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April 12, 2010

Featured Boutique: Strange Fruit Vintage

Shalishah "Petey" Franklin currently uses her marketing and communication skills at the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission. Her latest personal venture is an online vintage boutique: "Strange Fruit Vintage."


Beale Street Chick: How did you become interested in opening a clothing boutique? Why online? And why vintage clothing?

Petey: There are so many experiences in my life that led me to opening Strange Fruit Vintage. First, my mother owned a secondhand store when I was a child called Repeat After Me. I spent many hours playing in that store amongst the clothes, many good childhood memories. Also, I have six sisters so I kind of got used to hand-me-downs and then I began to look forward to the "worn" and "broken-in" look. And lastly, I have been wearing my mom's clothes from the 70s and 80s to parties for a minute because I knew no one else would have them!

Vintage clothing evokes memories of time and place. Maybe you remember wearing the clothing originally, maybe you are inspired by what it was like to have worn the clothes originally or maybe you, like me, adore the quality, uniqueness and scarcity of vintage clothing.

Initially, SFV was going to be a physical location in Memphis. I picked the spot, developed the floor plan and lined up the contractors to do the construction. In my travels to six cities for thrifting over the last four months, I realized that 1980s to present vintage clothing stores were rare and the only way I could create a Strange Fruit Vintage in every city was the internet.

Not to mention the idea of minimal overhead expenses!


BSC: What's the significance of the name "Strange Fruit?"

P: People often ask me what that means to me, or them.  And some question whether I know my history or the origin of that saying.

Strange Fruit, originally was a poem and then a song made popular by Billie Holiday. It was about the morbid and memorable lynchings in the south. “Southern trees bear strange fruit.”

To honor those that came, suffered and conquered before us down here in the south, we started naming our events Strange Fruit.  Our goal, my goal, is to redefine Strange Fruit in the south. Strange meaning unique. Fruit meaning gifted. We are strange fruit, we are writers, designers and actors, painters poets and dancers.”


BSC: What do you look for in a vintage piece?

P: My heart started racing when I read this question because of the sheer excitement of vintage shopping for me!

First and foremost I look for quality. Almost every piece is used or worn but the goal is that they are gently worn.  I look for "statement makers" so that when my customers wear the pieces someone will say "wow is that a short-sleeve Members Only Jacket...where in the world did you get that?!" That always makes me feel like I'm on to something when I'm wearing a "statement maker."

And lastly, I really have to love the piece.  Everything in the Strange Fruit inventory currently I have said at least once "I want it!" I love every piece I buy and it's not that they are all my personal style because most are not. They are just some extremely amazing pieces.


BSC: Explain the concept of a runway show with "everyday people."

P: This goes back to the "Strange Fruit" concept. When we began doing Strange Fruit events in January 2009, my quest was to create experiences and events where people could be themselves.  Do you! Don't change.  And it worked and continues to work, the idea of being comfortable in your skin and being accepted for just that.

The "everyday people" fashion show is in the same vein.  Strange Fruit Vintage inventory is for everyday people who love fashion, love standing out, love going against the grain.  Why on earth would I then ask these innovative people to walk a catwalk to a beat in clothes and postures that make them uncomfortable.  I wouldn't!  My friends, supporters and some pretty dope Memphians all with unique and differing senses of style will walk in SFV clothes adding their own accessories, personal styles and dopeness. I can't wait, I literally can not wait!


BSC: Since you are also an artist, do you think fashion and art compliment one another? Is it easy to go from one to the other?

P: Oh yeah, definitely. Art inspires life in my opinion. And fashion is just another extension of creativity and self expression. Historically, major artists, like Jean Michel Basquiat, with their avant garde approaches to fashion really created trends that we then followed and still follow.

Because I respect and recognize the connection between art and fashion, Jean Michel's "crown" and Keith Haring's "men" are both featured on the SFV launch party flier.


BSC: Talk a little about the launch party.

P: It's going to be wicked. It will be the usual Strange Fruit production with b-side music (not mainstream) from past to present by one of my fav deejays and friends DJ Manus.  We will have the everyday people fashion show featuring SFV clothes, rad giveaways like a British Knights watch, stuff to buy, refreshments and a ton of folks in a vintage-inspired setting at cool MPACT Memphis digs!  I got some surprises too.


BSC: A lot of vintage stores only carry women's items. Why did you decide to carry men's items as well?

P: Because a lot of vintage stores only carry women's items. No, just kidding. I created Strange Fruit Vintage because I love vintage clothes, not because I'm a stylist or a fashionista or an advisor on women's fashions. I love vintage clothes and I wanted SFV to represent that and be limitless. And let's face it, men's fashion from the 80s and 90s was ridiculously dope.


BSC: What type of person would be interested in SFV/would you like to attract?

P: Anybody who wears clothes! And if you don't wear clothes, maybe you wear accessories and we got those too.


P: I'd also like to say this has been a beautiful journey for me and it's because of the faith and support of a lot of people in my life that I've come this far.  Dreams come true, but you must first dream.


Follow Strange Fruit Vintage @iamstrangefruit on Twitter.


Details for the launch party on Saturday:


Stay tuned for the unveiling of the Strange Fruit Vintage web site!

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