Dynamic. Charming. Eclectic. Classic. Sophisticated. Edgy. These are all words Katie Gore, owner of FOX+CATVINTAGE in Cooper-Young, uses to describe her shop’s collection. “All of FOX+CATVINTAGE’s pieces easily assimilate into a contemporary wardrobe,” she says. “It’s a discerning and constantly evolving collection of hand-selected, one-of-a-kind, quality vintage pieces dating anywhere from the early 1900s to the mid-1990s.”
Katie’s passion for art and vintage fashion is evident and contagious. She has a hard time naming the style of one particular decade as her favorite. “There’s something to love about all decades, but I really love the exquisite glamour of the ’30s. It’s the middle child of the ’20s and the ’40s. I really like the mod prints of the ’60s, and the street wear of the ’80s and ’90s. I love Studio 54 too. I don’t limit myself.”
Not limiting herself is a common theme in Katie’s life both personally and professionally. She was born and raised in Memphis, earned her undergraduate degree in art history at the University of Richmond and then attended graduate school for psychology, where she studied child development for two years. She came to the conclusion, however, that research was not the best fit for her. So, she hit “pause,” took some time to reflect and worked in a restaurant in Jackson, Mississippi, while starting F+CVINTAGE on Etsy.
That was three years ago.
“My mom was instrumental in helping me get started and providing emotional support. Her whole house was full of clothes for several months,” she says, also acknowledging her one employee, Molly Peacher-Ryan. “As far as I’m concerned, Molly was and is part of the foundation that enabled F+C to get where it is today.” Katie took the entrepreneurial leap and opened her brick-and-mortar store in October 2016. The store’s name is based on Katie’s dog Sally — “my ride or die, who is a fox-colored British Lab, and a play on my name,” she says.
Of all places to open F+CVINTAGE, why Memphis and why Cooper-Young? Katie says it’s the magnetism of Memphis. “I’ve always thought that I wanted to get away from Memphis but something about it brought me back,” she says. “I’m connected here. There’s no other city that I feel that attachment to.” And she knew she wanted to be in Cooper-Young because of the neighborhood’s rich history, support of local businesses and its revitalization as a cultural arts center. “There are so many great businesses in the Cooper-Young area — Pavo Salon, Eclectic Eye and the historical landmark, Burke’s Books. I love their warmth, vitality and passion,” she says.
Where and when Katie’s love for vintage fashion ignited is a more challenging question for her to answer. “I don’t exactly know where it came from,” she says. “I’ve always been incredibly passionate about it, ever since I was a kid. I got my undergrad degree in art history and did my thesis on postmodernist fashion photography and the early collaboration between Marc Jacobs and German photographer Juergen Teller. I’ve always loved the fashion industry, but I have no patience to sew and no technical drawing skill, so at the time I didn’t know how I could carve out a career for myself in fashion.”
With F+CVINTAGE, Katie seems to have found her niche in the industry she loves. Her mission is to bring something different to the arts and fashion community of Memphis. “I love vintage, and I want to share it with our city in a way that is accessible,” says Katie. “While I love designer vintage and will continue to grow my collection, it’s important to me to always have a range of price points for customers.”
The pieces in F+CVINTAGE come from “everywhere,” Katie says, but she likes to stay local when it comes to buying new inventory. “There’s a trove of vintage luxe in Memphis: Cathryn Young, Sara Fredericks, Helen of Memphis, Laclede’s, Levy’s, Goldsmith’s, Frances Wright,” she says, waxing rhapsodic. “Just think of all the incredible upscale boutiques and retail landmarks that used to line the sidewalks of Union Avenue and downtown.” Some of her favorite must-have pieces in the store now for summertime are 80s hammered metal chain-link belts; denim mini-jumpers and distressed cut-off jean shorts (“My pick: Wranglers, every time.”); a 50s blue, hand-beaded lace collar; silk chiffon printed gowns; and a 30s circus-animal novelty print, cotton, puff-sleeve gown (“Amazing!”). The most precious vintage find she’s ever discovered for herself? “A gorgeous, drop-waist, red silk Karl Lagerfeld dress.”
Katie consistently pushes herself out of her comfort zone, which is something she likes to inspire in her customers as well. “Art and fashion bring together people from all walks of life. Most people enjoy individuality and style. I try to make F+CVINTAGE as much of a comfort zone as possible so people can feel good breaking out of it if they want to,” she says. “You’re never too old to play dress up.” She advises people not to be afraid to ask questions and not to pay attention to sizes on the labels. “Every decade you go back you’re basically going up a size. Size zeros didn’t even exist until Nicole Miller came along. So, don’t get discouraged. It’s about finding what styles are right for your body type,” says Katie, who helps her clients navigate vintage styling. “There’s something so giddy and fulfilling about personal styling and helping someone find something that they feel beautiful, confident and comfortable in.”
Other undertakings on the horizon are private “Shopping Night Out” events and plans to host community and charity events. She’s planning a “Girls’ Night Out” event later in the spring with local musician Jennifer Burris of the band Crown Vox. “We are going to have a big dress-up party in the store with a group of 15 to 20 women to celebrate the release of new music from Crown Vox. I like connecting with other creative women who are doing their own thing in the community,” says Katie, who relishes artistic collaboration that bridges music, art and fashion. She’s already been working with local Memphis artists and vintage fashion and photography lovers such as Kristin Young and Brent Shrewsbury. “It’s been great working with them. I love the fashion photography part of what I do and creating a look book from a vintage collection. It’s harder than you might think,” she says.
Pushing her own limits and exploring her own edge as the proprietor of F+CVINTAGE has not been without its challenges, but it has brought Katie more fulfillment than she could have imagined. “I built a good, strong foundation before I took the leap. I’ve definitely made mistakes, but I’ve also learned from them.” She adds, “I gave up the need to do everything perfectly a few years ago. I realized it’s okay to not be perfect. Perfection is actually quite boring.”
At the end of the day what Katie enjoys most about vintage fashion is the history of the pieces and the stories surrounding them. “They’re living pieces of history. It’s amazing to have a garment be passed down from generation to generation and have new life breathed into it. I love that the pieces were so well-constructed and have meaning to them. I also appreciate recycling something, versus producing something new,” she says. “These are quality, designer pieces without the hefty price tag. To put a vintage piece into the hands of someone who will love it and appreciate it makes me feel really good.”
Thank you to Katie Gore for the images of FOX+CATVINTAGE’s fabulous clothing and jewelry!
FOX+CATVINTAGE is located at 2153 Central Ave., Memphis, TN 38104. Hours are Mondays, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; closed on Sundays. For more information, call (901) 409-6117 or visit foxandcatvintage.com.
Want more local fashion news? Visit StyleBlueprint’s Memphis Fashion & Shopping page for the latest store highlights and finds.