We saw the sign. Then we walked in the door.
Smaller cities. I've always been drawn to them. Albuquerque, Baltimore, Iowa City, some of my favorite dots on the map. Add to that list of often-overlooked but humbly memorable places, Knoxville, Tennessee. A cousin's wedding in eastern Tennessee lead me to Knoxville, and a good friend, one Ms. McKenzie Michaels, hosted me during the non-family time. After some research, I decided I wanted to check out the Market Square area for the few hours I had on day 1, before meeting up with my folks. McKenzie and I had a big smile over both wanting to go to The Tomato Head, a local restaurant with unreal pesto, a vibrant staff, and hep art on its walls. In our late-afternoon daze, brought on by good food and the surreal opportunity to catch up in person, we walked around Market Square. For those playing at home, it's something like the ped-mall in Iowa City, or downtown Northampton. We spotted the word Indigo hovering in a store window, above a display of spunky women's clothing. We figured, why not check out this place. I joked about McKenzie dressing up, pretending like I could afford to buy her an outfit. We have jokes like that.
Once in there, we could tell that we wandered into something else. Sure there are countless women's boutique stores, and having lived in the Laguna Beach and Boston/Cambridge areas, I've seen more than my share. But Indigo doesn't barrage you with its cornucopia of styles and cutesy store music. Nor does it resemble the austere boutique where everybody whispers, and the clothing feels overly fragile on tiny, metal hooks. There was a dress with a dogwood print on it (my favorite tree, these days). Garrison Keillor and company were basking in the Knoxville warmth, via the radio. The lady behind the counter was making flower-and-button thingamajigs we would later learn were hair pins. She looked like someone you would want to run into at ye old twenty-somethings party. Obviously warm, with suggestions of being stylish yet unpretentious, animated yet at ease. We naturally fell into a conversation. About twenty minutes in, I figured it would be the right time to bring up the blog and the possibility of recording and sharing our afternoon. She was into it, and neither the tone nor the topics changed.
Carrie Marie,25, has worked at Indigo for a couple years, and is now at its helm. Once a boutique for up-and-coming designers from all over, it has transformed into a co-op focusing on work by local fashion and craft artists. She is just as excited about other people's work as she is of her own Red Cadence Clothing line. When I notice her Random Notes line of jewelry (with diy, hand-drawn labels), she brings attention to the other jewelry in the case as well, with wide eyes. But Carrie isn't only a busy manager and clothing designer. I'll let you find that out yourself, by inviting you to jump into that room in Market Square, Knoxville, on an early evening Saturday in June.
CE: Tattoos seem to be big here. I thought it was just over there, or a big city phenomenon, but I’ve seen so many people here with tattoos.
Carrie: We have a really great shop. Saint Tattoo. All the people in there were members of the rockabilly crowd. Because of that, I think it was kind of known early on that they were all good artists. There’s one woman there, now, who does my stuff. She, you know, does sketching, and all her work is really great.
McKenzie: Can I see your tattoos?
[Carrie shows us the tattoo on her back.]
McK: Oh, wow. That’s so beautiful.
Carrie: She drew that for me, because I wanted a microphone with teeth. Such cool teeth! At some point I want to get it colored in, but it costs so much money. Bartering!
Carrie: Jeans are like the only thing that I have to buy in big stores. I have to break down and buy something that’s made in
The Ahhh Mode
Carrie: Before I had a baby, I used to work at a call center. And I used to take my sewing stuff there, so I could send my work here. After I was about five months pregnant, I got sick of that place really fast. I was like, “I’m never going to work anywhere corporate again.”
CE: What’s the name of your baby?
Carrie: Rose. Rose Marie. She’s very strange and interesting. She just started giving me kisses, it’s the coolest thing ever! I love how she gives me kisses. She just goes, “HMMmmmm!” [makes face and puckers lips, kissing the air ecstatically]. That’s just the most amazing thing: when they learn how to do something new. I don’t know why it’s amazing, and I don’t know what our fascination is with small things. Everyone has a fascination with small things. Anything small and childlike, we automatically go into the “ahhh” mode. Everyone. So, you’re still recording? I feel bad, I could talk all day.
