Spotlight

Spotlight: UrbanXChange

Thrift store culture has been booming in the Pacific Northwest for the past decade, and it has only been picking up speed. With the immense popularity of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s song “Thrift Shop,” secondhand clothing has had a rebirth that our generation is swallowing whole. The legacy of Kurt Cobain’s grunge style has been reworked and re-popularized by style icons like Rihanna, Cara Delevingne, Jared Leto, and the Olsen Twins.

People are searching thrift stores high and low to find unique garments that aren’t coming out of cookie-cutter patterns created by corporate retail machines. The pieces they buy have a life to them that regular retail stores can’t replicate. Therefore, secondhand clothing tends to be cheaper, more worn-in, and funkier than what other retail stores are selling, making it especially appealing to college students.

There are numerous, multiple, infinite thrift stores in Tacoma, but Urban X Change is my favorite hidden gem. When I walked into the store for the first time, there was a vibe about it that I had never felt while entering any other retail shop. It’s as if it presents a package of the Pacific Northwest lifestyle in terms of ease, accessibility and free spirit. The clothing perfectly exemplifies the funky style of Tacoma, appealing to both fashion and comfort. There are shoes and boots lining the opposing walls of the Men’s and Women’s sections, and peeks of butter-soft Pendleton cloth emerging from the rows of winter wear. To say that it was a love affair would be an understatement.

Located in downtown Tacoma on Pacific Avenue, UXC has been around for ten years. In fall of 2013, married couple Nick and Brooke Casanova took on the store, putting their own personal touch on Tacoma fashion. I had the opportunity to talk with them about the store, the way it operates and its bright future.

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“You would be amazed about how many calls we get about people asking if we’re selling mattresses and items like that because we’re classified along with other thrift stores. So we wouldn’t call ourselves a thrift store, but more of a secondhand boutique,” said Brooke. “We’re a creative shop that focuses on vintage and modern goods and welcomes community to try and stay ahead of the game as far as product goes,” said Nick.

UXC is a “buy, sell, trade” store, meaning that its inventory is made up of clothing that customers sell to the store. Nick and Brooke sort through bags of clothing that customers come in to sell and they buy the garments from them. “We have the ability to curate what we sell because we’re the ones buying it,” said Nick. “We really want to create a fashion-forward culture in Tacoma, and we’re showing our customers what is trendy and stylish in a way that’s easy for them to pick up on.”

Currently, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People and Buffalo Exchange are the frontrunners in grungy, bohemian style. They have had a lot of success in appealing to a generation of funky fashionistas, for a high price. Nick pointed out that none of these stores exist in Tacoma, so it is the goal of UXC to combine these four styles into one and package it for the Tacoma community. “We want people to know that we’re selling items strategically in order to appeal to them, so they don’t have to go to the mall when they want Clarks desert boots or a vintage maxi dress. We want them to think of us first,” Brooke and Nick said.

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Brooke and Nick love looking through the items that customers bring in, because it constantly reshapes the type of merchandise that the store is selling. They usually get a lot of garments in from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and some from ‘50s and ‘60s. “Not too long ago we had a woman come in with around 15 vintage gunny sack dresses. That was definitely one of my favorite buys. They didn’t stay in the store very long because customers immediately bought them,” said Brooke. The store gets about 6-15 sellers everyday, but they hope to expand their selling population to UW Tacoma and UPS students.

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The Casanovas find it of utmost importance to foster a sense of community at UXC. They sell locally made jewelry in the store, creating partnerships with Tacoma artisans. They also hope to add more bustle to Pacific Avenue in order to create cooperative retail advantage for neighboring stores, restaurants, and coffee shops. Pac Ave is a major street in downtown Tacoma, but it lacks the foot traffic that many big cities have, making visitors less likely to pop into new places.

Nick and Brooke are looking to maximize the store’s potential in the near future. Brooke hopes to begin selling small homeware items to add to UXC’s eclectic collection of merchandise. Nick aims to better utilize the unique space of the store. “We have a back room that we’re really just using to take pictures in,” he said. “We’re thinking about having different guests come in to give workshops – whether it’s another local Tacoma business or a clothing designer or merchandise representative – we want people to hear about it and get it excited. Then they’ll be able to see the store and we’ll get new customers in.”

