Stylebook Snapshot: Maxalto boutique turns 30

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A lot has changed since the high-end women’s boutique Maxalto opened its doors in Shadyside in 1984. Fads have faded in and out of fashion. Neighboring independent shops on Walnut Street have come and gone as more mainstream businesses have moved in. Even shopping itself has evolved as e-retailers have taken root.

But what hasn’t changed for Maxalto: a commitment to customer service and curating a unique selection of styles from across the world for shoppers.

"That’s a big part of staying alive in the retail business,“ says owner Marta Putas. 

This month she and her sister, co-owner Michele Lyons, are commemorating the boutique’s 30th anniversary with a lineup of events. An anniversary party will be 4-8 p.m. Friday at the store. Festivities also will include a Heyne Bogut trunk show 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and a Jennifer Jones jewelry trunk show 10 a.m. -5 p.m. June 27-28.

A quest for creative clothes has fueled the pair’s passion for fashion from the start. Prior to opening Maxalto, they designed their own pieces when they couldn’t find something fresh from the racks. At the time Ms. Putas worked in the fashion department at the former Gimbels department store and wore her designs.

"It was space clothes,” she says, channeling the styles of David Bowie and Ziggy Stardust.

A co-worker with ties to New York City’s fashion scene helped her get booked in a fashion show in New York alongside industry elites such as Patricia Field of ”Sex and the City“ fame. Success swiftly followed, including a mention in Women’s Wear Daily and orders from Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s and Fred Segal, among others.

While Ms. Putas was based in Pittsburgh, Ms. Lyons lived in New York and studied dance. Along the way they collaborated on fashion events, such as a show at the infamous Mudd Club in Tribeca with celebrity models. When Ms. Lyons moved back, they opened a boutique Downtown in the late 1970s that stocked their own styles. 

"We had several customers in Shadyside, so we thought it’s the place to be,” Ms. Putas says. “It’s just a premier fashion street of Pittsburgh.”

On Walnut Street the sisters adopted for the shop the name Maxalto, derived from an Italian phrase meaning “reaching the heights,” and began filling it with more European lines as they phased out their own pieces.

"We just continue to look for something very different,“ Ms. Putas says about the inventory, which features the likes of Lilith, McQ Alexander McQueen and Y-3. ”We generally buy the most extreme and the most different of what we can get in every single collection.“

Pittsburghers take to it, she says, and it keeps them coming back.

"We were accepted from the beginning. ... I think Pittsburgh is very savvy,” she says. “We’re still reinventing ourselves.” 

Maxalto is at 5426 1/2 Walnut St. Information: or 412-683-0508.


For more from PG style editor Sara Bauknecht, check out the PG's Stylebook blog at Follow her on Twitter @SaraB_PG or email

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