May 19th, 2015

Wonderland: a 4-Part Series

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ARTISTS FACEBOOK CHALLENGE. DAY 5.

Well, like the Scarecrow to Dorothy, this one seems like the hardest one yet. Maybe that’s because this was my biggest creation, built to last yet gone nonetheless. Or maybe it’s because this week marked the anniversary of losing our little spark, Lauren. Whatever the reason, it is with a heavy but hopeful heart that I wrap up this Facebook Artists Challenge with a journey back down the rabbit hole.

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Let me first borrow some other people’s words before I try to find my own. Cameron Connerty called 12South a “magic little house.” Nancy Perla Michaelis remarked about the 360-degree nature of my brand (I wore it, I decorated it, I built it, I employed it, I spoke it, I wrote it, I played its music, I represented it within the community).

The Guardian wrote this: “a cosy store established in a grey clapboard house set back from the street, is the most cutting edge, stocking affordable designer clothes sourced from across the US alongside vintage sunglasses, jewellery and chocolate. It specialises in the informal but chic look favoured by those too hip for Urban Outfitters, and its liberal credentials were confirmed by a 10% discount for anyone registering to vote in last year’s presidential election while at the store.”

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Jim Ridley of the Nashville Scene called it “playfully chic,” and then later he wrote about me: “the brainiac in high school who walked around with Marx in her backpack, with a head full of Broadway show tunes, with a snappy comeback at the ready for any sorority girl who dared look crosswise at her combat boots…three parts Amelie to two parts Juno, the pixieish proprietor of the 12 South boutique Two Elle. A petite almond-eyed wisecracker who runs the only fashion shop in town—maybe in the world—where you can get a copy of Kafka’s The Trial to go with your Converse high-tops, Lowe presides over a four-room enchanted kingdom of hip couture and a glamorous staff of well-read, culturally aware (and endearingly attitude-free) hotties. But it’s her personality that comes through in the store’s mix of geek-chic ’90s retro, high-style jeans and distressed college T’s, and slim silver pendants that depict girl-power superheroes.” And I’m sorry, world, I will never stop quoting him, because his words brought me unparalleled joy and honor….until Stephen Gilbert called me an “all-weather-whatever’s-clever-now-and-forever- tougher-than-leather woman.”

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So, those are their words, but I still struggle to find my own. I was just looking at photos of 12South, ones that I had never used for anything, ones that weren’t glossed over by stories I’ve already told. I said aloud, “I can’t do it,” and closed them up. I can’t say goodbye. It’s been many years. But somehow I just can’t do it.

Maybe I’m just not ready to be cute and clever about it. Maybe I’d like to think that the story is still being written. And really I don’t need to say much at all, because so much of it is already documented here or on twoelle.com. And so many of you were there! You wrote on those chalkboard walls I put up for you. You sat with me on the porch swing. You plastered graffiti, and you ripped it down at the end. You posed with me in the ads that lined local bathroom stalls. You sat on the couch I selected. You played on the pool table. Or the piano. Or the drums. Or the stage. Or the pinball machine that ONE DAY before it started smoking. You hung up your clothes on hangers that had bunnies on them. You walked out the doors I had shipped in from New York. You wondered why the exterior window frames on a structure that was built in 2008 looked like they had been there for hundreds of years (Me! I did that!). You wondered why there was a sign on the door that said, “Went for Paletas. Be back soon.” (Me! I did that!) You talked to me while I stood behind a bar, the last place I stood that felt as safe to me as a stage. And you bought things that I designed, and they still show up every now and then in your photos, bringing a deeper smile to my heart than you can imagine.

You were there. So, I won’t tell the whole story. I’ll just show you some photos of that thing I made. {I broke them down into 4 groups. I know. I’m far outside the scope of this Challenge. But here’s what: I don’t care. Join me down here in wonderland if you like. And Amanda Paytas Stevens: my deepest thanks for nominating me for this opportunity to share, waking me up, and reminding me to do what I do best.}

Regarding nominations, I started this Challenge in childhood and nominated in Nashville. I’ll now end it in Nashville and nominate in childhood with my family. I’m nominating Ninfa Lowe, Michael Lowe, Daniel Lowe, and Adam Lowe, creatives each in their own way.

OK, kids.

PART 1: THE MAGIC LITTLE HOUSE

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PART 2: BUILDING WONDERLAND

The day after the Hill Center Grand Opening, I felt an overwhelming sadness; the building phase was over. If we’re being honest, I think I liked building wonderland more than I liked living in it. Maybe that’s my truth: nothing ever felt as good as waking up too early, drinking too much coffee, getting my hands too dirty, and building a dream.

