Every city, whether big or small, has some sort of monthly street festival. In Austin’s own trendy district of South Congress Avenue (loveably referred to as SoCo), numerous locally owned boutiques, art galleries and cafés line a good chunk of the street. On the first Thursday of every month, the street acts as host to a quaint festival of lighthearted city life and fashion fun.
On any other day of the month, SoCo still maintains a reputation as a good area for both day and nighttime enjoyment. Local merchants have their own booths and the boutiques never fail to contain the most original and stylish merchandise. When First Thursday comes around, the stores, cafés and independent artisans step up their game in celebratory hospitality. Most boutiques act as a host to a small cocktail party by offering hors d’ourves and leave their doors open until 10pm, sometimes later. While friendly staffs provide you with patented Austin generosity and treats like hummus and bite-sized brownies, you can browse through the veritable stores that range from the vintage to the fashionably elite.
Probably one of the most posh stores on SoCo is Factory People, an upscale boutique of urban sophistication. Much of their merchandise is imported from some of the top fashion houses of the world. Browsing through this industrial punk inspired store is a style adventure as A.P.C and Evisu jeans hang on the racks. For a contemporary preppy look you can go for the endless Fred Perry products or a nice pair of casual Lacoste shoes. In addition to their swanky collection of apparel, they also have some of the best designer jewelry. I often enjoy going in there to gawk at the White Trash Charms. The remarkable high-end merchandise is only one reason to go into this store on First Thursday. On the night of the monthly event, they often have a live DJ spinning music to provide great shopping music. This turns the store into a low-key nightclub while you browse through clothing by Energie and Eugenia Kim. The live DJ correlates the store with its music selection showcased on the back wall. From hip-hop to electronica, they have some of the best independent music to compliment their clothing selection. An upstairs balcony serves as a popular venue for weekly events like collection showcases, trunk shows and other fun events. If you manage to catch the store during a big sale, you can get great deals on some of the best names in fashion. I managed to snag two Milk Crate Athletic shirts and some Fred Perry accessories for reasonable prices.
A stone throw away from the First Thursday merchant area is a store called Parts & Labour, a great store that happens to be the place where I sell my designs. The boutique contains products that are all handmade by Austin designers. From chic earrings to offbeat accessories, the store has one-of-a-kind items that you won’t find anywhere else. The store managers, Talena and Lizelle, also have their own line of clothing called Booyo. Their clever t-shirts mock the popularity of ironic colloquialisms while their skirts modernize vintage elegance. Without a doubt, Parts & Labour is the best showcase of Austin’s talented designers.
Amidst the street noise of happy Austinites enjoying the festivities and the ever-changing live music provided by bluegrass bands and rockers, you can pop in and out of many vintage stores. Among the many, Uncommon Objects stands out as one of the most unique. They preserve a style of a true cluttered yard sale that offers you with a thrilling hunt for rare jewelry, furniture and clothing. Rue Antiques is another store that has some of the best American nostalgia. Like all the stores on SoCo, the vintage shops are a great source for exploration.
If you manage to get hungry, SoCo’s eateries are just as fashionable as the boutiques. Magnolia Café offers some of the best in comfort food while Amy’s Ice Cream scoops up some of the richest and most unique flavors in the popular dessert. Restaurants like El Sol y La Luna and the South Congress Café often provide happy hours to aid in the pleasure that is First Thursday.
Above all things, First Thursday stands out as a special evening for the true fashion connoisseur. Although I only mentioned a few, each boutique on the street carries individualistic style and originality. First Thursday gives the opportunity for locals and out of towners to appreciate the cultural lifestyle and eclectic evolving fashion scene that thrives in Austin.
For more information visit: www.firstthursday.info