Menagerie of Martha’s Vineyard reopens

Menagerie of Martha’s Vineyard reopens

Owner Karen Russillo, modeling a handmade hat, looks settled in her new store space. — Photo by Lynn Christoffers

Karen Russillo, a self-taught seamstress and vintage designer, has reopened her boutique Menagerie of Martha’s Vineyard in a new Vineyard Haven location. Previously located on Union Street for more than 20 years, she had to close for two and a half years because of various issues with the previous building. She is now located at 151 Beach Road and is very happy to be accessible again to her customers.

Ms. Russillo held her grand re-opening party this past Saturday, Sept. 3, rescheduled from the previous weekend due to Tropical Storm Irene, with great success. “It was a nice in and out flow of people, with many purchasing items from my collections as well as the collections available by my daughters, Art by Alexis Anne and Jewels by Ivry Belle.”

Being a mother of 5 with children ages 10 to 36, it is no surprise that Ms. Russillo is always on the move, which is one of the reasons she decided to reopen her shop. “I needed a place to work, to do my cutting and display my collections of wedding dresses, evening gowns, hats, antique bedding, vintage chenille bedspreads, antique lighting, including chandeliers, and vintage refinished furniture that I have added my touch to, to give them an Island cottage flair.”

Ms. Russillo got her start at the age of 10 in northern Vermont. According to Ms. Russillo, “Clothing was not readily accessible, so I started sewing with vintage materials, including with rawhide I had secured from trips to Montreal. One of my first pieces was a dress I made for my mother, who proudly wore it to work.”

She then took a long break from sewing and instead worked evenings doing what she could for the next 18 years. That all changed 21 years ago when she moved to the Island with a high school friend and opened the original Menagerie. She did the sewn items for the store and went to yard sales to find vintage items, including three bedspreads that started her design business. She had originally turned those three bedspreads into antique bedshirts for herself, but a lady from New York loved them so much, she bought all three for herself.

From there, she started making children’s clothing, then bridal gowns, and finally evening gowns. Now, she has become so diverse in her designs that you just have to stop by to see what she has created.

You may see Ms. Russillo’s most recent work not only at Menagerie, but also at two upcoming events. First there is Martha’s Vineyard Fashion Week, which runs from September 19 through 25. Stores, boutiques, designers, models, and fashionistas will participate in the premier Fashion Week for Martha’s Vineyard. The week will be filled with one-of-a-kind events, themed nights in select bars, and more. A portion of the proceeds will go to Angel Flight NE (you may learn more about Angel Flight at angelflightne.org).

Ms. Russillo will also participate in the Boys & Girls Tailgate Party Inspired Brunch & Fashion Show on Sunday, Sept. 25, at the Dreamland Event Space at the M.V. Chowder Co. in Oak Bluffs (see the MV Boys & Girls Club website, mvbgclub.org for more information).

You may visit Menagerie most days between the hours of 10 am and 5 pm or call Ms. Russillo directly at 508-560-0839.