As a Tulsan, it is natural to sometimes feel frustrated about your options in fashion. For years all we had were the ho-hum, average Joe, crap fashions sold in a select handful of chain stores in two very similar malls. I'm not putting all of these places down entirely; there are still exciting finds out there, they just aren't as fulfilling as the stores and fashions you might find in New York, Los Angeles, or even closer to home locations like Oklahoma City or Dallas. The originality just hasn't been here.
Thankfully, in the past few years, Tulsa shopping options have expanded outside the walls of Woodland Hills and Promenade Malls and with them have come completely new stores, new brands and new designers. Not only have these boutiques given Tulsa shoppers a chance to find more original pieces, they have also allowed local designers a chance to showcase their talents. I have recently been introduced to a locally created line definitely worth checking out. Welcome the refreshing Ra$pberry Grunt.
I'm so relieved that I recently praised the vintage industry and hopefully won over some people who were previously skeptical, because the entire line of Ra$pberry Grunt is vintage with a twist. For those who still don't believe in the appeal of vintage, all it will take is one glance at the Ra$pberry Grunt collection and how new and fresh it is to realize how fantastic old is.
The name comes from a dessert that's a kind of raspberry dumpling. The name has an old-fashioned quality to it and was meant to invoke something that was cute, unique and strange, all adjectives that correspond with the clothes of Ra$pberry Grunt. Locals Carla-Rose and Crystal Lake are the designers, both lovers of vintage clothing who wanted to take that love of the old and make it new. When the seamstress skills didn't kick it, the idea of silk-screening was embraced.
Don't confuse silk-screening with iron-on, glossy, plastic-looking graphics; that is not silk-screening and these graphics aren't the over-produced images you see everyday. The graphics are whimsical and fun. The concept sounds simple enough, but the thought and consideration that seems to be put into each item makes it more unique. This line is original, fashion forward, earth-friendly, and completely affordable. And perhaps it is the designers themselves who have described the collection the best: "One of a kind vintage couture."
But all of this seems to be dancing around the actual pieces themselves. Because each item of Ra$pberry Grunt is a vintage item, there are no two similar pieces in the collection. Just as each item of vintage is different, so too are the Ra$pberry Grunt items. Each piece of clothing is then silk screened with an image, sometimes a single image, sometimes a single image printed more than once on the clothing.
The colors used are vibrant and the graphics are placed throughout different parts of the pieces. For a dress, it might be at the bottom corner, a shirt may have the graphic on the back.
The possibilities are endless and unique to each piece, really solidifying the idea that of being an individual. Also, don't fret that you'll be seeing items from local vintage stores with a new image painted on. Each item is brought in and doesn't make its way into stores until it has had the unique Ra$pberry Grunt touch.
The pieces that I saw will probably be gone by the time you read this, as the line is growing in popularity and selling quickly, but themes you might see silk-screened include skulls, cassette tapes (terrifically referred to as the mixed tape pattern and contributed by comic artist Liz Bailey) and sea horses. There were images of the past, with old-fashioned bikes with the gigantic wheel in the front, and things of the future, brightly colored robots. And even graphics that are homage to our state: scissortail fly catchers, our state bird and cicadas whose noises sometimes feel like our state song.
The images are inspired from a variety of sources, from music, nature and any graphic not typically found. Designer Carla-Rose says that future images will include pills, vintage toys, and unique flowers. Ra$pberry Grunt is also enlisting the help from local and not so local artists in coming up with graphics to silkscreen. Those interested can check out their MySpace page, www.myspace.com/rasphberrygrunt to submit ideas. Even those without artistic talent should visit the site, as it's also a great chance to see selections from the Ra$pberry Grunt collection.
For the moment, the Ra$pberry Grunt line consists of women's wear and men's button-down shirts. Women have a variety of articles to select from, with tank tops, button-down, short-sleeved tops and skirts that all have that Ra$pberry Grunt touch. There are also dresses that could be dressed up or down. The men's shirts have pearl buttons and a selection of prints, from the ever-popular plaid to solids and masculine floral prints. As the company grows, there is also talk of creating a children's line. After all, a child with hip parents should not have to walk around in cutesy wear from an unoriginal children's clothing company.
The items vary in decades, with looks that appear from the sixties all the way to the eighties. Both Carla-Rose and Crystal Lake are avid vintage enthusiasts, each with their own style. They choose the vintage items based own the appeal that the item has to both designers, as well as what is currently in style. Carla-Rose says that the collection is intended for everyone, from all ages and backgrounds. The only problem with being universal is that the sizes won't be in a broad selection. Just as with any other couture collection, the sizing is on the smaller side, but this problem is not due to Ra$pbery Grunt itself. Vintage clothing in general is smaller in size; the obesity crisis is too modern.
What this line offers that is especially fantastic is how the creators have emphasized the eco-friendliness of the clothing. Fashion has recently gone green (and not in that green-is-the-new-black kind of way). Environmentally friendly products are showing up in every venue possible, including the fashion industry in what is hopefully not a flash in the pan trend.
Levi's has its Levi's Eco line of denim from 100 percent organic cotton and in Hollywood and the east coast, Whole Foods' line of "I Am Not a Plastic Bag" totes have become a chic way to replace the planet damaging plastic and paper bags that stores put your purchases in. But both of these, as well as most eco-friendly products, are expensive. The totes are selling on eBay at prices 200 times the original cost and the jeans cost as much as $245.
And while we might be willing to invest in these kinds of items, they just aren't found in Tulsa to purchase. Even if they were, everyone would have one and the thrill of owning it would be gone. With Ra$pberry Grunt, not only are you purchasing something that isn't further wrecking the earth, you're also not wrecking your own fashion choices. The green concept of the line extends to the garment tags, with the item's description and price being written on vintage photos, making it the chicest recycling I've seen. Not only are the items one of a kind, so are the black and white photos attached, which are also quite interesting by themselves.
While it might seem that this as an entire package would make the line outrageously expensive, it's the exact opposite. Women and men's shirts range between $30-$40, as do skirts. Dresses sell anywhere from $60-$80, a more respectable cost than most dresses sold elsewhere. The only way that cost might factor more into a Ra$pberry Grunt piece is that some items do require dry cleaning. Everything else just needs a quick hand wash (to preserve both the silk screen and the vintage fabrics) and they are good to go.
Currently, most of Ra$pberry Grunt's collection is located at Dwelling Spaces at the corner of 2nd and Detroit. There are also a line of vintage t-shirts with the silk-screened graphics that are available at indie music store Under the Mooch, at 15th and Harvard. Ra$pberry Grunt is also expanding its accessibility and will soon be featured throughout a variety of local Tulsa boutiques, including X&Y at the Riverwalk in Jenks, the soon to open Modo on 15th and Tulsa's premier vintage stop, Cheap Thrills.
To really celebrate this new find, visit the collection as it receives its coming out. This event, that also celebrates the first year anniversary of Dwelling Spaces takes place on Sat., Aug. 4, from 6-9pm, where you'll be able to meet the designers, see the newest silk-screened clothes, taste a real raspberry grunt, and find the other fabulous local designs for yourself or your home that Dwelling Spaces has to offer.
Even though this is Tulsa, city of a thousand complaints, the trash talking of original clothing to be found in the city has to end here. You have no reason to look bad, boring or out of date. Ra$pberry Grunt can save your day.
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