CE: No, no. That’s the thing. The whole slant of it is conversation. As is.
My eyes wander over to a bag by the counter. Beaded all over, black and metallic gray. A clutch bag, as they would call it.
CE: That is a cool bag.
McK: Dude, that is such a cool bag and I could not believe no one has bought that.
CE: That’s so interesting, too, that s/he is pricing it that cheap.
Carrie: I mean some things amaze me, when they don’t like sell for a while. And it’s like, “What in the world? [Whispering, with a questioning look on her face.] Are these people crazy?” Well, I think one of our problems is we’re not actually on the square, like we’re on the side, so it’s hit or miss if people come here. Not a lot of people know ‘bout it. No one knows that we have kid stuff. I try to tell people, “We have kid’s stuff. It’s really cool!” And a lot of people don’t know that we’ve gone all-local now.
[To McKenzie] I really like your skirt.
McK: Oh, thank you.
Carrie: Sorry, I know that’s random. It’s really cool. Is that knit? It’s like bunching up.
McK: I got I at this um [looks over at me].
McK: Yeah, I got it at Savers, up in
Carrie: Is that a thrift shop?
McK: It’s a junk shop.
Carrie: Do you ever go to AMVETS? It’s off Magnolia. It’s such a diamond in the rough. The best thrift store I’ve been to in my life.
Carrie: Yeah it’s called AMVETS. Every single time I go in there I find cool, vintage stuff. And even stuff that fits me. And that’s like, rare. Because back then, not many things were made any bigger than size10, in the 50’s and 60’s.
Carrie: This dress, I bought it there and completely reworked it.
McK: Oh, that’s gorgeous. Oh wow.
Carrie: You know you’ll never find that fabric now. Isn’t that the coolest thing [points to dress]? Such a cool design.
McK: That’s so cute!
Carrie: I got Rose three of those from my friend who does the prints. These first ones that she had, she got on super clearance at Target. She’s taken the money that she’s made and she’s going to buy onesies that are organic cotton and American-made. By getting these and making money, she’s going to buy them in bulk, so they will actually be the same price that these were in target. So, that’s really wonderful.
McK: I love it [looking at one with a single rooster]. I think that’s my favorite one.
Carrie: They’re eight bucks. I mean, eight bucks is a lot for onesies. They’re perfect for baby showers, giving as gifts. It’s one of those things where I wouldn’t be able to afford it for Rose, but if I were buying it for someone else’s birthday party-- it’s so worth it for someone else.
Music & Two Old Friends
CE: It’s so great to hear Prairie Home Companion. When you travel, you forget what happens in the real world, again. “Oh yeah, it’s Saturday, time for Prairie Home Companion.” And they listen to it in
Carrie: Everywhere you go. Well, I listen to NPR in here. Then, the different girls bring CD’s in sometimes. It’s kind of one of those weird things, that I know this is getting very mainstream, but I’m obsessed with Gwen Stefani. And I have been ever since I was 14.
McK: It’s hard not to.
Carrie: She’s amazing. Like, she’s a very cool inspiration. She’s actually a decent person. She’s not gross. The fact that she started working with hip-hop influences in her music, she came from a ska background, and mixing that is so cool. She still tells people, “I was into Madness.” I remember when I saw them-- I was actually 14-- one of them had on a Madness shirt. That’s what got me into two-tone ska. Then I started collecting two-tone records, and now I have a lot. I like to collect.
CE: Do you remember Save Ferris?
Carrie: Yes, I do remember Save Ferris. I love Save Ferris.
CE: I used to work with Monique [Powell].
Carrie: She seems like she would be a really cool lady.
