Sabina Kupillas’s road to opening a fashion boutique in the Pearl this past spring has been neither straight nor predictable. Her long, zigzagging journey began in Moscow, where she was raised in a well-to-do family, her father an acclaimed architect. She mingled at stylish parties throughout her youth before attending university, eventually earning a master’s degree in biochemistry.
At 18 she fell in love with and soon married Alexander Meystelman, with whom she emigrated to Israel and worked for the next dozen years in her graduate field while raising a daughter, Olga. In 2001, they relocated to America, settling into a quaint Brooklyn apartment overlooking the lower Manhattan skyline.
Sabina soon faced major life hurdles, including the loss of her husband to lung cancer and enormous debt from his medical bills. She worked as as a biochemist at a New Jersey firm, but to make ends meet she also took retail jobs. It was during this period that she began learning the ins and outs of running a boutique.
A year later, still in mourning, she vacationed in Barcelona with her cousin. On a whim, she consulted with a palm reader who told her she would meet the love of her life by the time she arrived home. Sabina scoffed at the idea.
Awaiting her return flight she turned to her cousin: “Here we are going home—where’s my great love?” As fate would have it, he ended up sitting beside her on the flight back.
“I wanted to create a higher-end experience. I sensed that Portlanders favor a casual look but that the quality at many shops isn’t always amazing.”
Two weeks after getting home, she and Joe Kupillas, who lived in Oregon and worked in agriculture, had become an item, and three years later they wed in an elaborate ceremony in Jerusalem.
Once in Portland, Sabina was told again and again that her impressive résumé as a chemist rendered her overqualified for the positions she applied for. She eventually took a job at Saks Off 5th and developed a fondness for working with fashionable dresses and stylish customers, before deciding to take the plunge and open her own boutique.
She opened Sabina’s Style (921 NW Everett St, 503-241-4921, sabinas style.com) on the ground floor of the courtly art nouveau–inspired Elizabeth Lofts condominium on Everett Street, between 9th and 10th avenues. Her approach draws on both her childhood spent attending fashionable soirées and her years working in clothing shops.
About her boutique, she says, “I wanted to create a higher-end experience. I sensed that Portlanders favor a casual look but that the quality at many shops isn’t always amazing.” In developing her retail approach, she asked herself, “Why can’t we offer top-of-the-line clothing in Oregon? We love fashion here, too.”
She stocks her shop with upscale designers— such as Ted Baker, Milly, and Rachel Zoe—creating a destination for women seeking a fancy dress for a big night on the town, or, perhaps, simply wanting to feel and look special. – Eden Dawn