There comes a time in every person’s life when shopping at the mall just seems a little tired.
Gap and Target may be great for buying wardrobe basics, such as jeans, pencil skirts and plain white T-shirts, but when it comes to specialty items, these stores’ mass-produced designs lack the head-turning allure of a one-of-a-kind piece.
That’s where the following stores – all conveniently located on Seventh or Eighth Avenue in Ybor City – come in. With their vintage, locally designed and do-it-yourself pieces, shoppers will be able to pull themselves out of that shopping rut.
International Bazaar Centro Ybor
Functioning as more of a marketplace than a traditional store, the International Bazaar clusters its products by type throughout the store rather than confining customers to rows of aisles. This open layout makes everything seem more accessible – shoppers can comfortably examine the bazaar’s varied goods while browsing through the store.The wafting scent of freshly burning incense and the glisten of the glitter-coated carpeting may turn away the faint of heart, but the new age kitsch is merely a reminder that this isn’t a conventional retail shop.
The term “international” in the store’s name isn’t just a gimmick – the Bazaar offers items from more than 172 countries. From silk Chinese purses to hand-carved wooden tables from Indonesia, the store’s variety makes Pier 1 Imports look miniscule.
When planning a trip to the Bazaar, however, it’s always good to set aside at least half an hour to peruse the store. The Bazaar covers 16,000 square feet with its plethora of products.
Fortunately, if you get thirsty as you navigate through the Bazaar during this “international” shopping excursion, the store also sells sodas and snow cones.As if that weren’t enough, the International Bazaar offers dance classes and special performances on its stage in the back of the store. Patrons can learn how to flamenco, salsa, tango and belly dance at the Bazaar, take martial arts with Sensei Sisco or learn to play the didgeridoo.
Customers can also enroll in a 12-week Cigar Rolling School to get their Cigar Aficionado Certification. For class times and additional information about these programs, call (813) 241-8292.
NEOTRASH | PHOTO LOPEZ
Neo Trash1515 E. Seventh Ave.
If Ybor City’s stores were characters in The Breakfast Club, Neo Trash would play Allison Reynolds – though perhaps with less of a “basket case” stereotype. The store keeps its distance from the loud, commercialized window displays of Centro Ybor by housing itself on the outskirts of Seventh Avenue.
Like Reynolds’ artsy loner persona, this stand-offish locale could cause Neo Trash to be overlooked, but its edgy, secondhand, homegrown frocks give it an effortless – and enviable – hip feeling that intrigues shoppers.
Exposed brick walls and the blaring sounds of TV on the Radio and Belle & Sebastian add to the store’s trendy atmosphere, as does the juxtaposition of velvet parlor chairs next to the street-chic prints bearing the Neo Trash logo, which adorns the dressing room doors. This look provides the framework for Neo Trash’s “wearable art,” which consists of the work of Tampa designers, independent streetwear and current-trend used clothing.
Sauver, Heartcore, Suspicious Package and Owl Movement are just a few of the local designers whose wares are sold at Neo Trash. With clever phrases and surrealist designs, the screen-printed T-shirts created by these and other independent street artists are the store’s standout items.
New designs tend to arrive at the beginning of each week, and vintage items come in daily, according to Neo Trash owner Bradley Hoffmann. Though the store welcomes undiscovered talent, it doesn’t allow just anything on the racks.
“It’s a lot of research,” Hoffmann said. “It’s a lot of being online every day and checking out what’s popular on the West Coast and in New York. It’s seeing what people are wearing, adapting that and making it accessible (to Tampa Bay area residents).”
On May 5, Neo Trash is hosting a $5 Blowout Party to showcase new releases from Heartcore Clothing. Many of Heartcore’s older clothing designs, as well as some of Neo Trash’s closeout items, will be sold for $5. The event starts at 7 p.m. and will feature free beer for patrons aged 21 and older.
La France1612 E. Seventh Ave.
Some girls coo over babies, or puppies with floppy ears and little pink noses. Some swoon for modern-day heartthrobs, such as Justin Timberlake or Johnny Depp. I, too, tend to erupt into a series of squeals and “awws” – however, I only do so over La France’s vintage cocktail dresses.
Knee-length, drop-waist dresses adorned with intricate beading and fringed skirts remind me of something Daisy Buchanan would wear on a night out with Jay Gatsby. Sometimes I stop by the store simply to say hello to a blush-colored chiffon mini-dress, hoping that eventually its price will either drop low enough so I can afford it, or that one day I’ll save up $202 to give it a new home in my closet. That’s what separates vintage shopping from thrift store shopping: You’ll be harder pressed to find a deal, and there certainly isn’t a dollar junk bin.
On the plus side, however, the clothing is generally better cared for and doesn’t possess the stains, holes or overpowering mothball scent characteristic of secondhand clothing.
Though these aren’t discount finds, the prices of La France’s formalwear are comparable to that of similar clothing found at Nordstrom or Macy’s. And since La France’s items are vintage, chances are you won’t run into five other girls wearing the same thing at your next party.
However, until my planner gets filled with invitations to upscale soirees – and my pocketbook becomes filled with cash – I’ll have to stick to my current pastime: in-store dream shopping. It’s a lot like window shopping – I wander around the store, gingerly touching the silk gowns, twill coats and Lucite bangles from decades past.
There’s something slightly thrilling in thinking that each item in the store has its own rich history – maybe a woman was proposed to while wearing those Swarovski crystal chandelier earrings. Maybe those silver platform heels once discoed the night away at Studio 54.
Each piece of La France’s clothing carries a story woven right into its fabric, which is half the excitement of the boutique.
REVOLVE | PHOTO LOPEZ
Revolve Clothing Exchange1620 E. Seventh Ave.
Forget winning the World Series or going to Disneyland – I’m convinced there’s no better feeling than finally buying a sweater you’ve adored in store windows for months, at a third of its original retail price. It produces the sort of shopper’s euphoria one only occasionally glimpses, after which the glowing buyer actually rearranges his or her schedule to find the ideal – and most immediate – occasion to wear the newly bought treasure.That feeling can happen at Revolve Clothing Exchange.
Part retail store, part secondhand swap venue, Revolve buys, sells and – you guessed it – exchanges new and used, trendy and vintage clothing. To top it all off, everything is priced at discount rates, so the aforementioned sweater-buying experience is attainable at this venue.
The circular clothing racks in the store are topped with brown Revolve shopping bags decorated with the words “small,” “medium” or “large,” so shoppers may browse items by their size. Used, on-trend frocks mingle here with vintage pieces, so it may take some fine-combing to find that perfect shirt or pair of pants.
Novelty items, such as ladybug scissors and Nancy Drew postcards, are displayed on shelves lining the store. Similarly, empire-waisted, jersey knit dresses by Solaris and other new clothing by local designers adorn Revolve’s walls.
By supporting locally produced clothing and giving old clothes a second life, Revolve focuses on being a socially conscious store. The slogan on Revolve’s MySpace account reads, “Rethink how you shop, recycle your old stuff, remodel what you wear, respect our planet … start a revolution!” And you thought shopping was pure fluff.