the interview: Erin Weckerle from Sodafine

erinsodafine.jpg Sometimes when I’m supposed to be doing productive stuff like making money or dealing with the zillion or so promo CDs currently building a scary fortress betwixt me and the rest of my apartment, I end up fawning over chunky-heeled jade maryjanes and organic cotton veggie-dyed indigo jeans and other precious things featured in Sodafine’s online shop. The impeccably tasted curator of said shop is Erin Weckerle, who’s especially fond of handmade, vintage, and eco-friendly goods and has run her Williamsburg boutique (one of the top five reasons why I’d very much like to develop an invisible aircraft that provides hyperspeed-fast travel from L.A. to New York) solo for a little over two years now. She’s also the reason why I’m currently in the midst of a weird Linda Ronstadt obsession, which you’ll find out more about below – along with Erin’s picks for her favorite indie designers, Brooklyn boutiques, and New Zealand pop bands.
Tell us all about how you started Sodafine. I started Sodafine back in Philadelphia with a couple of my friends from art school in late 2002. We were in the backroom of this great shop, Vagabond. It was kind of a spontaneous thing: I was selling my handknits at Vagabond, and one day, when I stopped in to see how they were doing, the owners asked if I would be interested in doing something with the backspace. I was working at a record store, and as a tourguide at an abandoned prison, and dj-ing around town at the time, so it seemed like a good opportunity to try out being my own boss without much risk or financial investment. Once I realized that this was something I really liked doing, and could do well, Sodafine moved to Brooklyn in 2004 to have our own storefront.
What was your original vision for the store? How do you go about deciding what to sell? Sodafine started out selling mostly vintage clothing with bits and pieces of handmade items made by myself and my then-partners, and it grew from there. We started selling more of our friends’ work, and word-of-mouth brought more and more indie designers. I choose items and designers that have a quirky take on fashion, but also pay attention to details and craftsmanship. I’m not that interested in specific trends or designer names. I carry quite a bit of lines that utilize eco-fabrics, and to me, that’s an extension of caring about craftmanship: being concerned about how clothing is made, and by whom, and how everything we do is a part of the big picture.
Who are some of your favorite fashion designers? Feral Childe, Bahar Shahpar, Camilla Norrback, Myth & Ritual, and for the big names I usually like James Coviello, Anna Sui, Chloe, Tsumori Chisato. Zandra Rhodes and Biba are my old-school favorites.
Who are your style idols? Maybe some mix of Jennifer Herrema, Anna Karina, Goldie Hawn in Shampoo, Eva Hesse, Stone Poneys-era Linda Ronstadt, Miranda July.
stoneponeys.jpg Whose closet would you most like to raid? Show Pony owner Kime Buzzelli‘s. You know she must have the most killer vintage dresses in there!
Who are your favorite bands/musicians? I love New Zealand pop! Like The Cannanes, Tall Dwarfs, The Clean, The Verlaines, Alastair, Galbraith. But I have a pretty expansive music appetite. Lately on heavy rotation: Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, Howling Hex, White Magic, Harry Nilsson, His Name Is Alive, Las Malas Amistades, Dog Faced Hermans, New Sound of Numbers, The Long Blondes
What music do you like to listen to when primping? Roxy Music
Name one record you loved when you were a little kid that you still listen to today. Pink Floyd The Wall. “Another Brick in the Wall” was my first favorite song – my dad used to listen the The Wall (on eight track!) continuously.
What music do you like to play in the shop? It’s a random shuffle all day – I like to keep it pretty upbeat and I try not to play too much crazy-noisy/borderline offensive stuff. Sometimes I have to run up to the stereo when the iPod lands on Throbbing Gristle or something like that!
What are some of your favorite clothing shops (around town or in the whole wide world)? In Brooklyn: Mandate of Heaven has some amazing handmade party dresses, In God We Trust has a very clear vision of their aesthetic, and Dear Fieldbinder has a magical (and dangerous) way with making you feel like dropping $300 or $400 is a perfectly natural thing to do. When I go back to Philly (my boyfriend still lives there), I always stop in at Vagabond. I love browsing CUT + PASTE, Le Train Bleu, Creatures of Comfort, and Seaplane online.
chiemiharanami.jpg What’s your favorite clothing item lately? My Chie Mihara Namis [left]. I wear them almost every day.
Any advice for girls/boys out there dreaming of opening their own shop? You don’t need a ton of money to start, but you’re going to have to work hard! Be realistic about your goals and start at a level that you can handle and slowly build from that as you learn more and refine your vision. There are tons of forums and blogs for people starting their own businesses, read them! Or pick up some small business guides from your local bookstore.
What’s your favorite thing about running Sodafine? Definitely the relationships I’ve developed with designers I carry, and with other shop owners in my neighborhood and beyond. They keep me inspired and we support each other, and that’s an amazing thing!