Urban X Change has a very exciting future ahead of it. Further collaboration with the Tacoma community will only bring growth and success. Check out Urban X Change’s Instagram account (urbanxchangetacoma) and Etsy shop, and head down to Pacific Avenue to see what they have in store!

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Spotlight: Tiny Frock Shop

Fashion comes in all shapes and sizes – even when that size is 11.5 inches tall.  Since 1959, Barbie has been a representation of a stylish, fashion-oriented woman.  Her infinite number of outfits even mirror the shifts and changes of women during the latter half of the 20th century, marking Barbie as America’s most famous figurine.

Pamela Thompson, former Betsey Johnson and Heatherette head designer (who is currently a collaborator with Anna Sui), created Tiny Frock Shop in order to bring designer style to Barbie owners and collectors around the globe.  The online shop operates as a secondhand resale store for Barbie outfits.  From menswear (for Ken, of course), bridal gowns, accessories, home life, and pre-loved dolls, they sell it all!

Thompson credits her 6-year-old daughter, Lily, with the tile of CEO, which further shows the cross-generational adoration for Barbie.  Here’s a tidbit from Lily from the store’s website: “Hi…I am Lily. I am 6 and the CEO of Tiny Frock Shop. I know a lot about dolls. I love Barbies, milk, profit margins, the colors pink and black, TPS reports, sparkly dresses, punctuality, team players, chocolate and kitties so so much.”  How ridiculously adorable is that!?

Check out Tiny Frock Shop to get a look at these cool and sophisticated teeny-tiny outfits!

Spotlight: Darkroom Collective

One wouldn’t necessarily describe the University of Puget Sound campus as “fashioned-oriented.” However, beneath the surface, senior Nathaniel Skinner is using his artistic talent to create a collection of t-shirts that has the potential to redefine clothing created by our generation.

Skinner grew up with the fashion industry. “I had an inherent love affair with clothing,” he explains. “My mom is involved in fashion and she taught me the importance of dressing well as a form of personal expression.”

Along with childhood friend, Kahlil Dumas, who attends the University of Portland, Skinner launched Darkroom Collective, a collection of cyanotype inspired t-shirts.

“I wouldn’t call us a t-shirt brand,” said Skinner. “We’re more a lifestyle brand represented through clothing.”

Discovered in 1842, cyanotype printing is primarily used in conjunction with film photography. Skinner played around with this method in order to print transparencies directly onto cloth. He painted the cyanotype chemicals on the garment, placed an image on a clear transparency on top of the blue chemical ink, and let the shirt sit underneath UV rays. To let the image set, he fixed it with water.

After the initial printings, Skinner and Dumas decided to collaborate in order to develop a line of different designs and commercialize their creations. They began adding graphic elements to their images representative of the Pacific Northwest and the urban lifestyle.

Darkroom Collective aims to keep things local and community-based. “We wanted to create an aesthetic that appeals to the next generation of creative photographers, designers, and people in general,” said Skinner.

Darkroom Collective had an immediate positive response after launching its online store. They created 60 shirts of two different designs which sold out within two months.

As a result of this success, Skinner and Dumas had the opportunity this summer to attend MAGIC and Liberty Fairs, two fashion conventions held in Las Vegas. They networked and met with different designers who gave them advice in growing their collection. Coming into the fashion world strictly as artists and designers, they were also able to pick up more insight on the way that the industry operates in terms of sourcing, advertising and sales.

Darkroom Collective is currently working on broadening its social media presence. “Right now we have an Instagram account where we can post photos taken by budding photographers who reach out to us. We hope to use some of their photographs as future t-shirt designs,” said Skinner. This idea has created a lot more online exposure for Darkroom Collective. “Our generation is the generation of photographers. Everyone with an iPhone thinks they’re a photographer now,” he continued. They have acquired a following of contributing photographers who see working with Darkroom Collective as an opportunity to turn their work into something more tangible.

Darkroom Collective’s online store and website will be revamped in the near future to display new designs and more garments. In the future, the company aims to maintain its grassroots vibe and collaborate with other local artists.

(Linked from The Trail)

Spotlight: Preserve.Us

Preserve.Us just launched and I couldn’t be more excited about it.  (Seriously the homemade-lovin’-fashion-girl in me is squirming with pure elation.)  Preserve sells it all – clothes for both men and women, home goods, kitchenware, jewelry, and even some tasty looking hot fudge!  

