Once again, Portland bucks the rules.

Even though everyone knows the cardinal law of merchandising tells us opening a clothing boutique in winter--post-holiday, pre-spring--is tantamount to sales suicide, new stores are popping up all over town just like the eager, early crocus. Hubris? Self-sabotage? Itching for spring? No way. Smart-money shop owners (and their like-minded corporate 'rents) are privy to a little-known secret--nothing de-clumps February grumps like an egregious orgy of shopping. Here's a guide to P-town's newest mood-lifting fashion emporiums:

Levi's¨ Store
2307 NW Westover Road, 229-0501

After a downtown shop closed its doors in 1998, local jean lovers were left hanging for years without a real, live Levi's® Store. That all changed when Strauss & Co. returned with a button-fly bang on Jan. 30 to celebrate the grand opening of its new Northwest Portland boutique, one of 12 in the nation. The store's big debut drew out San Francisco-based Levi Strauss & Co. president Robert Hanson, who, in an alternative to a ribbon-cutting ceremony, "unbuttoned" the store's giant waistband--but let them have their fun. That's what the hundreds of denim-dressed Portlanders who showed up to "shop" ended up having, along with free high-end hooch and a nice bag of swag. Despite its packed-to-the-rafters opening shindig, the new store is fairly intimate. At 3,885 square feet, the shop is carved up into branded mini-boutiques that individually cater to the Red Tab royalist, Vintage adventurer or Premium prima donna. The trend-obsessed will embrace Levi's Type 1, a new jean and jacket line that features a dark blue, almost opaque wash and exaggerated top-stitched yokes that bear a striking resemblance to a certain pair of golden arches.

5018 NE 22nd Ave., 460-0760

Billing itself as a "shoe shangri-la," this new store owned by Maggie Yuan and Laura Donovan promises mouth-watering merch for your below-the-knee needs. The inventory at pedX deliciously lends itself to impulse purchases that don't bite hard on the money belt. Meaning, if you simply must have blue Rocket Dog cowboy boots (a natch match for that floral frock you bought at Tumbleweed up the street), at least buy them in man-made materials for an affordable $38. Beyond shoes, check out the itty-bitty Puma zip pouches, as well as the accessories by local designers--jewelry by Julia Cohen, vinyl-record journals and handbags by Snap's Michelle Klein. True to the neighborhood vibe, the two-floor shop also features an upstairs art gallery, which is currently showing pinhole photographs by Lars Topelmann.

New American Casuals
326 SE Morrison St., 294-0445

The Christmas Eve closure of Jason Brown's terminally hip Poker Face boutique caused an all-points outcry: Where would our city's DJs, ex-New Yorkers and trust-fund skate punks buy their indie threads? PF's mystery demise also became amusing grist for the rumor mill: Would a new shop sans fitting rooms resurface in spring? Did Marc Jacobs put out a hit on Brown's life for overgenerous markdowns? OK, I made that one up, but luckily I didn't make up that fashion faith is restored (get it, re-stored?) at N.A.C., Brown's new boutique under the east end of the Morrison Bridge. With its on-the-down-low location placed just across the street from Le Bistro Montage (late-night diners can window-shop with their Rainier goggles on), phalanx of Belton graffiti paint rattle-cans and variable hours, N.A.C. is so underground it's practically pushing up daisies.

In- Finite Swirl Fashion Show

A baker's dozen of Portland's emerging artists and clothing designers showcase their concepts of wearable art. Dance the night away afterward.

Level, 13 NW 6th Ave. 8 pm Thursday, Feb. 13. $5-10.