The word is out about Richmond’s increasingly sophisticated dining culture, endless river-centric activities and expanding arts influence. What will we be known for next? Let’s start with one of our favorite pastimes: shopping. Besides malls, big box stores and well-known boutiques, the Richmond area is home to a variety of shops that specialize in ethnic or multicultural fashion and accessories. You can take a trip around the world by visiting the many stores that carry clothing, accessories and beauty items imported from or inspired by a melange of cultures and countries.
Shakoor’s Merchandise co-owner Mahasin Shakoor (Photo by Ash Daniel)
The African Experience
The downtown arts district is the nerve center of Richmond’s African-American community and its history. When you walk into Shakoor’s Merchandise (319 N. Second St.) in Jackson Ward, you might feel as if you’ve stepped onto foreign soil. The aromas of its extensive collection of exotic oils envelop the store, which is filled with ornate beaded necklaces, traditional African clothing and art. Walk a block west to Elegba Folklore Society (101 E. Broad St.) and you’ll find African and African-American art and artifacts. In addition to viewing regular rotating exhibitions, you can browse among memorabilia, books, jewelry, clothing, home décor, textiles, body butters, oils, incense and more. For more African-inspired fashion, hair and beauty, visit Queen African House (1611 W. Broad St.) in the Fan District, Afrikongo (3302 Williamsburg Road) in the East End’s Supreme Flea Market and Mintcha Braiding House at Chesterfield Towne Center (11500 Midlothian Turnpike).
Love This partners Rupa Singh (left) and Amber Lantz (Photo by Jay Paul)
For the People
You can find one of Richmond’s newest boutiques, Love This, on wheels. The duo driving the renovated RV carry found items in addition to brands like Sseko Designs and 31 Bits, both of which employ women in Uganda to develop and create stylish accessories. You can shop online and find its daily location at lovethisrva.com. AlterNatives is a social enterprise launched by the Highland Support Project. Its Carytown store (3320 W. Cary St.) offers detailed patina jewelry and other high quality artisan accessories and clothing. Profits support Highland Maya women widowed by political violence in Guatemala. A few blocks east on the opposite side of the street in Carytown is Ten Thousand Villages (3201 W. Cary St.) The store stocks colorful jewelry and scarves collected by one of the largest fair trade organizations in the world. Ten Thousand Villages features artisan items from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. Henrico County-based Alden Skirts’ signature design is available in nearly 20 different patterns and textures. Single women in impoverished countries make the mini-skirts, and a portion of the proceeds benefit the World Pediatric Project, a nonprofit that treats critically ill children. You can find the skirts at Nellie George (4714 Grove Ave.) and online at aldenskirts.bigcartel.com. The Multicultural Marketplace, which was set to move in January from West Hundred Road to the Breckenridge Shopping Center (12806 Jefferson Davis Highway) in Chester, also specializes in fair-trade scarves, jewelry and bags from 30 countries.
From the East
Shop for ethnic Indian designer dresses, sarees, skirts, kurtis and long tunics at BNJ Fashions by appointment at their store at 4448 Willow Run Terrace in Glen Allen, where you’ll also find accessories such as handbags, purses and jewelry. If you like ordering your clothes like you pick up dinner, visit H&R Fashion and Gifts in Regency Square Mall (1404 N. Parham Road). The store carries traditional Islamic and Indian clothing from burkas to sandals, and if you order online from hnrfashion.com, you can pick up your items within 30 minutes. Just want to stay at home? Laxmi Fashions, based in Richmond, features ethnic Indian jewelry and fashion on its Etsy shop (etsy.com/shop/laxmifashions).
Planning a wedding with Scottish or Irish flair? Celtic Colours (1316 Gaskins Road) carries a large selection of Celtic jewelry, wedding bands and kilts for rent. The store also imports Irish sweaters, ruanas, scarves, Irish caps and leather belts. Its selection of traditional Celtic items is vast and can be amplified when you shop online at celticcolours.com. If your heritage begs for more, save time in October for the Central Virginia Celtic Festival & Highland Games, which features dozens of Celtic artisans, designers and brands every year at the Richmond Raceway Complex.
Secondhand fans, rejoice. Vintage and consignment stores are well represented in Richmond. If you’re hunting for a more diverse selection, start with what may seem an obvious choice by name, Diversity Thrift (1407 Sherwood Ave.). In addition to your next furniture redeux project, you’ll find one of Richmond’s largest collections of secondhand clothes, with finds from decades past and cultures that are seas away. Addison Handmade and Vintage (103 S. Addison St.), though much smaller, has an equally varied selection. Its tightly curated collection of clothes and accessories range from vintage suede skirts to dashikis. Feeling like getting in touch with your inner rebel? Visit Rumors Vintage Boutique in the youthful Virginia Commonwealth University neighborhood (723 W. Broad St.). Rumors carries a variety of South African, Colombian and Japanese brands in addition to racks of punk-chic secondhand styles.
This sampling of shopping destinations represents only a fraction of the impressive entrepreneurial fashion businesses — from boutiques on wheels to web-based fashion brands — that the region incubates. Richmond’s diverse history and culture shows one of its best sides in these shops that draw loyal customers and offer a sense of community. Next time you want to appease your travel bug or reconnect with your roots, take a trip down the road. You might find what you’re looking for right here in River City.