Radiohead playing in the background and a hearty "hello" (with a British accent) from owner Sue Turner-Cray, greet shoppers at The Style Junction in downtown Los Olivos.

The cutting edge boutique is at the center of Los Olivos' development as the Valley's style and fashion center.

With numerous options for fashions well suited to the cowgirl in most Valley women, options for more contemporary or classic designs were limited until Los Olivos took over that niche starting about two years ago.

That's when Wendy Foster, the well-known Santa Barbara and Montecito clothier, came in to Los Olivos. She was followed by the likes of Romp shoes, Avec Moi Decor, Inez, and The Style Junction.

A vintage shop with labels from the best-known names in high fashion, The Style Junction will be celebrating its first anniversary on Dec. 5. It's all about Turner-Cray's own sense of style and her desire to share it.

Born and raised in Northampton, England, she began modeling in Manchester when she was 17. Her career had her based in Tokyo for the next five years, while also strutting runways in Milan and London.

"That paid my way for drama school. I starting acting in the U.K. and then went to San Francisco where I did the master's program at the American Conservatory Theater. Then it was on to Los Angeles, and acting in TV and film," she said.

In 1989, a few years into her time in America, Turner-Cray decided she wanted to move to the U.S. permanently. "I went back to Japan to tie up all my lose ends in Tokyo. That's where I met Robert."

"Robert" is Robert Cray, the five-time Grammy Award-winning blues singer and guitarist.

"Pretty much from the day we met, we've been together," she said. The couple married in 1990, just a year after meeting, and settled into life on the West Coast, where Cray was living.

Becoming parents in 2007 changed them both. "We were living in the Hollywood Hills. Robert had never been a fan of L.A. and he always wanted a barn and to live in the country. So after nearly 20 years of marriage, and having our son, Winston, my whole perspective changed. I said to him, 'it's time to get out of here'."

Her first thought was the Santa Ynez Valley. They had visited the Valley just once, in the late 1990s, when Cray's keyboardist, Jim Pugh, moved here. 

"So we came back for a visit with Jim. We were new parents with a little baby and wanting the best for Winston. And I decided it was time for Robert's dream to come true of having a barn." They found the perfect spot - barn and all - and made the move in 2008.

Having for years been part of the fashion world, Turner-Cray decided to open an online high-end vintage retail operation in 2011. The new "mums" she was meeting through her son were enthralled. And when a small upstairs space became available on Los Olivos' Grand Avenue, she decided to take the leap into brick-and-mortar retail.

"I source everything myself. I am not a consignment store," Turner-Cray explained. She finds clothes everywhere from shops in London to Hollywood stylists. Everything is in mint condition. Some pieces have never been worn and still carry their original tags.

She has what she calls "staple pieces" - classic pieces a woman can keep in her closet for 20 years - with labels like Armani, Christian Dior and Valentino. She has items by Alexander McQueen, Vivian Westwood, Jean Paul Gaultier, her personal favorite, and Roberto Cavalli who she said "knows how to cut for a woman. For a curvaceous woman, he knows how to make all her assets look fabulous with no jiggly bits showing."

Some of her Valley customers want classic looks. Others, she said, are "more rock 'n roll chic. They want something a little bit edgy. I style people. I look at their vibe and then kick it up a notch."

Ballard resident Crystal Clifton has become a regular customer. "I don't want to go to a store where there is no service and you don't know the quality. I'd rather come to Sue who knows how to style, who has a great sense of fashion. And the best part is how affordable the clothes are. I walk out having just been with a complete stylist. Her clothes make me feel empowered and lovely and confident." 

Turner-Cray is also a cheerleader, something of a concierge for other fashionable shops in Los Olivos. She never hesitates to refer customers to other stores if she doesn't carry what they're looking for.

Romp is one of those. It opened two years ago, and carries high quality, high fashion boots, shoes, bags, and belts mostly imported from Italy and France. Owner Karen English travels extensively to curate the fine footwear. 

"People are so glad we're here," said sales associate Kim McCrary. "There wasn't anything like this selection in the Valley before. We have classic styles and more avant garde designs for some of our younger clients."

Immediately next door to Romp is Wendy Foster, who opened the Los Olivos outpost to her Santa Barbara locations two years ago.

"Women in the Valley have a very special style, and we consider it very important to fill local needs," said store manager Arisa Wolf. The store carries labels like CP Shades and Johnny Was. A plaid shirt by Rails is "going like crazy," she added as a customer gave it a look.

So small you could easily miss it, Inez is a boutique that's made a big impact. Just about every other retailer in Los Olivos mentioned it as a "must" stop.

Owner Cate Claydon originally planned Inez as an art gallery but within a few months saw an opportunity in the fashion scene for stylish well-made clothes at a lower price point. The selection is casual but uniquely styled. There's also a selection of locally-made jewelry, with everyone curated just like art in a gallery.

Avec Moi Decor, while mostly a home decorating store, has a large selection of women's clothes. They specialize in outerwear such as sweaters, vests, scarves, and ponchos. True to the spirit of Los Olivos, there is a sign outside their door: "Friends Don't Let Friends Shop in Chain Stores."

Turner-Cray is a fan of that sentiment. "You're not going to find in my store something that you're going to find in a department store," she said. And championing The Style Junction as well as shops like Romp and Inez, she suggested one of their best selling points. 

"You used to have to go over to Santa Barbara to get dressed for a party. Now it's all here."


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