Wayzata native Emily Johnson Kisa was an art student at San Diego State University when she decided to study abroad in Turkey. It was a decision that changed her life, and it’s shaking up the shopping scene in the western ’burbs, too.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Kisa recalls of her first trip to Turkey in 2007. But the interesting mix of aesthetics quickly caught her eye. “There’s this dichotomy of ancient and modern European-cut clothing—nice fabrics, with an emphasis on how the clothing falls on your body.”
She fell in love with the local textiles and art, and it’s also where she met her husband, Çağlar Kisa. The couple married, lived in Turkey for five years, and had their first daughter Mavi, now 6, before moving back across the globe to be closer to Emily’s family in Minnesota. Emily’s artsy eye, Çağlar’s experience in marketing and PR, and the beautiful pieces they had encountered abroad were turning into a vision of a full-fledged shop in the Twin Cities.
In November 2013, Kisa Boutique opened its doors in the Lyn-Lake neighborhood of Minneapolis, stocking jewelry at first, plus traditional Turkish textiles, handcrafts and garments. They’ve since had two more daughters (Ruby, 3, and Peri, 11 months) and have come into their own.
Sarah LaRue is a customer-turned-friend of the Kisa family and their boutique. One of the shop’s earliest patrons, she came across the Lyn-Lake store just days after the Kisas had set up shop. LaRue fell for the eclectic mix of tailored and travel-inspiring pieces. “I have stuff from Target, Loft, H&M—all those normal places a mid-20s girl will get clothing. But every time I wear something from Kisa, someone comments on it,” says LaRue.
Her personal favorite: the OYA crocheted earrings. “It’s like wearing lace on your ears,” she says.
Another Kisa staple is Turkish towels, or peshtemals. They’re made of a light-weight cotton that comes in a plethora of subtle pinstriped colors. Use them in place of any bath or beach towel, try one as a tablecloth or wrap up in one.
This past fall, Kisa relocated its towels and racks of statement pieces to the Nordstrom wing of Ridgedale Center in Minnetonka, offering something a little different from the department stores and national retailers that fill most of the mall. So why the move?
“My relatives live in this area, there’s a deep community base, and around the lake, people appreciate what we’re doing,” says Kisa. “People are happy we’re bringing something new to market, great fabrics, things that are beautiful when you put them on. People have been really generous.” The littlest Kisas—Mavi, Ruby and Peri—are also a big part of the reason for the move. Emily Kisa says she grew up with a big family and wanted her own kids to be close to their relatives.
One of the things that sets apart Kisa Boutique is an ever-changing cast of designers and looks. In addition to importing goods from Turkey, Emily and Çağlar mix in collections from a few Minnesota-based artisans, including jewelry designs by Bouchard Design Co. and Excelsior-based Tess+Tricia. “It’s an evolution—we’re always finding new artisans,” says Kisa.
“Kisa’s not taking pieces from all over the world—that’s kind of the trend right now,” says LaRue. “Instead, they’re taking trends from Turkey and applying them to how we do fashion in the Midwest.”