Preserve is teamed up with different artisans and small business owners from the around the U.S.  They have set their first goal to give 5,000 children a meal, 2,000 children a blanket, and 2,700 children a cozy sweatshirt.  Their hands-on philanthropic goals are both reasonable and grassroots-oriented.  

I’m all about the Briella Maxi Dress and the soon to arrive Stone Bangles, both pictured above.  They’re even perfect when paired together!

And on a final note, the company’s take away message is just as inspiring as the items its selling:

“We acknowledge that we are human and are flawed. But please accept, our intention is to do something pure. So we ask you, let this be a conversation. Help us grow. Help us give. Please critique us, teach us and be patient with us in the process, as ultimately we are all in this, this spinning sphere, together.”

Spotlight: Melody Ehsani

I need to preface this post by saying that I’m not usually one for too much bling-bling.  But then I came across these Melody Ehsani earrings, and I knew I needed them! These super chunky, fun earrings are perfect for channeling your inner Miley (because let’s be honest with ourselves for a second, we all adore her style at least a little bit….).  And I must admit, the moment I put them on I felt like I could take on the day.  It was a “we flawless” moment.  I wore mine with a deep red-hued flannel, black soft shorts, and cream high-tops.

Check out Melody Ehsani’s online shop for some more design eye candy – you won’t be sorry!

 

Spotlight: Soko

I must admit that I’m currently gushing over Soko.  It’s a little bit like love at first sight.  For me, the allure of this company lies right in its founding story, that Soko was “created by women for women to help ‘fashion a better world.'”  Founded in 2012 by three incredibly inspirational women, Soko’s site sells some pretty divine jewelry.  This jewelry is created by about two dozen independent men and women living within the developing world.  Through their partnership with Soko, these artisans have the ability to establish and manage their own businesses and create jewelry that is sold worldwide, connecting them to the global economic system.

Soko sells an array of gorgeous metal, wooden, and beaded jewelry, ranging from necklaces, to bracelets, to earrings, and rings.  I’m currently loving their turquoise beaded bib and brass chevron choker (both pictured above).  The detailing on both pieces is absolutely beautiful.  And because they are different lengths, these two necklaces are perfect for layering together! (I’m also a huuuuuuuge fan of both turquoise and brass, so I love them even more when they’re together!)  The beaded bib was created by Veronicah, a woman living in Kibera, a slum just outside of Nairobi.  In every piece she creates, Veronicah uses natural materials that are environmentally sustainable.  Ojiko designed and created the chevron choker.  He specializes in woodwork and metalwork (as you can see in this delicate and chic necklace).  The money that we spend purchasing these items goes directly back to Veronicah and Ojiko because Soko cuts out the middleman.  How efficient is that!?

Needless to say, I might just be Soko’s #1 fan.  Not only is the jewelry extraordinary, but the personalized relationships that the company has with its affiliated artisans is inspirational and uplifting!

– Kasey

Spotlight: The Little Market

The Little Market was actually the first global online marketplace that I happened upon.  And evidently, I immediately fell in love with it.  Founded by everyone’s favorite Laguna Beach girl, Lauren Conrad, and her FIDM friend and student-in-crime, Hannah Skvarla, The Little Market collects accessories and home goods that are handmade by artisans around the world – from South America, to Africa, to India.  The Little Market provides a living wage to the artisans that it collaborates with.  Not only does this provide a steady income, but these artisans are given a sense of empowerment and fulfillment – something that every woman deserves.  The Little Market also provides a bundle of information about each product so you are able to see directly where your money is going and how it is supporting these local artisans.

I’m currently loving The Little Market’s beaded bracelets from Guatemala.  I’m a sucker for stackable bracelets, especially as an easy-to-wear summer accessory.  (Maybe that’s just because they remind me of summer camp friendship bracelets!)  But these are so chic and easy to wear alone or even stacked with your favorite bangles.  I’m all about the cotton candy mix of rose gold and baby blue.  These four bracelets will most definitely be adorning my wrists ASAP: Beaded Bracelet – Blue + Gold ($14), Braided Beaded Bracelet: – Light Gray + Rose Gold ($16), Wrap Bracelet – Peach + Rose Gold ($24), Wrap Bracelet – Light Blue + Rose Gold ($24).  The latter two bracelets were created by women partnered with Wakami, an organization that provides business training programs, organic gardens for food, and solar energy for electricity in impoverished areas like Guatemala.

Stayed tuned for more posts about The Little Market!

– Kasey