Lilly and Barry van Gerbig are taking a stand and an admittedly exciting and nerve-wracking risk by opening their store, Fair Trade Outfitters.
The Bayview couple opened their new clothing shop on Anthes Avenue during the July 4 weekend and saw a strong first month of sales. Taking advantage of a newly renovated and divided building that formerly housed Joe’s Music, sandwiched between the Good Cheer Thrift Store and the former Mike’s Place, they decided back in February to make a go in clothing retail in the Village by the Sea after living on the South End for the past three years. Their angle is to provide women with form-flattering attire that they can feel confident both in the look and in the knowledge that their outfits helped support a community across the globe.
“The fact that all the people who are making the clothes are making a living wage is an added bonus,” Lilly van Gerbig said inside her shop Thursday morning.
The racks are lined with blouses, shirts and dresses that were made in Nepal, Tibet and Thailand. Many of the offerings are in solid colors with soft, durable fabrics, but a handful of summer dresses are adorned in floral prints that stand in stark contrast to the color-coordinated rows of blue, red, orange, green and white. Some of the clothes start at $12, with basic T-shirts around $20. Everything in their shop, they said, was “comfortable and versatile.”
“You really want the clothes to be the art,” Barry van Gerbig said.
He would know. He is an artist whose works feature exotic animals such as giraffes, hippos, leopards, lions and zebras like the giant painting behind the counter.
Like many artists, income insecurity exists. But they both believe in what they have to offer as merchants and have already felt supported by customers.
“It’s been fun meeting the community,” said Lilly van Gerbig, who may be a familiar face to Langley shoppers. She previously worked at the Chocolate Flower Farm and the Star Store.
Added Barry van Gerbig: “It’s a blessing to have the support we’ve had.”