CE: She was the coolest person. It was more than 10 years ago. I started working really young. I worked at a museum, and we had this gallery in the mall. She worked at the gallery site. We would hang out all the time: make fun of customers and dust shelves. And Matt Wong from Real Big Fish, because they were dating, would come over. She wouldn’t say he was her boyfriend. She was like, “We’re going to go eat ice cream. We’ll be right back.” It was funny, because this was around when Save Ferris started. And then she quit the job to go tour with this band and I’m like, “I hope she does well. I don’t know.” It was one of three things she was doing. She was doing opera too, and she was in a Frank Zappa style noise band. Save Ferris was just the thing she liked doing the most. And then they got huge the next summer.
Carrie: I love them, I love them and I love the Dance Hall Crashers. I love that stuff. I really liked the bands who wanted to be a two-tone band, like the Slackers.
Rainbow vintage fabric and trim
dress by Colleen Louise.
Indigo Design Co-Op & Independent Businesses
CE: There’s such a good environment in here. Even walking by it, it looks interesting. It’s inviting, the way it opens up. I mean, if I had a girlfriend, or if I were a woman, I would come here all the time.
Carrie: I’m really glad you say that. We just recently rearranged it in here and before we rearranged it, it was really bad. We used to have this big, huge rounder in here. I think when we paint, it will be even more inviting. I think the cream on the walls is too bland in here. It’s too close to white, for a shop. We’re going to do like a butterscotch color. I think that will be a really nice background. It will bring out the clothes more. And did you guys see the fitting room? There’s a chair in there for men and toys for children.
CE: Can you tell the story of how you started working here, how it fell into your hands?
Carrie: Yeah, yeah. I started working here about two years ago. When I started working here, it was like a boutique with smaller designers...who didn’t quite hit the mall yet. We started out in
Carrie: I wanted it to be really nice, for our first piece. Make it a real work of art. I brought that in here, and Chris and Rob were like, “Bring whatever you want in here.” I started bringing more and more and more stuff, it did really well. And then about a month ago
CE: Do they get a bigger percentage if they work here?
Carrie: They do. Basically, when you start, you just get your clothes in here. Whatever you want out of your clothes, you set that price, then we multiply it times two, to sell it. That helps us pay the rent, bills, taxes and all that. If you work in here 2 shifts a month, a shift could be 4-5 hours, then you get 60 percent. Once a week is 65%, and twice a week is 70%. 3 of the girls are actually wanting to do the twice a week. That’s going to help us a lot!
CE: And maybe one late night a week?
Carrie: Usually on Friday nights, I stay late, as long as I’m not going out. People come over here after they’ve had dinner, or after they’ve gone out. Someone who has some money that they want to spend on something comes over here, that’s a sale and that helps us pay our bills. This is the only way I make money, when I’m not in school. I get grants when I’m in school. This is the way we’re paying our bills. And advertising, regular advertising costs so much.
CE: I could imagine.
Carrie:We did an advertisement in the Metro Pulse for my spring fashion show, and the girls at LOX helped me with it . Just for an advertisement that big [points to ad in the Metro Pulse), it was 500 dollars. So we each put 250 on it. It was a very small ad, but everyone gets the Metro Pulse. And my fashion show was packed. It was the place to be that night. It was the first event I’d ever held. So it made me feel so incredible, that people actually came out to it, you know?
McK: It’s so amazing to have made it. You have your clothes, and now, a fashion show, that’s just amazing.
CE: And you have a co-op, locally run store.
Carrie: Yeah, this is really amazing for us.
CE:. Do you know about the Local First movement?
Carrie: No, I don’t know about that. I know about the Craft Mafia.
CE: It’s a way to link people together. There’s a national organization, BALLE. They help you start your own local first organization in town. A lady I work with, she is an Executive Producer for the organization in
C: That’s really cool.
CE: It gets people into the businesses, and you’re part of a group you really believe in. They all have a sticker on the window that says
Taking Care of Things: One Mother, One Baby, One Planet at a Time
Carrie: Do you guys live on your own? It’s rough. I was the best budgeter, before I lived on my own. Then rent, TV, gas. Like gas, how much is it where you live? It’s outrageous. Like 3 dollars a gallon. I’m not going to walk here, it would take 3 hours. I’m not going to ride a bike because everything is so bumpy.
