Upscale consignment shop opens on Lafayette Road in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

PORTSMOUTH – Alecja Goronski knows what she likes when it comes to fashion.

Designer pieces, both originals and limited-edition couture, dramatic dresses, classic separates, and accessories from jewelry to handbags and shoes to go along with all of that.

Now you can benefit from Goronski’s fashion sense yourself at her new consignment boutique, Diva, at 2800 Lafayette Road.

“Not everybody is born to money, but we all deserve to look good,” she said.

Goronski, who immigrated to the United States from Poland in 1975, brought with her not only her rich Slavic accent, but fashion sense she learned as a child from her mother, a clothing designer, and honed throughout her own career, which has included stints at Nordstrom and other fine retailers, as well as owning a consignment shop in Portland, Ore., Fashion Deja Vu, before moving to Portsmouth a year ago.

“I learned everything from my mom. The fabrics, the shapes. My mom was a real diva,” said Goronski, who defines a diva as a “woman who knows what she wants.”

“When you look good, you feel good. That’s the whole secret,” she said. “You blend things with jewelry and shoes and you are a diva.”

Goronski has translated those skills into being able to spot good clothing and good labels to assemble her shop’s selection of high-end clothing. And because it’s a consignment boutique – “secondhand” seems too common for a store that sells Escada couture and the like – Goronski can offer prices that you wouldn’t find on brand-new merchandise.

“It’s like digging in your best friend’s closet and pulling out the best,” Goronski said.

Diva’s selection includes an Escada couture suit that would retail for $4,000, priced at $450; an Adrienne Landau coat that’s been worn by the likes of Wynonnacq Judd and other celebrities; an Adrienne Vittadini with the original $280 price tag still on it goes for $80; and if you look around, there are labels from Ralph Lauren to Albert Nipon to Ferragamo. Sizes typically range from 8 to 16.

“Labels stand for better fabrics, better cuts,” she said. “If you pay several thousand dollars or several hundred, they have to stand for something special. When you have that cashmere sweater, that Escada skirt, you feel good about yourself.”

To ensure the quality of her shop’s selection, Goronski won’t accept any garment that has anything wrong with it, from the tiniest tear or the lightest spot. Her standard is not to take anything the person consigning it wouldn’t put on and wear out of the store in public.

“If I do something, I do it 100 percent. I don’t do it halfway. Everything I have in my store, I have to like it,” she said.

Goronski requires anyone who sells clothes on consignment – one of the sources of clothing for the store, along with close-outs and other special buys Goronski makes – to sign a contract agreeing to terms from how long the store will offer the item to the 50-50 split on the profit. Goronski generally determines the item’s price, but typically it’s at least 50 percent off the original manufacturer’s suggested retail price.

Located in a storefront in White Birch Plaza that Goronski renovated herself (even recruiting Papa Gino’s workers from next door to help her paint the interior), Diva opened on Tuesday with a flourish. Goronski served champagne and finally let in the customers who had been banging on the shop’s door, begging for a chance to come inside since she started stocking the shop weeks ago.

Goronski says she’s also gotten a warm welcome to the local business community, from other consignment shops like Upscale Resale in downtown Portsmouth to Kumminz Gallery and, of course, the Papa Gino’s guys.

In addition to regular sales of clothing and jewelry (there’s even going to be some wedding dresses), Goronski offers personal wardrobe consultation, from finding an all-new selection for a customer to helping her choose separates to match pieces already in her closet.

But Goronski warns that while she’s constructive, she’s not afraid to be direct when advising a client on what looks good and what doesn’t.

“I am terribly honest, because I care,” she said.

Asked to pick her favorite item in the shop, Goronski has a tough time choosing. “I love my alpaca wool capes, I love my evening dresses. I love my store. I am Diva.”

Diva is located in White Birch Plaza, 2800 Lafayette Road, Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Hours (to start) are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; from noon to 7 p.m. Thursday; from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday; and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. The shop is also open by appointment for personal wardrobe consultations. For information, call (603) 427-1717.

© By Christine Gillette, Portsmouth Herald