UT alumnae Courtney and Brooke Calhoun never expected fashion to bring them back to Austin, but their recent success has them making plans to set up shop downtown permanently.
The Austin-native Calhoun sisters run Tribe For the Masses, a pop-up shop located on Congress Avenue that showcases a collection of assorted high fashion items cultivated from designers all over, including some of Austin’s local talents.
Originally, they planned to move the shop to different places around various cities for short periods of time.
“I am less enamored with that idea as time passes just because it has been such a good thing to be in Austin,” Courtney Calhoun said.
Thanks to the store’s success at its current location, the sisters are looking to set up in Austin for good.
Both Calhoun sisters pursued work in fashion, exploring different jobs and style cultures from all over. After years of moving around, the Calhouns were ready for something new. In 2012, the sisters were set up above Royal Blue Groceries on Congress Avenue from November through December. Once the lease was up, Courtney Calhoun returned to New York until she decided it was time she come back and focus all of her energy on Tribe.
“We started because we wanted to do a creative project together and on our own terms,” Courtney Calhoun said. “I needed a change of pace, I missed my sister and, you know, it’s Austin.”
Part of the sisters’ main goal with this endeavor is to help emerging Austin designers get their names heard.
“There are so many creative people in this city, and it can be quite overwhelming to get your product out there, and so we want to champion the underdog,” Courtney Calhoun said.
Through family, friends, old co-workers and websites such as Etsy, the sisters scoped out Austin vendors to supply their shop. Myra Naylor, UT alumna and owner of a small clothing business named Dakota’s Vintage in Austin, is in her second year of business with Tribe.
“It’s good for us and it’s good for them,” Naylor said. “They’ve got a good eye for what people are looking for.”
While the majority of their products come directly from Austin designers, the Calhouns also work to bring in pieces from their favorite places as well, such as New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans.
“The whole idea is that when you come to our store, you’re seeing things that you can’t find anywhere else,” Courtney Calhoun said. “Especially in this sort of assortment.”
Encouraged by the success that the pop-up had this December, the Calhouns were able to keep it running through January and will possibly remain open in their current location through February, depending on what the business permits.
“What makes it so amazing, coming from New York, is this feels like a shop you can find in SoHo, Chinatown or the Lower East Side,” said Jamie Morales, visual creative for James Perce and old friend of the Calhouns.
The Calhouns agree that running the shop has proven to be rewarding.
“The relationships that have developed with the artists and watching them come into their own and seeing first-hand how skilled they are is inspiring,” Brooke Calhoun said.
Their e-commerce website is set to launch this February. Vendors’ spring collections will be made available to order on the website at that time. The website is an asset to the large international crowd that comes through their shop, creating a widespread following for the store.
“Since we do have limited-edition runs with artists, that’s the good thing too,” Brooke Calhoun said. “You’ll always find new, fresh inventory on the website and in the pop up.”
Integrating the experiences they have had, the interesting people they have met and the sisters’ individualities is what the Calhouns believe sets them apart from many of the other boutiques around Austin.
“It has this magic synergy,” Courtney Calhoun said. “We’ve curated the stuff we really love and find the best products from the best emerging designers from our favorite places.”
The sisters believe their decision to name the business Tribe For the Masses has been serendipitous.
“We really have built a tribe of people that we really believe in, who have helped us and we’ve helped them,” Courtney Calhoun said.