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Bonnie Penet and Leslie Leland of Mix, Ann Arbor

Mix's Wearable Art

From Ypsi to the Arcade

by Sally Mitani

From the August, 2014 issue

These aren't your grandma's clothes. Unless your grandma is an aging hippie, in which case tell her to get down to Mix before all the other aging hippies beat her to it.

"Aging hippie" is the proud self-identification of owners Bonnie Penet and Leslie Leland. Penet shows a picture on her phone of an eighty-year-old woman wearing a Krista Larson outfit from the shop in Nickels Arcade. Larson is the designer who often dresses Helena Bonham Carter. "I'd describe [Larson] as 'costumey,' almost. Turn-of-the-century, dramatic," says Penet, with help on the adjectives from Leland--it's one of those interviews where hardly a sentence can be attributed to a single person.

Mix is an outgrowth of the indie art scene that thrives in Ypsilanti. Good friends and fellow artists--"though we don't get into the studio much anymore"--Penet and Leland opened there in 2009 and eventually annexed a little space for a forty-seat theater that hosts everything from play readings to fashion shows. "Mix is a good word," says ... er ... one or both of them. "It's not just about the mix of new and vintage, but the demographic mix, the diversity."

Their second Mix (the Ypsi store still flourishes) carries new clothing only, and some of it is show-stopping. "Need? It's not about need. It's wearable art," they say to a customer who murmurs that she doesn't need any more clothes. The Krista Larson dresses that hang in the shop are the masterpieces, and they're pricey. So are Jane Mohr's pieces, the fancifully architected Dress to Kill label: "She leads the pack of the southern California designers." The more accessible lines are Tulip, Comfy, Chalet, and Cheyenne--loose, flowing, highly wearable, for women of all sizes. "Another line we carry, Alembika, likes to say their clothes are 'for women forty to 100 who love their bodies just the way they are,' and that's our mantra too." Leland, a painted-metal artist, is in her late fifties, and Penet, a doll maker

...continued below...

in her late sixties, embody that ethos themselves.

Leland is wearing a Tulip tunic over loose Chalet pants and pea-green Gee WaWa sandals. The sandals are sold at the Mix in Ypsi, but their Ann Arbor lease prohibits them from selling shoes, because Van Boven Shoes is down the corridor. "We don't mind. We want both stores to continue to be different." Penet is wearing a Cheyenne linen tunic and bouncy black Comfy pants, and the Gee WaWa sandals in black.

Penet fingers Leland's Tulip tunic fondly. "We grew up with the Tulip brand. They started around the same time we opened our store. They named a skirt for us--the Mix skirt [recently retired]. We couldn't keep it in stock."

Mix, 2-4 Nickels Arcade, 369-6559. Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Sun. noon-6 p.m. No website.    (end of article)

[Originally published in August, 2014.]


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