Thousands of miles away, an Indian man painstakingly places 26 individual tiny pebbles in soft cloth and ties each one off before dyeing the fabric to form a print. It becomes a lovely scarf, fashioned by hand from the “Alamwar” brand. It journeys all the way to America and lands like a feather at Cozette’s Boutique in St. Pete.
Worldly treasures dominate the space: one-of-a-kind pieces from France, “Skunkfunk” from Spain, fair trade from a Himalayan village and spiritual beads crafted by an artisan from South Beach. On the side (quite literally on the wall), Cozette showcases two massive mixed-media installations created by her beau, celebrated local artist Ron Francis. She and I take a whirl around, and every collection has a story that sounds like a romance novel.
“I really want to be able to represent artists or local or international designers that just don’t have a platform,” Cozette Roche says of her philosophy for the store. In so doing, she has created a destination — a place you want to be (anchoring the Crislip Arcade at 645 Central Avenue).
A tour of textures begins at the entrance, with silk and cotton linens from Alamwar collectively made by a multigenerational family. French music fills the air, mixing with the fragrance of natural handmade bath products sourced locally. For the last two years she’s been carrying these soaps, lotions and bath salts “religiously.”
Born in Long Beach, California but raised in Tampa, Cozette says, “At 18 I took off to Europe and stayed for 21 years.” She modeled in the fashion industry there for 13 years, lived in Paris, London, Milan and Hamburg, and took a quick jaunt to Tokyo before returning here to raise her daughter.
Local rock star Geri X brought her to St. Petersburg, where she opened Cozette’s Boutique. “The reason I’m on Central Avenue is because of Geri. She’s amazing as an artist and she’s amazing as a human being.”
Cozette points to a collection of delicate white dresses by Lim’s. “This is the story of a family that escaped the spread of Communism and Nazi occupation before World War II with storage containers of tablecloths saved from their successful home goods business. This generation took those tablecloths and made these one-of-a-kind pieces. Touch it,” she insists. “You can feel what it was before.”
In your travels to Cozette’s Boutique, you may be lucky enough to find dresses by sought-after local fashion designer k.hendrix and jewelry from Albisia’s (based in Hyde Park Village).
Kambodia, a local designer from Safety Harbor, fits right in with her brand, Aspara. Cozette says that Kambodia goes to India for six months at a time to source fabrics and design her dresses, but that she is also an international business and women’s studies student at USF with aspirations to one day create a fair trade facility in an area of India she loves.
It is fulfilling to discover wondrous new things and to share them with others. It is uplifting to provide a platform for artists without one. Cozette’s Boutique is built on these principles, and therefore the energy inside is always positive.
From the most beautiful yoga mat bags to locally fringed ponchos, each piece at Cozette’s is primed for spinning your own new stories. Happy twirling.