The right lane: Avenue Fashions

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Karie Luc is at Avenue Fashions where Sandy Panuce is inspired by the legacy and memory of her mother: a personal stylist. Meet the daughter who is a curator and artist with unmatched taste.

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There she was: her sleek, red hair in a bob, which contrasted the perpendicular lines of the curly ruffles at her neckline. The jacket rested softly on this lovely woman, who, on this August morning, was the proud mother of the groom. The wearer looked back to glance at her reflection.

Tall salon mirrors accommodated picture-perfect beauty at Avenue Fashions in Deerfield.

Sandy Panuce of Northbrook, owner of Avenue Fashions, was attentive while pinning eveningwear waist and hemlines.

Just the right fit.

"This store is my dream," Panuce said. "I built it, thinking of my mother who was the lady of fashion."

Panuce's mother, Florence, a boutique owner and Park Ridge custom dressmaker who had a loyal North Shore following, died in 1998.

"She loved everything about fashion and, most of all, loved everything she could do for her customers," Panuce said. "She fit them to perfection."

"We have taken that legacy and continued it here at Avenue Fashions," she added.

On a credenza in the expansive boutique rests a photograph of Florence, who remarkably resembles Panuce. It is clear a connection between mother and daughter still endures.

The portrait of Florence, framed in polished gilt metal, has an engraved plaque. The words speak to all: "The Special Lady with Golden Hands, Forever in Our Hearts."

"My mother was a product of beauty and sensitivity. She could take anything and make it beautiful," Panuce said. "We grew up with little but having known what was exceptional."

"She was an artist with cloth. I went to school as an artist to learn to paint and draw, and the two of us merged beautifully," Panuce continued. "That's why I wanted to build this dream store for my mother. And I believe it is beautiful."

They both have lasting reputations as masters of the right recommended cut. Storytelling is in this legacy space, and memories surface through loving hands. If you build it, grace will come. Each piece is carefully chosen, similar to how a museum would curate its collection. Designer names include Wayne Clark, Magaschoni New York, Rene Ruiz, Katherine Barclay, Elaine Fisher and J'envie Sport. Avenue Fashions customizes dresses so wearers feel confident. Women should know their works of art fit expertly, so they can comfortably enjoy events without worry.

"An act of love of fashion," said Panuce on her decision to create an ethereal interior. "While God didn't give us the bodies for couture fashion, he did give us the mind and the heart for fashion."

Panuce believes the heart is the most important accessory of all.

"That's where it's at," Panuce said. "Because you can teach someone to do something, but you can't give them the heart to make it beautiful unless you really have it."

"We're all different people so we all have our own look," she said.

Florence inspires Panuce every day.

"I am blessed," she said. "I can come here to this beautiful store and remember what my mother taught me."

"And to impart that onto my customers," Panuce added. "We depend on them to leave, to tell their friends where this beautiful dress came from and hope that they will come in and see us again."

"That's what it's all about," Panuce said.

Avenue Fashions will provide runway looks at the Fall Trend Fashion Event as the catwalk returns for a second smash year on Thursday, Oct. 10 at Pinstripes, located at 1150 Willow Road in Northbrook.

AVENUE FASHIONS IS LOCATED AT 720 N. WAUKEGAN ROAD IN DEERFIELD. CALL (847) 940-1818. VISIT WWW.AVENUEFASHIONS.COM.

BY KARIE LUC

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