Meet Bria from Le Train Bleu!

Today I’ve got a fun interview with one of my favorite PDX shop owners, Bria! She is the proprietress of the amazing online boutique, Le Train Bleu. I’ve been writing about Le Train Bleu practically since I moved to Portland in 2008 and I’m still crazy about how she curates her lovely shop. I’ve gotten to know Bria a bit better over the past year and we’ve bonded over being Boston Terrier owners and our shared quest for “the perfect sofa”. She’s smart, funny and has some great stories! I’m so glad you’ll get to know her a little better here–in this crazy interview!! You can also find Bria on Twitter and on the LTB Facebook page. Tip: I recommend signing up for the shop Newsletter because subscribers get nice sneak peeks and some great discounts before anyone else.

#1 dream vacation?
I love Argentine tango and I would love to go to Buenos Aires to dance with old men. And eat. And buy shoes.

What’s your sign?
Capricorn, Taurus rising, Moon in Aquarius. I loved Athena Starwoman, the Australian astrologer who wrote the horoscope for Vogue for years. Now I read Susan Miller’s Astrology Zone app. I claim not to believe in astrology, but obviously I can’t resist it.

Tell us something people don’t already know about you.
I once shared a stage with Willie Nelson.

Current snack of choice? Current fave restaurant?
I like to snack on an entire bag of Juanita’s tortilla chips and a tub of fresh salsa. Fave restaurant is hard (Portland is too delicious), but the one I go to most often is Porque No–at least once a week.

If you could have a super power, what would it be?
I would wish I could sing really, really well–what an amazing feeling.

Where do you live? What’s it like?
I live in NE Portland in a big orange box of a house built in 1924. It’s a duplex that my husband and I bought with my dad 6 years ago. He lives downstairs, and we live in the upstairs unit. It’s a lot of fun–I highly recommend multi-generational living. We have our little traditions, like every Sunday we cook a special dinner for my Dad (he’s English, so this is a cultural ritual) and then we all watch Masterpiece Theater. We have separate side yards but I’m the only gardener in the family. On my Dad’s side we have roses and flowers and a veggie garden (which has expanded 3 times, taking out more and more of the lawn). I’m not the best veggie gardener but I can’t stop trying. In the summer we have badminton set up on the lawn. We get really addicted, often playing into the dark. On the other side, it’s more tropical and lush and we have a patio and fire pit where we eat and hang out when it’s warm. Last weekend we hung a sheet up and watched The Breakfast Club via projector.

Do you collect some specific things for your own home?
In terms of fashion I collect Tucker dresses and blouses, Liberty clothes, and ethnic silver jewelry. For my home the only thing I am really hardcore about collecting are plants–I have a LOT of quirky plants. Even a lot of the veggies I grow are hard to find varieties. I like tropicals a lot and I’m into “zonal denial”. I grow palms, banana trees, gardenias, elephant ears, brugmansias, Chinese Rice Paper plants, etc. My yard looks like a tropical jungle through the Fall when most of Portland is full of autumn leaves and chrysanthemums. It’s great. And then as soon as a hard frost comes, it dies to the ground.

What else? I love Ebay saved searches. I look for auctions for memorabilia from the 1905 Oregon World’s Fair (Le Train Bleu sits at what was once the entrance to the fair and there is a historic marker outside, which is how I first learned about it). I also like vintage circus stuff and ethnic textiles.

Who is your style icon?
I’m really interested in people who have personal uniforms. I just saw the Temple Grandin movie and I love all her fancy western shirts worn with scarves. I love vintage western wear. I have also always loved seeing photos of Loulou de la Falaise from the 70’s. That’s my favorite era and silhouette. She looks so smart, elegant, cool. Stacked bracelets, wrap skirts, scarves, trenches. Yeah!

What are your fantasy design scores for your home and closet?
My never ending search for the couch of my dreams! As soon as it gets cold and I’m hanging out inside again, I will begin obsessing. I know exactly what I want–a tan velvet English roll arm sofa. And I really need a big rug for my living room. Right now all my furniture is sitting around a tiny oriental rug and I think it looks pretty silly.

For my closet, I really want to order the Bloomsbury skirt from Old Town Clothing.

What do you regret NOT buying that one time?
A cobalt blue brocade coat from Selfridges in London. Bria’s Technicolor Dreamcoat!

How do you unwind?
I love taking walks with my dogs, Mugsy and Dutch, around the hood, looking at plants. It’s always changing, there’s always something new to see. And my dogs always amuse me. They are always totally freaking psyched to be tootling down the sidewalk.

Do you have actual dreams that involve your business?
Ha! I definitely have daydreams. It’s amazing how many longtime customers Le Train Bleu has and over the years I have gotten to know a lot of them personally, sharing recipes and movie reviews and catching up on new jobs, new boyfriends, and new cities.

