Time flies. And thanks to Black and Brown, old times are still fly.
Black and Brown is a vintage buy/sell clothing shop in San Jose that specializes in bringing old styles and new visions together. On March 8 it will be celebrating the nine-year anniversary of its opening with a shindig at Café Stritch. The event will be open to the public of all ages and will feature sets by a number of DJs.
“It’s just a party, just to hang out and celebrate the fact that we’ve made it this far,” says Monisha Murray, owner of Black and Brown.
Murray is one of the founders of Black and Brown. She started the clothing shop in 2005 with her good friend at the time, Irene Kim. When the shop first opened nine years ago it was located in a small, 1,000-square-foot venue on San Carlos, across the street from Mel Cotton’s. It was more of a hidden destination that was known about through word of mouth. “It was one of those places that was easy to pass by if you weren’t looking for it,” says Murray.
After five years of hiding in its place on San Carlos, Murray found a new spot that was more on the forefront of foot traffic. Black and Brown is now on The Alameda and Sunol, where the baby store has stretched out its legs and become one of the big dogs on the block.
The new shop is long and open. It has dark, oak wood shelves to hold shoes and boots above the racks. Diffused lights illuminate the parts of the store where the sun doesn’t reach. The clothes are separated by color and style. The army jackets are clumped together with the army green clothing. The leather jackets are all put under the same rack. The tan blouses intertwined with other blouses like uniforms on a playground. Random artifacts are scattered here and there, ranging from a vintage high school t-shirt to a denim jacket your dad you’d have thought was cool 30 years ago.
That’s what Black and Brown is all about. They are the aftermath of contemporary fashion’s collision with vintage style. The approach to their vibe and aesthetic is to put those two worlds under one roof. But isn’t just about getting old stuff and reselling it. Murray trains her team on how to shop for original and desirable items, how to be gatekeepers of the Black and Brown racks. They don’t buy double knit poly just because it’s 70s; they look for original, one-of-a-kind things that customers can be excited about finding. Murray strives to be more than just a store that sells 70s items, because if she did that, she says she’d only have business during Halloween.
The journey has been as educational for Murray as it has been hard. “I’ve learned a lot,” she says. “I’ve lost a lot.”
Murray and Kim split up when Kim left the business and went back to school. Murray’s business venture has made her a better, stronger person. The pressure of trying to keep a lease while trying to make others happy has made Murray more business savvy and borderline cutthroat.
There was a point three years into the business where Murray seriously thought about closing Black and Brown. But the passion to perpetuate her style and love of fashion kept her in the game. “For anybody doing a venture, make sure you love it. And make sure you have a passion for it,” she says.
Nine years later, Murray still has her head above water and is proudly celebrating the anniversary of her store and her vision. “It’s crazy to think it’s been that long,” she says. “We’ve done so much with so little since that first stepping stone.”
The first 25 people to show up to the Café Stritch celebration on March 8 at 7 p.m. will receive a free grab bag from Black and Brown.
On March 5, on the exact anniversary of Black and Brown’s opening, there will be a sale at the store itself.BLACK and BROWN 850 The Alameda, San Jose, CA 95126
By Jeffrey Gonzalez