is a professional model; most often she models bikinis. Don’t mess with her: She also played quarterback for an all-female, full-contact football team. King also competed in the WWE Diva Search--a talent competition held by the World Wrestling Entertainment Company. She came in eighth out of 3,000 contestants. That was fine with the 30-year-old King: “It hurts when someone throws a chair at you, so I decided I’d had enough.”

Elizabeth King.
Courtesy Photo

She is currently moonlighting as a go-go dancer in the Envy nighclub in downtown's Ivy Hotel.

“I want to design for modern, intelligent women who want to look sexy, but not be over-the-top,” says King. The signature piece in her line is the tie-shirt, made using a man’s tie that King sews down the middle of whatever fun fabric she feels works well. The shirts are worn halter-style, with the sides long and ruched, allowing for a flattering waistline. King designed the shirts to be worn with low-hanging jeans, to keep underpants and muffin tops out of the spotlight. All her tops are double-lined, and usually tailored with a cleverly placed piece of leather at the empire waistline, to accentuate the ribcage.

King is due to be married soon. The ceremony will be held in the couple’s hometown of Santa Cruz. Her husband-to-be is a very hot surfer/bartender (King says he doesn’t ever want to wear a shirt). The centerpiece of the wedding will be the dress. The chassis is a 1950s styled number. The final product is beautiful, all lace, sheath style, body hugging, cut below the bust in the front and below the equator in the back. Yes, of course King designed it.