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PART 3: LIFE IN WONDERLAND

As mad as a hatter’s tea party and as confusing as a Caterpillar’s question, this was life.

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PART 4: GOODNIGHT, WONDERLAND

There’s something particularly poetic about building a dream and then having to break it down with your own hands. These were difficult yet liberating days, when I began deconstructing my world into manageable pieces that I could discard or pack away. That empty space still haunts me, but I always find something inspiring about the darkness.

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January 13th, 2013

Closing Doors

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One year ago right now, I opened this door for the last time, and I wrote this on the wall:

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Only 24 hours before, wonderland was empty, and I had taken to the stage for a photo shoot.

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My dear friend and photographer Stephen Gilbert had asked many times if he could capture me in my space. I waited, as is my way, until the very final moments. The former factory was empty, but the music was loud, and the lights were bright. We danced the last dance.

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I was so pleased when he posted his piece on me a few days later. I loved the imagery, of course, but if possible, I think I loved his words more. I remember reading them and feeling flattered, but I also remember noting that a day would come in the future when I would recall his inspirational telling of my own tale. I knew that I would journey on after our dance but that eventually I would stumble and revive his words as my mantra.

So, here we are, one year later, and I continue to visit his site and his magical version of my moment. And I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the anniversary of the day we scraped our name off the window.

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I may have locked up these red doors for the last time, and I may have turned in the keys that opened them so many times. And if I’m being honest, these doors that traveled from New York to Nashville to keep our wonderland safe inside were one of my proudest moments and one of the many that I wish I hadn’t left behind.

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But if the mantra bestowed upon me by one Stephen Mitchell Gilbert is correct, then the magic is in the moment. Doors and walls and windows stayed behind, but I packed up the sparkle and the music and the dance. One day, I won’t miss those doors, and my hand won’t ache because it can’t write on that wall. And on that day, we will dance again. For now, I turn to another artist friend, Bob Roman, who tagged my wall with some relevant anniversary inspiration.

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Posted at 5:52 pm by rachel in: After Wonderland, Closing the Store, Interiors

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December 24th, 2011

A Truth Revealed

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Lately, I’ve been adding bits and pieces to the wall to better reflect the changes and the journey. But sometimes, despite my best efforts to write the story myself, a once-hidden truth reveals itself without my help. Earlier today, forever friend Arnold purchased 2 of our racks. As we cleared off the clothes and wheeled them away, nestled under images of days and bands passed, was a message I had written years ago: No time like the present.

In April of 2007, a small group of friends and family pulled late nights at a little house on 12South to open a new concept store. During the summer of 2009, a far larger group of friends and family pulled late nights at the Hill Center to, among other things, write our story on the wall. Today, I stand alone, a girl who stumbled upon a grand adventure, picked up some colorful characters along the way, learned from the flowers, played her cards right, and found her way back from wonderland. And today, my writing on the wall speaks for itself. There is no better time to climb out of that rabbit hole and write the next chapter.

And so, dear friends, we close our doors. The rabbits will surely continue to hop, and I will continue to follow them.

But for tonight, I say goodbye, old friend.

xoxo,

rachel

Posted at 5:02 pm by rachel in: Closing the Store

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December 18th, 2011

The Last Sunday

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For years now, we’ve been telling you our stories, drafting our graphic novel with our home-grown ad campaigns. And now, on our last Sunday, we offer our history for your own homes. Not only can you buy the furniture that has graced our space or the books that have lined our shelves, but you can now buy our images and truly own a piece of the story. Surely, the stories will continue, and we will keep telling them. You have one week, though, to bring the real thing home.

xoxo

Posted at 4:29 pm by rachel in: Ad Campaigns, Bunny Love, Closing the Store

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December 14th, 2011

Cracking Down

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There have been a lot of questions lately about what’s next for us, and all of this pressure has Frank up in arms (pun….intended). For 5 holiday seasons, Frank has served as the 2L gift advisor and security detail, but it appears that he will soon be out of a job. He is in the process of updating his resume to include swordsmanship and uniform bedazzling. We know it’s rough out there, and we fear Frank would get trampled in an Occupy Wall Street situation, so if anyone hears of any opportunities, do let us know. You can reach Frank with job offers at info@twoelle.com. And, for that matter, you can offer Rachel, Ricky, Becca, and Sara jobs at that address, too!

Posted at 12:04 pm by rachel in: Closing the Store, The Family

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