When you think of ‘90s fashion, which sneaker comes to mind?
This is the exact question Jair Barbour asked herself when customizing the dressing room in her startup shop, UNLUVD Boutique.
“I thought, how about we make it a shoebox?” says Barbour, explaining the bright blue, box-shaped fitting room with the iconic three white stripes slapped across the door. “I wanted my store to be more than just white walls and endless rows of clothing racks. I wanted to stand out.”
As a Richmond native, Jair Barbour attended college at Virginia State University, pursuing a career in psychology. All the while, and with a growing closet overflow, she collected an inventory of never-been-worn and hardly-ever-worn apparel, selling it all out of her garage through EBay.
“It started with Michael Kors bags and that lead into everything else,” says Barbour, showing us the perfect example of classic consumerism- buying things we think we want but end up rarely ever using. While it may be just a “girl thing”, Jair Barbour took it up few notches turning “it’s just a girl” thing into an, “it’s just the dopest shop in Richmond” thing.
UNLUVD boutique opened for business this September 2018, right on time for the fall return of Virginia Commonwealth University students. Located at 701 West Cary Street next to Monroe Park in the heart of campus, the boutique provides the broadest variety of clothing, easy to satisfy the tremendous melting pot of style and personality throughout the VCU student population.
While maintaining a constant inflow of unique and exciting retail, customers are offered a vast array of merchandise stretching from today’s modern market all the way back in time to the most one-of-a-kind vintage pieces, planting the ultimate theme for the store’s retro roots. UNLUVD Boutique digs up some truly extraordinary old-school garments, reviving the funkiest forgotten styles and brands from the streetwear-centered age of hip-hop and Michael Jordan.
Classic tee’s and hoodies, leather jackets, neons, metallics, distressed denim, fresh sneakers, vintage watches and bags- I’m all there. A trip to UNLUVD Boutique and you’re guaranteed to walk out, arms heavy. Barbour has done much more than create a simple shop-around store; rather, she has produced the ultimate customer experience, expressing an explosive compilation of culture with the most heightened sense of creativity.
UNLUVD evokes intense ‘90s nostalgia, everywhere from the pink painted walls lined with neon lights and splattered graffiti to aesthetic additions of gold chain balloons, Fresh Prince and Tupac portraits, old pay-phones, stereos, TVs, and even a basketball hoop. That’s not to mention the subway themed bathroom, Nintendo gaming system (for customers to play while shopping), photobooth, and let’s not forget the Adidas shoebox fitting room.
Enter the boutique only to find a metal gate door leading you into the shopping section; which as explained by Barbour, was inspiration pulled from their first summer weeks exposed to the Gladding Residence Center and Monroe Park construction. With all that said we still have only scratched the surface of UNLUVD Boutique’s depth and design, and for those who have never been, it will surely exceed your expectations.
So especially as such a quaint start-up shop, why put so much investment into all this extra stuff?
“I want my store to be a place where people feel comfortable to come in, shop, take pictures, and hang out,” expresses Barbour, her tone reflecting her chill, genuine personality. Barbour emphasizes how much she already admires the loyalty of VCU students to their campus businesses.
Appealing to and developing relationships with the locals is her utmost goal seeing the future of UNLUVD play forward. A lot of talk about teamwork came into our conversation, as she stressed the importance of people in the fashion industry, and all in general, working together in order to achieve success and make an impact.
Aside from all the fun, she also purposes her store as a stage to help promote all brands and designers, including small local ones, in hopes of boosting every business and helping them to thrive. “That’s what I think I love most about the nineties,” Barbour explains. “There was a stronger sense of unity and togetherness. Everything was family oriented and themed around teamwork. I want my store to be a place where anyone can come in and feel welcome to do their thing.”
What I find most fascinating about today’s generation is our infatuation with the past and times that never belonged to us. I never experienced the 1990’s as Jair Barbour and others before me were able to, yet I still felt overwhelming contentment and sentimentality when treading through her whimsical wonderland of a shop.
With passion and intentions so bold and pure, this boutique has given me an optimistic outlook on the future of fashion and its evolving industry, as creative naturals like Jair Barbour are surely essential in improving its direction. For a shop called UNLUVD, they sure have a lot of love to give. So take a break today, head over to this red-hot spot, and dive into a different decade. Bring your friends, shop around, play some games, and take some photos! Their door is always open.