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Originally published February 17, 2014 at 7:03 PM | Page modified February 18, 2014 at 9:00 AM

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Big lines and tiny canapés at Zara’s new Seattle location

Nicole Brodeur stops by Westlake Center for the opening of the local branch of fast-fashion juggernaut Zara.


Seattle Times staff columnist

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I miss Seattle circa 1978. Not a pretentious soul in the city. Now, though, yikes! MORE
Another worthless column. Nicole used to write interesting columns ... I miss her. ... MORE
1978 -1987 - Seattle's best days. MORE

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No one was saying that Seattle didn’t exist before the opening of the new Zara store in downtown’s Westlake Center.

Well, actually, lots of people were saying just that on Wednesday night, when the newest outpost of the Spain-based clothing company held an invitation-only cocktail party for about 1,000 people.

“Seattle is finally relevant,” said interior designer Jennie Gruss, who came with client Nancy Peppler, whose Heffner Management was responsible for the female and male models who wove through the room, looking gorgeous — and looking away from the cold Champagne and platters of microscopic bites. Tiny empanadas. Chocolate desserts that looked like they had been assembled under a microscope.

But no one was there to eat. They were there to paw through the racks and see what’s new and what they could afford.

“The price point fits what we’re all about,” Gruss was saying. “It’s an accessible brand for the young professional.”

Kyle Bain, who works as a developer for reality television (“We’re best known for ‘Hoarders,’ but I am anything but”), has been waiting for months for Zara to open here.

“Seattle is finally getting excited about fashion,” Bain said. “We’re experiencing a renaissance with the Seahawks, Macklemore.”

“We’re on the national radar. It’s time to dress the part.”

In the center of the room, as usual, was JJ McKay, just back from Morocco and dressed in a black-sequined jacket.

Who was he seeing here?

“Of note?” he asked, then scanned the room. “Not a lot of people.” Meowch!

He had brought two “cover boys” from the annual firefighters calendar, but that was about as hot as it was going to get.

People hit the clothing racks as soon as they walked through the door, where they were checked in and fitted with a threadlike rubber-band bracelet. That kept the place from getting too jammed.

But before long, the line for the dressing room was halfway across the second floor. No one seemed to mind. The waiters with the trays found them, fed them and kept them in bubbles. It’s what you suffer through in the name of fashion.

And there were those who wanted to see — but not be seen: employees of Nordstrom and Topshop, who were doing a little reconnaissance (and a little retail) and begged me not to quote them by name.

Musician Shelby Earl was there with her friend, stylist Tiffany Wendel, who, until now, has only been able to buy Zara for her clients online.

“It’s a way to keep up with trends and not make such a huge investment,” Wendel said.

The two friends bought the same shirt: a royal blue, V-necked T-shirt with “Riders” across the front.

“A really highbrow item,” Earl cracked.

But it sounds like she is going to need some fresh clothes.

She was just on NPR’s “Weekend Edition,” talking about her most recent album, “Swift Arrows.” Immediately after, the album shot to No. 1 on Amazon and stayed there for two days.

She just booked South by Southwest in Austin and will be on the stage at Sasquatch.

“It’s a great time,” she beamed.

Store manager Jeannie Hou was surrounded all night, the conquering heroine in a blueprinted dress and the longest lashes I’ve ever seen.

“We’re ready!” she told me. “Seattle needs Zara, and Zara needs Seattle. Even our bags say, ‘Dear Seattle.’ ”

Only when I was halfway down the block did I realize I had left without one.

Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Sunday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.



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About Nicole Brodeur's Names in Bold

On Tuesdays, I tell you about my travels through some of the week’s social and philanthropic events — not just the ones for the swells, but those for work-a-day folks who care about making this region move and improve. 206-464-2334

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