A movement has been building for some time in Richmond. The city has become globally known for its creative talent pool and has proven fertile ground for startups and entrepreneurs. Industries such as technology, music, food, crafts, advertising and more have taken root and created a community to sustain them.
Though VCU’s Fashion Design and Merchandising school is anchored in the city center and brands like Ledbury and Need Supply have set up home base here, Richmond has yet to become known for its position in the world of fashion. Not many VCU graduates decide to pursue fashion-related careers in Richmond. For those that stick around, the opportunity to build a community is what compels them to stay put. Bree Davis is one of them.
This article was featured in RVAMag #29: Summer 2017. You can read all of issue #29 HERE or pick it up at local shops around RVA right now.
Davis: has a fine arts degree with a focus in photography. She’s one of a few working fashion photographers in the city. Davis has opened her own studio in the Fan last year. Here, she’s has built a business working with Richmond based boutiques including Mod & Soul and Tailor, up and coming brands like Stitch and Urban Mint Couture, skincare brand Mac’s Smack, as well as local musicians. A growing network of stylists, make-up stylists, and artists round out a rolodex of professionals she brings together to create magic and build a community. We sat down with Davis recently to talk about her inspiration, her path, and her vision for Richmond.
Wilson: Why photography?
Davis: This story starts a long time ago. When I was younger, if one of my siblings or I was interested in a hobby, my mom tried to get us all involved somehow to save money and bring us closer. My sister got into modeling. I went to a photoshoot with her. I knew right away I didn’t want to be in front of the camera. I helped the photographer that day, though. I held the reflector and had so much fun being behind the scenes. I started to do photos for my friends in high school. By the time I was applying for college, I knew this is what I loved and what I wanted to do. VCU was the only in-state school I applied to and I got in, thankfully.
Wilson: How did VCU shape you and your craft?
Davis: I didn’t know about the foundations courses I needed to take for my degree. I had never taken art classes before. I had to take sculpture, painting, drawing and more. I had to do something that was really foreign to me. I really gained a lot from doing all-nighters with people who were really good at things that I’m not good at. It was an intense year of being surrounded and learning what fine arts really meant. I think learning the fine arts perspective of photography helped me be a more well-rounded photographer. I have a more inclusive take on what I want to shoot. I also slow down and hone in on details and design more than others might.
Wilson: When did you start actually working as a photographer?
Davis: I always had freelance work. I would shoot for architect firms, do portraits for the school, quick photoshoots for apparel and brands or just assist people with their shoots.
Wilson: When did fashion photography become a career interest?
Davis: Matt Licari was a really important person for me. He was in Richmond for a couple years during my junior and senior years at VCU. He specializes in fashion photography. He spoke on a panel and I knew I wanted to pick his brain. I started helping him with shoots in Richmond and in New York. I would do anything from hold lights and reflectors, to work with stylists on hand and help spot details. I’d even stop traffic for his photos.
Wilson: Did VCU help bring fashion and photography together for you?
Davis: I would have loved it if there was a fashion element to that major. The only thing we had was a studio class where I learned about lighting and back drops, which is how a lot of fashion photography takes place. I also took a Fashion for Beginners class as an art elective. I’d love to see a fashion photography course or series of courses. Once you learn it, you understand that it’s a skill in and of itself.
Wilson: What makes Richmond different than other cities known for fashion and where many graduates wind up migrating)?
Davis: There’s not a crazy large fashion market here, yet. People are still more likely to hit the internet or the malls for what they want. You can see pockets of the growing community though. I think the First Friday’s area has become known as a fashion area with boutiques popping up and becoming successful. That is really great, but I think we need to see more of that as a community. We have to make an effort to get out and shop at their stores more. You can even shop local stores online instead of a more big box version. There is an opportunity for businesses to expand more if we as consumers support them before they decide to relocate elsewhere.
Wilson: How can these businesses expand and grow from their home base in Richmond?
Davis: We’ve all proven here that we can use the power of the internet to reach new markets. Lots of businesses are doing it. Round Two has opened a second location in Los Angeles and Utmost has grown a large following online. More and more we have great shop owners who are well educated and ahead of the trends. They’ll provide more and more competition for other places doing the same thing and it will grow. It’s going to happen here eventually.
Wilson: Who have you worked with here in Richmond lately?
Davis: Recently, I shot Tailor’s summer line. She has a great group of girls and it’s obvious they are all genuinely excited about the clothing they are modeling. It’s cool to see that the girls she uses as models are her customers, too. I’m working with Chanel G. of Stitch to create images to revamp her website. She just finished RVA Fashion Week and has a lot of energy. She’s going to make some of the pieces she showed there buyable. We worked to create a cohesive lookbook and shoppable site. I’m working with a high schooler behind Urban Mint Couture. She is killin’ it in the entrepreneur game. I just love seeing people, especially young people, hustle and sacrifice for their career to start something for themselves and their community. When people show up, I want to give them 100% of my time and mind and I want them to know how excited and thankful I am to be doing what I love to do every day.
