Sondra and Travis Aten - Collective Clothing Photo by Jason Dunn
Collective Clothing, the vintage clothing store and love child of owners Sondra and Travis Aten, is celebrating its third anniversary this May. Since they first opened in 2009, the Atens have been travelling the country in search for the perfect pieces to add to their store, which is quaintly nestled at the foot of Lookout Mountain on St. Elmo Ave. Originally inspired by another store of its type, Rag-O-Rama, located in Atlanta, Collective's owners have since then replicated a successful business model that has continued to provide Chattanooga with prime off-the-wall fashions and has become a reputable brand that is cherished and valued by the community. The humble three-person staff has established what the Atens believe to be the reason to the success of the store- being less of a corporate entity and more of a personality.
“I’ve become almost a personal shopper for our cult fans,” said Sondra, “but when you see the western stuff, or rock 'n' roll T-shirts and jean jackets, that’s like my heart on hangers.”
From cut off Guns N' Roses tees, to eight-track tapes and vintage ashtrays, to bold western -tyle button downs, the Atens have stocked their store to be a haven for hipsters, gutter punks and everything in between.
“If you don’t want to ‘Just Do It,’ then don’t wear Nike, she said, “to be fashion forward, you have to be fashion backward.”
In a constant effort to provide their customers with the most affordable prices, part of the Collective Warehouse is used to rack thousands of items, all of which are at a recession-friendly price of a flat five bucks.
However, the Collective duo is not solely dedicated to making sure their regulars have the most hip threads. Last year, the Atens rented a space in a warehouse located on Tennessee Avenue. The younger sibling to Collective Clothing, the Collective Warehouse, now hosts many different types of events including movie screenings, art shows and live music, all of which will continue throughout the summer. Another other part of the warehouse functions as studio space for local artists such as Maranda Stebbins, Brittany Wilkins and Jason Reevs.
“The collective clothing warehouse is a perfect fit for our particular diverse group of creatives,” said Stebbins. “It lends itself brilliantly to all kinds of possibilities for collaborative events and art happenings.”
Stebbins is one of the first of the Collective artists to move into her studio space at the warehouse, and hopes to continue making her infamous “CelebriTEEz,” hand-painted, wearable celebrity portraits that she creates from thrifted clothes found at Collective Clothing.
“We really focus on finding ways to promote art in Chattanooga through all types of means,” said Aten, “the warehouse is a studio space mainly, so most of the time it will give them a place to work but it will also be a place for open houses so the artists can showcase their work, as well as hopefully starting to do art shows with artists outside of the Collective.”
Collective Clothing is also involved in other places around town and online as well. They were vendors at the most recent Chatty Crafty, participators in the Dr. Suess fashion show at the 10x10 art festival, have items on consignment at Leo’s Handmade Gallery and sell their items on eBay.
The store also collaborates with local film club, Mise En Scenesters, who will be presenting “The Truth is in HERE,” with special guest, Pujol, at the Collective Warehouse on Thursday, June 14. Other upcoming events include their “Christmas in July Christmas Karaoke Party,” on July 25, at 9 p.m. A karaoke party in the smack dab of summer that highlights Christmas music and Christmas music only.
Kicking off the summer with their anniversary party, Collective has a variety of many other great events in store for the locals. To keep informed about upcoming events at Collective Clothing and the Collective Warehouse, visit their Facebook page at Facebook.com/collectiveclothing.