Tuesday, March 24, 2015

New clothing store in Schnitzelburg: Vintage Banana rocks your socks off

Brittney and Josh Dunning know how to dress well and stand out in a sea of followers. For their wedding, the bride and groom chose a chapel in Las Vegas — the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel — on Halloween. The chapel ran through 265 weddings on that blessed day, but only the Dunnings defied Vegas Halloween wedding conventions by dressing him in a formal tuxedo and her in a conventionally beautiful dress. They let their dog, a Brussels Griffon named Count Chocula, steal the show in his own custom-made dog tuxedo.

“I’ve always been a connoisseur of vintage clothing,” says Josh, 32. As a younger musician, he was into trendier looks. Touring the country, he picked up vintage pieces along the way. Eventually, he found himself buying clothing that didn’t fit him — or any man — because he appreciated it too much to leave it where he found it. He turned to eBay, where he saw that he could make more money repurposing fashion than in rock ‘n’ roll.

After getting more good responses at the Flea Off Market, with customers inquiring about a store they could visit, the Dunnings decided to leave their jobs — Brittney in retail management, Josh as a bar manager — and try to make a brick-and-mortar store work in real life.

Vintage Banana Clothing opened March 6 in a small, dusty strip mall near St. X, next to the Tim Tam Bar at Poplar Level and Clarks Lane in Schnitzelburg. The Dunnings know the location lacks the foot traffic available on more obvious streets, but for the price, they’re in a well-traveled location close to many local vintage aficionados (including themselves; they live within walking distance). Their closest competition, Fat Rabbit, is on the other side of the neighborhood, a mile and a half away.

“I shop online very little,” Brittney says. “It’s a pain in the ass to ship stuff back if it doesn’t fit … I prefer shopping in an actual brick-and-mortar location, and I think a lot of people are still that way — especially in Louisville, where it’s so geared toward shopping local.”

Josh says it’s hard for them to pinpoint a favorite era in fashion because they love it all, especially from the 1950s through ’90s — the rock’ n’ roll era, roughly. The pair met outside a rock club; she was accompanying her younger brother to a show, and Josh was handing out fliers for his own band. She requested his MySpace friendship. He replied, “Hi?” Soon, they were inseparable.

Today, Josh is all over Louisville, handing out fliers all over again. But this time, he doesn’t have to worry about his place in the future of rock ‘n’ roll. While he’s out getting people to come shop at their store, Brittney works in it, with dog Count as company half the time. (He started out as a full-time presence but hasn’t found true peace there just yet).

Like another new local clothing retailer, Bermuda Highway, Vintage Banana — whose name and logo comes from the Andy Warhol-designed cover of the first Velvet Underground album, a pairing that fits the Dunnings’ aesthetic well (it also refers to a giant stuffed banana Josh won for Brittney at a State Fair that they often bring to parties) — is fueled by rock culture. They stand out primarily through their well-cultivated and stocked selection of classic T-shirts, covering everything from Loverboy to Loretta Lynn (their country music selection comes close to matching their rock options; they are Kentuckians as well as businesspeople).

Even their first day was marked by a visit from country-rock royalty. Shooter Jennings, whose manager had become friendly with the Dunnings, dropped in to see the shop before his Jim Porter’s show that night. One of the new items Vintage Banana carries now is a Shooter tour shirt that spells out something dirty and funny.

“Music makes us happy, and there is something about wearing a shirt with a band that inspired all the bands we hear today,” Josh says. “Those shirts came from a time when rock ‘n’ roll was real and your parents didn’t want you listening to it. That’s the throwback vibe we want to put out.”

Vintage Banana is located at 1016 Clarks Lane. Hours are 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays and noon-6 p.m. Sundays.

c. 2015 Insider Louisville

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