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 11th, 2014

Sleeping Bella

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Look, I just did a 10-season Friends marathon over the holidays, so maybe Ross has shouted, “We were on a break!” one too many times, but I can’t help but agree. I’ve been on a break. Perhaps it doesn’t have to be a break-up or a break-down per se; it’s just a break. As such, I have my fairytale muses all mixed up, but given that my favorite purchase for my new home was this Ikea children’s bed that I put in my backyard, I’d say I’ve become more Sleeping Beauty than wandering Alice.

For awhile now, I’ve been saying that I’m having a post-fashion moment, but the beauty of fashion is that it takes all kinds of superheroes, and it will adapt and find you in your moment, even if you’re curled up in your colorful Anthropologie blanket, slowly sipping your french press coffee hoping it will stir you to the next adventure. But I’ve always said that the adventure is in the journey itself, so I will wait no longer. I will embrace this moment for what it is and reveal to you my current wardrobe: SLEEP MEETS STREET. There are a lot of sweats, but in my defense, both the sweatshirts and the sweatpants are shrunken and fitted. However, if I hit a bag lady moment where I’m more Evil Queen delivering an apple than pretty princess napping, I hope you won’t hold it against me. For now, there’s been this:

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An old Wildfox tee plus J.crew cardigan. The Kate Spade donut sweatshirt from Fall13 with a paisley button down.

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This Free City “I Love You” sweatshirt that is as soft as it is darling and makes me wish I owned everything Free City makes (spoiler alert: Free City isn’t exactly priced for a Sleeping Beauty salary).

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And my favorite: the Current/Elliott snow leopard sweatpants. A little bit sleep. A little bit street. Just the way I like it.

In an equally triumphant moment, the girls behind Current/Elliott have developed a line called Emily & Meritt for Pottery Barn Teen. It is brilliant and has my indoor Sleeping Beauty chamber looking like this:

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So, I like a world where every bella gets a prefix. You met me as a bouncing bunny bella, but then I took a break. I traded in my bounce for a nap until I met an Isa-bella. What Isabella reminded me is that while my story may not be “conventional,” it is special to those who get it. And I like those! The beauty of the fairytale is that any kind of Jack and any kind of Jill can find a happy ending….even if they take a little nap in the middle. Perhaps the nap can even be helpful. Truly, how else would Alice have gotten to Wonderland or Dorothy to Oz? A bella needs her sleep to conjure her big adventures!

So, maybe Sleeping Beauty wasn’t cursed. Maybe she was just a dreamer.

Posted at 8:52 am by rachel in: After Wonderland, Interiors, Uncategorized

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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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September 21st, 2012

Mood Bored

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Like any good fashionista, I treat the beginning of every season as a new moment. I think about who I am, who I want to be, and what currently inspires me. The past year has been one of transition for me, so as each new season falls, I begin to struggle with where I’m going to land. I now find myself in my “hometown,” a city where my journey began but which has never felt like home. Because I’m having trouble “finding myself” here, I’ve gone for a more traditional approach: the mood board. Yes, it’s filled with moments passed, but sometimes we have to look at what’s made us fall before in order to find our inspiration once again.

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Remember this girl? Kristin snapped this shot one night in late 2009 when we were closing together. Giant Tarina Tarantino bow, oversized Gap Kids leopard print coat from the 90s, neon pink spandex leggings, tall black Diesel boots, and an iced americano despite the late hour and chill in the air. I like this girl. She was excited about the new Hill Center location and exhausted from long, overworked hours. Maybe she’s my new icon.

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Speaking of icons, these guys may be from seasons past, but they inspire me as much today as they did the moment they came into my life. This Murakami Monogramouflage Speedy was my first exposure to the world of Louis Vuitton, and I’ve never looked back. Yes, I covet every piece of the current Yayoi Kusama collection, but until then, I’ll continue to seek inspiration from my old friends.

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And as a final plea for fall-time inspiration, I’ll take a moment to nod back at the loves to whom I’ve bid adieu.

Thank you. I love you. Goodnight.

xoxo

Posted at 5:38 pm by rachel in: After Wonderland, Interiors

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April 22nd, 2012

While I Was Sleeping

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Dear friends:

Two weeks ago, I had my wisdom teeth removed, and I’ve been in recovery ever since. Witty plays on the notion of wisdom will most likely ensue, but for now, I’ll just leave you with this little bit that happened while I was out. My ever-talented brother caught some national attention when Apartment Therapy featured his LA loft. We love the space, love the site, and love the positive feedback. Plus, we all got more than a little misty-eyed checking out the vintage Two Elle featured on his own site, www.daniellowe.com.

Posted at 8:03 pm by rachel in: After Wonderland, Interiors

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