What is your ritual for doing your shop updates?
It’s so hard. I have to bribe myself with food and drink. Lately I listen to the 70’s folk station on Pandora that plays lots of Townes Van Zandt and Fleetwood Mac and I wallow in nostalgia. If it’s winter I try to make sure there are lots of nice candles burning. And luckily I have two high-energy dogs that come pawing at me for playtime every few hours.

What’s your poison? Current cocktail or soft drink of choice?
I like vodka martinis in the winter—the Savoy makes my favorite. All frosty and a bit on the dirty side. I’m really crazy about Boddingtons cream top ale but I’m trying to go easy on the beer lately since none of my pants currently fit me and the cold is coming. In her book, Super Natural Every Day, Heidi Swanson talks about June Taylor seasonal syrups and how she likes to use those in drinks. I’ve ordered a couple, Rangpur Lime Leaf and Plum, and have been adding those to sparkling water (I use my own soda syphon, which I highly recommend). I also love black currant juice and will mix that with soda water (you can buy that at Ikea). Some friends gave me a bottle of Amaro Nonino for my birthday which I’m also enjoying with soda water and some sliced lime or lemon. It tastes like Coke–spicy and citrusy. Uh, oh. Has the drink question elicited my longest response?

Dream concert. Living or dead, Top 5 bands who are playing for you.
Janis Joplin–WOW.

Tom Waits–during his 70’s lounge phase at the Tropicana Motel.

The Pogues–before Cait O’Riordan left. Before Shane lost his teeth.

Glen Gould–I would love to have seen Glenn Gould perform live. Sometimes I watch his videos on YouTube. There’s this one where he’s practicing at home in his bathrobe and part of the way through the piece he gets up, wanders to the window, looking out, still humming the entire time the way he does. It gives me shivers.

Top 5 albums of all-time that you would have to have if you were stranded on a desert island.
That’s a tough question. I’m trying to think, not of my favorite albums, or those that have most touched me at some point, but of what I wouldn’t tire of. And being stranded on a desert island (all that solitude and loneliness) I imagine I would also crave things that somehow made me feel most connected to humanity.

Astral Weeks–Van Morrison, Janacek–On An Overgrown Path, Glenn Gould–The Goldberg Variations, Tom Waits–Frank’s Wild Years, Henry and June soundtrack

What are some other shops online that you love?
The Vermont Country Store–wrap skirts and shampoos you thought they stopped making like Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific. JCrew–I’ve loved JCrew since I was a teenager. I’m very fond of their blouses. Drugstore/–I hate shopping, preferring to do most of it online. Every 6 months I place a big order and stock up on my favorite Nars lipstick, tampons, vitamins, etc.

Are you reading or watching anything lately that inspires you?
I just finished Divine Dancer: A Biography of Ruth St. Denis. What an incredible and inspiring life she lived. I’m also loving the Ottolenghi cookbook, Plenty. I’ve never seen vegetables look so magical.

What is the #1 most awesome thing about owning your shop?
Getting to tell stories through buying, styling and photography.

What would you say your shop focus/specialty is?
I guess I would say that Le Train Bleu sells styles that have their own fantasy life. Things that tell a back story and often have some sort of reference to the past. We don’t really ever sell basics. If we sell a t-shirt it’s a Breton that evokes the one Picasso’s 12th girlfriend stole from him after their 26th fight. If it’s a pair of pants, they are 40’s style high-waisted wool trousers like something a Land Girl might have worn on her day off. I think most of what we sell has a vaguely European, vaguely bohemian, vaguely vintage look. From the beginning the aesthetic has always been the same. Sometimes I come across links to old products that we sold several years back and I think, I would totally buy that for the store all over again. I think what we sell is pretty timeless if you share that aesthetic.

Do you have any shop announcements?
A lot of people have been asking if we will have more enamel lockets from Trois Petits Points and I’m happy to report that there will be new colors for Fall. We also have some great midi and maxi shirtdresses that that were made for us by an old American shirt maker, the great company behind Gitman Bros Vintage.

Thanks, Bria!

13 Responses to “Meet Bria from Le Train Bleu!”
  1. Bria says:

    Thanks for asking such great questions–that was so much fun!

  2. Megan says:

    Amazing interview with great questions, Bria is one of the most interesting and inspiring ladies in Portland!

  3. Alisha says:

    Loved this interview. I just checked out the Vermont Country Store and it’s great!

  4. Leanne says:

    A great interview! Tom Waits, The Pogues, and Glenn Gould– I thought she was describing my iTunes selections! I had a brief but lovely email exchange with her about Filly Designs awhile back.

  5. hila says:

    you had me at Glen Gould. This was wonderful to read, it’s nice to actually learn about the people behind all these great shops.

  6. Casey says:

    Love Le Train Bleu. Thanks for a great interview. Bria, make that trip to Argentina happen. I did it five years ago and it was a life changer. The Paris of South America!

  7. Andrea says:

    Thank you! I feel completely vindicated in my secret love, Vermont Country Store. I’m always checking out that website whilst looking over my shoulder to be sure no one catches me! If Bria likes it, then maybe I’ll let my VCS freak flag fly!