Revival Men’s Pop-up Boutique debuts this Friday: Interview with owner Sheila Davisson

Revival, 117 E College St., Iowa City. — photo by Liz Wilson

Revival’s Men’s Pop-up Boutique

Revival back lot — June 20-21, July 18-19 and August 22-23 (10 a.m. – 7 p.m.)

When Catherine Champion announced the closing of Cheap & Chic in April with plans to open a unisex store in its place, she cited the lack of men’s clothing stores in the downtown core as part of the impetus for her decision. With a trio of pop-up boutiques over the next three months, Revival will also be answering the call of this long-underserved demographic. Starting this Friday, lovers of fashionable masculine clothing will have access to a plethora of carefully curated new, used and vintage clothes.

I spoke briefly with OG Revival fan/Little Village publisher Matt Steele, as well as Revival owner Sheila Davisson about the past and present of casual menswear in the downtown Iowa City business district.

Matt, what did you like best about Revival’s approach to curating men’s clothing?

MS: There has always been a dearth of casual menswear in downtown IC — at least since I came here in 2002 — so, Revival’s approach was unique simply in that they were doing it at all! They had well-fitting basics, stuff without graphics or logos and nice materials. I regularly found great stuff there, from pretty much new to very, very vintage.

Consignment stores are great for me because I wear a very common size in all my garments (Medium-Large tops, 32/32 pants, 10.5 shoes … in case anyone wants to send me gifts). So, there were usually lots of dudes consigning out stuff in my size. When shopping new, my size tends to run out right away, but when shopping consignment, there is always another homie dropping something off, just for me.

Sheila, could you tell me a bit about how/when you decided to stop selling men’s clothing?

SD: When we first opened Revival back in 2003, we had a small men’s section. We had it for about two years at our first location (where Record Collector is now), but it just never did as well as the ladies’, and we soon needed the space to offer more women’s fashions.

MS: Revival had the market cornered, and I guess that was because no one else had managed to make a success of selling men’s clothes in IC, unless it had a Herky on it somewhere. I worked as a server and probably spent the majority of my tips there or at the Deadwood. But, sadly, I wasn’t able to single-handedly buck that trend.

SD: As soon as we closed it, we knew we had male customers that would be disappointed, but it was just an issue of space and supply and demand. We’ve continued to hear more and more over the last couple of years that men need and want a place to shop and that we should bring a menswear section back.

Matt, since Revival switched to only carrying women’s clothing, how have your shopping habits changed? Have you started shopping online more or making more trips out to Coralville?

MS: Since that time, the Full Kit has really stepped it up and become fashion HQ for men looking to shop downtown. They used to be more of a skate shop, exclusively. Now they are all about clothes, shoes, bags and hats: my favorite things. I hit up the Full Kit regularly, and if I don’t find something I need there, then I’m pretty much going to Chicago for inspiration, or to the Williamsburg Outlet for poorly made, cheap necessities from terrible places like the Gap and Banana Republic. White Rabbit is also pretty great, especially for vintage and for locally made tees. As an artist I can get away with a lot, wear whatever I want, but I’m also almost 35 — I don’t wear joke shirts, I don’t wear herkies … I’m most comfortable in casual, fitted basics, and ever since Revival stopped carrying mens, I’ve been pretty much out of luck.

Sheila, if these three weekends are a success, how might Revival continue to respond to the “dearth” of men’s clothing options downtown?

SD: Who knows, if the summer pop-ups are a smashing success, I think there certainly could be more in the future, maybe even an entire space just for the dudes! They’re an excellent way to try it out and have a fun event. We really do want it to feel like more of an event and gathering than just a store. We will have beer, food and even a game of bags going throughout the day!

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