When Austinites think about the east side, many different pictures come to mind — some good, some bad. The city’s seen this part of town experience lots of change over the years, often met with animosity and tension, but things are looking a bit brighter with the latest addition of a conspicuous sunflower yellow boutique popping up, aptly named Altatudes.
Alta Alexander, owner of the new East Austin high-end boutique, has crafted her vision and realized her childhood dream of owning a boutique and helping women enhance their own “tude.” Alta brings many talents to the table, with more than a decade of style setting and retail experience
“It's been a dream of mine since I was a little girl,” she recalled. “I could just imagine it in my mind sort of like how your daughter is you know just kind of imagining things but I would do a lot with paper dolls, and so we would cut out little paper dolls — totally aging myself here — and then you put different clothes on the doll and I would just switch them out and I would actually make my own because all you have to do is just trace the doll. My grandmother tried to teach me how to sew and I was like ‘I'm going to be rich so I won’t really need all that and I’ll have somebody so, I'll just sketch out everything and have somebody.’”
Alta’s dream came true in 2017, when she received an amazing Valentine’s Day gift that set her on a new journey in fashion and entrepreneurship.
“When my husband gave me this space it was like a no brainer,” Alta said. “I mean we had talked about this 17 years ago on a date and he remember that. I didn’t think he was listening but he was, and when he gave me the space he said ‘this is for your boutique.’ Once I got past the initial shock, surprise, and happiness of it all I immediately started moving.”
It’s no surprise that Alta was quick to get on the grind, having graduated from the historically black Huston-Tillotson University with a degree in business and communications, and coming from a career as a public servant with the Office of Civil Rights for the state of Texas. Now, ready to realize her dream, Alta has worked to provide some of the best wares in town for every type of woman.
“Initially when I started this endeavor, I was like ‘I'm not going to have jeans and I'm not going to have t-shirts’ because I was thinking that's not upscale,” Alta admitted. “Then, I was like ‘wait a minute... I wear jeans and t-shirts. I wear sneakers, I also wear heels.’ I wear everything and I love all things. If you saw my home closet — it's not as neat as this — but definitely everything is in there. that's who we are as women, we are chameleons, we change ourselves every day and we have to conform and we have to make it work, and look good doing it.”
Alta has made sure that women are able to look good doing it be curating a collection of clothes and accessories to make women look and feel their best and embrace their beauty. This was no small task however, as Alta has combed over the globe to bring the best wares to East Austin, having handbags from Barcelona, Spain, jewelry from France, scarves from Germany and items from across the United States, including Austin’s own Nina Means.
“I knew that I wanted designers and brands that had a contemporary traditional kind of vintage feel as well so there was a mixture, and I say that's me — I'm never just one type of woman. I don't believe that any woman really is,” she explained. “You see celebrities, and they usually have a stylist who is putting them in some type of a niche, but the average woman is not; we will wear a dress that's a fit-and-flair one day, the next day we're in jeans and sneakers, and the next day we may be in a pantsuit. Usually what is going to dictate what you're going to wear is your mood, what you have to do, and where you have to go.”
It’s no surprise that Altatudes has been met with a warm welcome from Austin’s east side. The city’s region has historically been home for the Black community, but recent years have seen many changes in the community’s landscape that have forced many Black families out of the area. The opening of Altatudes is not only a bright new boutique, but it’s a shining beacon for the Black community that’s working hard to hold onto their history east of I-35.
“I have been just literally welcomed with open arms,” she exclaimed. “I didn't really know what to expect but I had hoped that I would be, and it has been wonderful. Folks are coming, and I was talking to a friend the other day and I was telling them that when women come in they’ve been extremely happy, particularly to see an African-American-owned business come here and open again. Many are closing that have been here for a while, and the landscape is changing but i also think it's growing in a direction where there's going to be some prosperity here.”
We’re hoping that Altatudes will be a part of that prosperity for years to come.
Nick Bailey is a forward thinking journalist with a well-rounded skill set including writing, design, and photography. Nick now resides in Austin, TX after earning a degree in Mass Communication with an emphasis on journalism from Texas A&M University—Commerce.