McK: It’s not really a bike-friendly city.
Carrie: I remember I went to like
McK: It’s strange. A lot of people go to Pellissippi.
Carrie: I know. I thought about writing someone. I talk about these things, I write about these things, but doing them is another thing. I have mama brain, still, so I’m like a lunatic.
CE: How old is your daughter?
Carrie: She’s going to be 1 on June 10.
CE: Mary Rose?
Carrie: Rose Marie. Cool kid, cool kid. She makes me crazy, but she’s really cool. I’m very proud. I had her in
CE: I’ve never been, but a friend of mine stayed there for a summer and I’ve just always wanted to live in the other side of North Carolina, in
Carrie: It’s like a bunch of hippies, and a bunch of rocker kids. It’s so cool.
McK: I’ve only heard good things about it.
Carrie: My husband and I are vegan, so there’s plenty of places that we could eat there. He’s a great cook, but sometimes we just want to go out and have a nice meal. They have a fancy restaurant in
CE: Do you know that book, How it All Vegan?
Carrie: I love that book.
CE: Also, there’s this place in Allston, a part of Boston, called T.J. Scallywaggle's.
It used to be a vegan and non-vegan pizza place. Now it’s a vegan-only pizza and subs place.
Carrie: Yeah, dude, a vegan pizza place is so awesome! Most of my friends that stopped being vegan and are just vegetarian now they’re like, “I just wanted pizza.” Make it at home!
CE: Well, that's the thing. They’ll be in Philly. My friends are going down there and starting a T.J.’s. They have shows there and stuff. And everything there, hopefully soon, will be run sustainably, on other oils.
Carrie: That’s so super cool that they’re doing that. There’s one restaurant in
Chocolate Crushed Satin Dress Close-Up
A partiuclar dress keeps peaking our interest, and after collective "ooh’s” and "ah's," I finally lay it down on the counter and ask the artist about the piece.
CE: I want to ask you about this dress.
CE Well, I’m not in the store:, what is this dress in front of us? For the people on the radio, I mean, on the other end.
Carrie: Okay. For the people on the radio, this is like a chocolate crushed satin dress. The lace on the inside of it, I don’t know what kind of waist you would call this, but it hits at your real waist. There’s an elastic black lace in the middle of it, that cinches it up and it’s vintage lace that my grandmother’s best friend gave me, out all of her old scraps. And the two buttons in the middle are vintage. And the fabric is just amazing. These dresses look great on everyone. It has no sleeves. Um, I put it at 98 dollars, and that’s basically because this fabric is 4 dollars a yard. Sometimes I like to work with higher—and I consider that a higher end fabric. Most of the fabrics that I buy are a less than a dollar a yard, cuz it’s what I can afford. This dress, this shape is so popular. I made some of these over the holidays in tops and dresses, and they flew. You could easily use that fabric as wedding-type stuff. The dress is really cool because it’s one of those things where, it really looks high- end. I think it looks like it costs a lot more than what I actually priced it. I try to do that, anyway, make things that look like they cost a lot more than what I actually price it at.
CE: Definitely. They look like they’re wearable, like you would wear that. They don’t look like something out of a painting that you wouldn’t wear, this abstract piece.
Carrie: Like in Vogue? You know, I love Vogue, but man, some of that abstract stuff is completely unwearable. Here’s what’s so funny, you see stuff like that, but then you see stuff like the wee jackets, the mini jackets. My husband thinks I’m crazy to own one, but they make sense. Because sometimes [points at belly], this part doesn’t get cold. It’s my arms that get cold. I thought they were kind of clever. If it’s really cold, you want to put on a jacket. If it’s breezy outside, you want to warm your arms. The wee jackets are really cool.
