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model.citizen

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The local fashion scene has been picking up steam again the past couple of years.  Giving one store a chance to thrive after so many others have been lost to development deals.

--- Model.Citizen has been making a mark on East Broadway for over a year and a half now, giving local fashion a place to flourish and customers a new haven after the slow destruction of Sugar House.  Offering some of the finest the state has to offer, as well as national products that are sweat shop free.  I popped in to take some pictures and got a chance to chat with owner Matt Monson about his store and where its come, thoughts on local wear and the scene in general, and a few other questions that came up.  I also saw a hat that might work with the long curls...

Matt Monson

http://www.myspace.com/modelcitizenslc

Gavin:
Hey Matt, first off, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Matt: I'm a big fan of finding the interesting in the ordinary. It doesn't take much to keep me entertained, just as long as I don't have to stay focused. I have one of those brains that thinks in shapes and colors, not necessarily words and numbers. I guess that's good why I own my own store. A lot of like-minded people end up going in to something for themselves I think for the same reasons. When I'm not scurrying around Model.Citizen, I like to ride my bike, snowboard, explore buildings and alleyways, and watch trains and stuff like any other Salt Laker.

Gavin: For those who don't know, what is Model.Citizen?

Matt: Model.Citizen is a guys and girls' clothing & gift boutique featuring unique and affordable clothing, accessories, locally-produced fashions and jewelry, shoes, and art. We specialize in local designers, and feature more local labels (27) than any other store in the city, as far as I'm aware. Shopper favorites are the colorful Lake Of Salt  canvas shoes ($20!), Ultra v-neck Ts, and Nappi Denim.

Gavin: Where did the idea come from to start up the store?

Matt:
It was born out of frustration with working day after day in a cubicle in the corporate world. I was a graphic designer after leaving college, but I quickly found that although I loved design, corporate work environments and I mix like liberals and Utah County. It was a no go. So I got the itch to do my own thing. At the time, Salt Lake just lost a slew of shops in Sugar House, and there was a pretty large void for unique clothes for the 20-somethings, especially at a reasonable price. So, Model.Citizen was born.

Gavin: What drew you to Broadway for the location?

Matt:
NoBrow Coffee and SlowTrain Records. There wasn't really much else on the block at the time, but I figured the all-important seeds of a good coffee shop and record store were in place, so this neighborhood was on the ups.

Gavin: Was it difficult getting set up, or did things roll on pretty easily?

Matt:
Doing things on your own is never easy. But the hardest part was just getting started. After I got the paperwork filed and a business plan laid out, the spark was lit and I got along motivated by the dream of pursuing the dream of small business.

Gavin:
You started up in May of 2007. How was that first month being open?

Matt:
Awesome. There was such a void in the clothing boutique market at the time. We really got a lot of support from local shoppers, who have kept us in business since.

Gavin: Something a lot of people may not know is that all the stuff you sell is sweatshop free. Was that a business decision from the start, and how has it affected you as a business owner both good and bad?

Matt:
Well, it means I have to be picky with the labels we carry, which sometimes means not making the mark-up or being able to sell at as low of a price as our corporate competition, but that's something I can live with, even if it means struggling to keep the business thriving. The best way to avoid sweat-shop clothing, or heavy carbon footprints from Chinese products, is to buy local labels, clothing made right here in Salt Lake City.

Gavin:
While we're on the topic of locally made products, how did you go about finding them for the store, and how well do they do?

Matt:
Local labels are our mainstay product. We don't make a ton of money on them, but it sustains local artists, and is a main reason people will come shop our store. It's what differentiates me from Urban Outfitters and other corporate competition. Plus, local labels are at least twice as rad as their corporate competition, and are often a lot cheaper, and have limited production, that keeps your look original.

Gavin: Speaking of which, what are your thoughts on the local fashion scene, both good and bad?

Matt:
I know I own a clothing store, but honestly don't consider myself a fashion critic. I dress expressively, which means on any one day I may look quite the Dapper Dan, or like a total slob. I think that goes for a lot of Salt Lake, and I like that. I think that's what makes Salt Lake style stand out from other cities. We're a good lookin' town because kids stay creative, and don't tend to get pulled in to any particular school of fashion. My store inventory reflects that.

Gavin:
You take part in Fashion Stroll every few months. How did you get involved with that?

Matt:
It was just another hair-brained idea I hatched with Kenny Riches from the Kayo Gallery about a year and a half ago. We just wanted to create a Gallery Stroll for the city's other artists: fashion designers. There's a lot of them here in SLC, cutting their teeth, and they're really creating some great stuff. Fashion Stroll is a good forum for that. Our next one will be Spring Fashion Stroll on the 17th of April, 2009.

Gavin: What's your take on Fashion Stroll and its impact on the scene?

Matt:
I think it's really brought a lot of attention to local clothing, and has given small designers a chance to get known, and bigger designers a chance to get more established, to the point where there are many local labels that have excellent name recognition and appeal city-wide. I get orders for local label clothing weekly from all over the place. This week I sent an order of spray-painted Obama shirts to Texas and a pair of LOS shoes to a customer in California.

Gavin: Another event you take part in is Gallery Stroll, which very few clothing stores do. Why did you choose to take part?

Matt:
I'm just a huge fan of art, and that's a big part of East Broadway, so it just seemed natural. Model.Citizen is a great venue for emerging artists, and I think it adds a lot to the store.

Gavin:
What do you think of the Gallery Stroll and how it's evolved over time?

Matt:
I miss Pierpont. Greedy developers have ruined a lot of the best parts of Salt Lake, but I think the re-emergence of Gallery Stroll on East Broadway and in other areas of the city is proof of the SLC's resilience, and a good sign of where we're going.

Gavin: While we're on the topic, what are your thoughts on the local art scene, both good and bad?

Matt: I'm really loving the young art scene in SLC. I don't get out for Strolls as much as I used to, now that I'm stuck in the store, but I've been really impressed with Kayo and NoBrow's seemingly infinite supply of amazing artists. And I'm really excited to see the addition of the gig-poster shop, Signed & Numbered, below SlowTrain, which has always had great shows too. This whole street is brimming with A-Grade local artists.

Gavin:
Being a part of the downtown area, what are your thoughts on surviving as a local business right now?

Matt:
Ha ha. You have successfully tapped in to the topic of which I spend most my time thinking. Right now is a really hard time for all local business, especially on East Broadway, because we attract the college kids and twenty-somethings, and they're feeling the economy pinch hard right now too. So the strategy is to pull together, try to support each other as businesses, and encourage our friends and community to shop local.

Gavin:
Anything you think could be done to better the situation?

Matt: Try to spend $100 of your Holiday shopping budget at locally-owned businesses. These days, you're voting with your shopping dollars. What do you want your community to look like in 5 years? Shopping locally will help preserve our local culture.

Gavin: What can we expect from you and the store the rest of the year and going into next?

Matt:
We hope to pull in a constant rotation of new local product and some great Christmas gifts. Also, we'll be featuring some great new artists at Gallery Strolls and keeping things fresh and titillating for shoppers.

Gavin:
Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

Matt: Yes yes. Come by this Friday night, the 21st, for Gallery Stroll to see return of Jannicke Swing, a Park City artist with a flair for the paintbrush and big, colorful pieces. Awesome Show. Also, make sure to stop by for Holidays on Broadway, Friday, December 5th for all the local Christmas shopping you can shake a stick at.

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