See more from Bree Davis HERE
Liberatus Jewelry Debuts First Collection At Quirk Gallery
Jewelry designer Ginny Rush launched her jewelry brand Liberatus a year ago, named after the Latin word for “freed” or “liberated.”
“I like giving people the freedom to express themselves through jewelry,” Rush said. I like to think I start the story and my customers finish it. I love what I create, but then people ding up rings and kink necklaces. They live life in it and it becomes theirs.”
Rush, who works days at the Shops at 5807, spends the rest of her time at her studio creating commissioned pieces and developing lines of jewelry that feature minimalist shapes and structures. She has successfully grown her business online, on the shelves of local boutiques, and during festivals.
Local boutique Mod & Soul carries earrings from Liberatus and Rush created an exclusive collection of jewelry for Richmond-based online boutique Tailor. Quirk had seemed like a “far off dream” when she started Liberatus. “I remember telling my fiancé that when I have my pieces in Quirk, I will have made it,” Rush said.
A year later, Quirk is now carrying 15 Liberatus Jewelry items including stacking rings, men’s tie bars, her new copper tube necklace collection and studs that comprise her “piece of pieces” collection. She works primarily with sterling silver, copper, and brass, which are all ethically sourced. Rush is working with local blogger Kelly LaFerriere of The Good Wear to revamp her studio practices to dispose of chemicals and more.
Find more HERE
Mac’s Smack, A Socially Conscious Skincare Brand Launches First Beauty Collection
MacKenzie Payne calls herself a product junkie. Since she could remember, she was making trips to the drug store to try on new lip gloss colors and foundations. After her first son was born, she became interested in eating an organic diet, growing her own food, and paying extra attention to what she put on her skin.
“I was taken aback by what was in the products we were using on our own bodies,” Payne said. “I decided I could come up with skincare and beauty products from items right in my own kitchen.”
Payne embarked on an intensive research mission, reading labels, talking with skincare and organic lifestyle experts, and experimenting with ingredients to create what became Mac’s Smack. The brand carries lip balms, body butters, facial serums and cleansers. This May, Mac’s Smack launched its first collection of beauty products featuring a trio of tinted lip balms, a highlighter balm, shimmering body oil and hydrating tonic which can be used to help set makeup.
“The whole premise of the new line is ‘How can we enhance the beauty that we already have and take care of our skin?’” Payne said. “I personally have started wearing less makeup and am working on trying to be okay with that. I want to embrace the true beauty we all carry with us.”
In addition to the website, the new Mac’s Smack beauty line is available in Sweetest Stitch boutique, five local Whole Foods stores, Mod & Soul boutique, Ellwood Thompson’s, Little Greenhouse Grocery, Pure Barre, Bliss 5812, Parlor Salon, and more. Payne said she ships to customers as far as Germany, India, and Afghanistan.
“We’re on the cusp of a new way in cosmetics and beauty,” Payne said. “We want to help make products that are true and pure without a bunch of chemicals and make them accessible to everyone.”
Find more HERE
Love This Turns Two and Launches Local Collaborations
The fashion and beauty industries don’t have a very good reputation for being sustainable or ecofriendly. As a consumer, it’s difficult to access the limited amount of socially conscious products available because of high price points and availability. Rupah Singh and Amber Lantz decided to bring affordable handmade and fair-trade goods right to Richmond by way of their silver 1969 Airstream Globetrotter. The duo first began pulling up to customers for business during the Good Day RVA Festival in 2015. They plan to revisit the good Day RVA Festival on June 3 this year to celebrate the second anniversary of Love This.
“Since we opened, we’ve been expanding the line of items we carry,” Singh said. “We used to carry mostly jewelry and now we carry more apparel, shoes, kid and baby clothing and people are responding.”
Love This has become more than a place to find unique items for Richmonders, it’s also become a vehicle for conversations about sustainability according to Singh. “Everyone wants to know how they can make a difference,” she said. “We help show them that they can make a big difference by making small decisions about where they buy their clothing and more.”
Singh recently spoke at Creative Mornings, a series of breakfast talks throughout the city. By educating the community, Rupah feels she can empower more people to make a living from creating products that are sustainable, including local makers.
Love This has launched three new collaborations with local companies who have created items exclusively for sale at Love This. Each product from these collaborations will give 10% back to a nonprofit.
Lightbox Print Co. developed a “She Believed She Could So She Did” tote bag in honor of International Women’s Day and Bulb-e Vases developed a line of ceramic vases for Love This. Singh also reached out to Bethany Frazier of Maven Made, local skincare line known for serums and essential oil products.
“I have been using Maven Made’s facial serum for a while now and I thought Bethany would make a great collaboration partner,” Singh said. “I asked her to create a fragrance that would represent a woman who is confident and believes in herself.”
The final product is the Powerful Babe Fragrance Oil featuring ingredients like lavender, rose, cardamom, and ylang ylang.
Find more HERE