McKenzie takes a wide-eyed look at a bouquet on a wrought-iron chair. The bouquet is made up of hair pin flowers. Before we waltzed in, Carrie was making them at the counter, while Garrison Keillor was keeping her company. One hair clip in particular makes McKenzie's smile sharpen up a little.
Carrie: You could have a hair clip, if you want. I end up giving them away, all the time. When people who have a lot of money, I end up charging them. I put the little ones in Rose’s hair. Rose has like, hardly any hair, but she’s got this twig of a thing on top. I’ll put a hair clip on it, sometimes.
CE: Do you know that band? Too bad they just finished being a band, but I think you’d really like Pretty Girls Make Graves
Carrie: Tony proposed to me at a show of theirs in
CE: Oh, my gosh! That’s amazing!
Carrie: I know, and I heard that they weren’t going to be a band any more, it’s pretty sad. Tony told me like yesterday. They have one member that was in Murder City Devils. I love them so much, and I never got to see them live.
Carrie takes out her phone to check her messages, to see if Tony has called, and gets a great idea.
Carrie: Let me show you a picture of Rose. [We see several and get the stories of each.]
McK: She’s a cute little bugger.
Carrie: these are my crowning moments.
Mck: She’s a happy little baby.
Carrie: She is. She’s very animated it, and I hope she stays that way. She’s really fun. I wish she was here, so you guys could meet here. Tony’s got her today. I’m really glad, they try to do it once a week, try to have a dad-and-baby day. He works so much. Even though I come in here and work at times, I technically consider myself a stay-at-home mom. I’m really blessed that Tony is such a good dad. Because a lot of people, as soon as they have kids, the guy runs off or something. DON’T EVER DO THAT TO ANYONE!
CE: No, no. I’m not getting married for a long time. And I wouldn’t walk out on anybody. I find, it’s everywhere, every class, every background, so often, the father isn’t there.
Looking for that etc. gift? How about headbands
for our heads and light switches for our rooms?
Light switches by Beyond Pink n' Blue.
Etc. & Byes
Carrie: Have you guys seen YouTube?
CE: They have great video blogs. There’s a really funny one called Hope is Emo. It’s a fake blog. It’s a comedy thing, but she’s so serious about it.
McK: The emo one? It’s funny, it’s funny.
Carrie: Anything that has anything to do with emo is probably funny. Tony was talking about doing a fake emo band. I mean, seriously, he told me some of the lyrics they’d written. It was really good. I was like, “Man, you could get on the radio with that crap!” I mean, it’s amazing, what gives you your fifteen minutes of fame. I need more than that, though. Well, I don’t need it.
Speaking of minutes, I check the time. We have to leave the Indigo Design Co-Op and Market Square, and head on back to the airport to meet up with my folks.
CE: We’ve gotta go because I have to meet my parents at the airport. So.
Carrie: It was really neat to meet you guys. I’m going to close up in a few minutes. It’s really dead out, for some reason. I guess me and Tony will probably go home and watch a movie or something on our TV. I love me some cable. It’s really exciting for someone who never had it as a kid, you know? We’ve had it for like a year. But it’s really good to meet you guys. You guys have been really cool.
CE: And we’ll be in touch.
Carrie: Make me Myspace friends.
CE: And we’ll write back and forth.
Carrie: And McKenzie, you’re close to me. We could hang out. Tony and I usually get to go out at least once a week, like late night dates. And I’ll keep you informed on cool things. You have to go to Detroit Cobras with me. Well, you guys have a good night. I’m going to close soon, and later on, we could all get in touch.
Carrie: Bye! [Hugs all around.]
Walking back to her car, McKenzie and I were still reeling from wandering into a great store, meeting a sincerely driven and passionate woman, and enjoying a refreshingly surprising afternoon. When do you get to walk into a store and leave after genuinely hugging the owner? McKenzie also picked up a rooster print onesie for her new friend Marleigh, to boot.
* Unless otherwise noted, clothing and accessories designed by Red Cadence Clothing and Random Notes Accessories.
* Become their myspace friends. It would be really, really cool. *