New Normal Apparel, located in Jackson Ward, completely embodies one of Richmond’s most popular phrases “Made in RVA.” This eccentric boutique provides not only high quality sustainable fashion, but is also a part of the non-profit world. Collaborating with local artistry, New Normal Apparel is first in delivering modern and domestic textiles of all kinds.
Name: Kelley Blanchard, Walker Wood and Geneva Sessums
Role: Co-Founder & Executive Creative Director, Co-Founder & Executive Director of Merchandising and Head Cut & Sew Designer
CollegeFashionista: How did New Normal come about?
NNT: New Normal Apparel launched in December 2013 after months of preparation of finding the space, branding the company, sourcing and producing Made in USA tees and then launching our first line of casual street and active wear printed with eco-friendly inks. The idea to start an eco-friendly, made in USA apparel company came from our CEO Anil Rathore who approached Kelley Blanchard in mid 2013 with the idea of starting the company together along with Walker Wood, Raequel White, and Tony Dhillon. In April 2014, Geneva Sessums joined our team so we could launch our first line of sustainable cut and sew knitwear for women. Over the past year, we have expanded our line to feature a dozen local artists by printing their artwork on our apparel, adding to our collection of cut and sew, launching a New Normal jewelry collection as well as accessories like tote bags, change purses and handcrafted wooden sunglasses.
CF: What makes New Normal so unique?
NNT: New Normal is unique in that it is much more than your average retail model. Our studio duels as a gallery and retail space where we feature different artists’ work and host RVA First Friday gallery shows each month. Having a retail space, gallery and studio all in one creates an uncommon shopping experience in which the customer can see the screen printing and sewing process as they shop local apparel and artwork. We are also redefining the norm with our idea of sourcing and producing locally. Each one of our products is made from 100 percent American materials on the east coast and we work with local Richmond artists to create apparel that is inspired by the city we love. We pride ourselves on giving back by collaborating with local non-profits and Richmond businesses to help grow the community as we grow.
CF: What was your favorite trend from this past fall/winter?
NNT: Layers! Mixing lengths and textures, patterned knits, cozying up in comfortingly soft chunky scarves and long skirts.
CF: What trends are you looking forward to this season?
NNT: Cool pastels, black and white abstract graphics and basics with a quirky twist. Our brand is all about basics, so this spring and summer is going to be great for us.
CF: What about New Normal makes it so geared towards the people of RVA?
NNT: Each month we release a different RVA tee designed by a local artist. Each artist has a unique style so we like to think we have something for everyone. The people of Richmond love to represent and there is a lot of pride in this small city! Along with our RVA tees we carry handmade Tote Bags and Change Purses printed with our favorite saying “Made in RVA”. We keep present in the Richmond community by hosting gatherings at our store and participating in events around the city. When the weather is nice you can be sure to find us popped up at the South of the James farmers market or outside of one of our favorite stores in Carytown. You can also find our Richmond merchandise at other local retailers like Ellwood Thompsons, Ashby, Whole Foods—Short Pump and Franklin Goose. The people of Richmond are more inclined to want a piece of clothing if they have a personal connection to whom, where, and how it was made and we want to support that.
CF: Can you describe the aesthetic of the store?
NNT: Our store has a repurposed industrial chic aesthetic. We have hand made pipe & flange racks and shelving as well as up-cycled wooden spool tables. Our windows are filled with glass chandeliers hand crafted by artist Sean Donlon and our double doors open up to a repurposed bike wheel jewelry instillation. Our gallery is ever changing with different artists’ work to keep the space fresh and interesting. Along with our own merchandise, we carry a variety of other local makers goods including 5 panel hats by Square Trade Goods, soy candles by APOTHEC and seven local jewelry artists work. Our space represents our mission of collaborating with the Richmond community and sourcing and producing locally.
Learn More: To sign up for New Normal Apparel’s newsletter or find out what events they will be showcasing at next check out their website.