Admittedly, not even Susan Swander, the owner of Illume Eco Boutique, knows how many items she has for sale in her store. But she estimates the number is somewhere in the thousands.
The small boutique in Belleair Bluffs has all fair-trade and environmentally friendly products — with a high fashion and stylish twist. The vintage jewelry is the store's main specialty. Hanging on the walls, shelves, cupboards and even the chandeliers are a myriad of costume and real jewelry pieces Swander has collected over the years, some through auctions, others through personal sellers of relatives' estates.
Dangly chandelier earrings from the 1930s ($120), a set of modern polka dot bracelets ($32) and bamboo clothing wraps ($98) are some of the unique pieces sold at the store. The inventory is carefully selected by Swander to exclude all mass-produced items and promote small businesses and artists that design handmade accessories and clothing. Then there are the pieces Swander makes herself: cross-body necklaces made with repurposed vintage metal bags from the 1800s.
An art graduate and former gallery owner, Swander takes the same "wearable art" approach from her accessories to the clothing on the sales floor. Made of sustainable materials like bamboo or organic cotton, in the USA or by small locally owned businesses overseas, items like tunics made of cotton planted and harvested in the United States by American workers ($150) are comfortable, chic and green.
The unusual nature of Illume's accessories have given the store a celebrity clientele over the five years it's been in business. Even though the list of names of high-profile clients is kept secret, the items are borrowed for runway shows in New York and photo shoots for national magazines. But locals still get first dibs on the pieces that arrive daily at the boutique.