Spotlight: Kokorokoko

Kokorokoko is a vintage clothing store located in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. They specialize in fashion from the 1980s and 90s.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. We are Ross Kelly and Sasha Hodges and we’ve run a vintage clothing boutique called Kokorokoko in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood since 2009. We focus on 80s and 90s vintage clothing for men and women. Most of our stock is streetwear or casual styles; we love bright colors, wild patterns and unique cuts. We focus on the 80s and 90s because it is our favorite time period fashion- and culture-wise. Our influences include underground cultures from the time period like club kids, skaters, early hip hop and designer bootlegs.

Top 3 favorite or most visited websites and why? Etsy.com – We have a selection of vintage in our etsy shop and we are always looking at what other sellers have and posting new items of our own.

80sdeco.tumblr.com – An awesome tumblr with lots of great images that capture our aesthetic perfectly

youtube.com – There are so many great videos online that show 80s and 90s fashion not just in pop culture music videos but also just like regular people hanging out in a mall. It’s fun to see how different things were just a couple decades ago in a pre-ironic age.

How has living in Chicago affected your work? Both of us are from Boston and had always dreamed of opening our own shop at some point but the rents were just too high. Chicago is not only more affordable but more accepting of new ideas; it’s a very American city. Here we were able to start something “new” by curating a collection of vintage clothing that highlights a time period that was previously not available in most vintage stores. Chicago’s diversity and large population also make it a great place to find our stock.

What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? We have been getting into a little later vintage lately, checking out images from the late 90s and early 2000s. The Y2K period had so many trends that we have just started to explore. Postmodern brands like Von Dutch, Iceberg and JC de Castelbajac are some current obsessions.

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? Right now we are stocking up for Christmas and the post holiday rush. Lots of fun accessories, books and magazines from the time period and fun ephemera like greeting cards and vintage trading cards. Being part of some of the different fashion, art and music scenes in Chicago is really important to us. Both of us DJ around town and we have a fashion show in the works with a local gallery TBA. We sell at a lot of collective sales with other boutique or vintage sales.

Favorite pizza topping? Whatever the Ninja Turtles are having!

How did your interest in your work begin? Both of us grew up as natural collectors with a taste for the wild and subversive. When we met in our 20s, we were both working in fashion retail/resale and connected at a music show we were both performing at a DIY venue. When we decided to open the shop, the focus naturally followed our shared love of 80s funk and disco, 90s hip hop and the club culture that supported specific fashion from each of these music genres. We wanted to create a place that didn’t exist yet. In 2009 that was an 80s and 90s vintage store that celebrated the time period displaying kitsch more like artifacts. At Kokorokoko high end designer items are on the rack next to bootleg flea market t shirts in between hand made political sweatshirts. Appreciating the details in clothing has always been something we both enjoyed.

How long have you lived in Chicago and what brought you there? Feeling old and poor at 26 years old in Boston was no fun. We came to Chicago because there are lots of creative people living and working here affordably. Coming from a town full of historical landmarks and students we loved the more working class, laid-back style here. The architecture, the hot dogs, the House music, the mid century hand painted signs, the lumbersexuals.

What do you want a viewer to walk away with after experiencing your work? It’s great when people come in the door and look around skeptically, maybe even ask “what is this place?” and then look through the racks and say “oh I would actually wear this”. That moment when they find something they can connect with from the past and imagine themselves either being the person they always admired in the past or exploring a new part of themselves and taking a risk.

What do you collect? Chicago Bulls T shirts, slap bracelets, oversized earrings, 80s skateboards, pogs, cassette tapes, hypercolor t-shirts, boomboxes, nagel prints, Afrocentric sweatshirts, sequin dresses, 90s cell phones and Spice Girls dolls.

What was the last lie you told? That a woman’s Halloween idea to be Kelly Kapowski from Saved by the Bell was original.

Can you share one of the best or worst reactions you have gotten as a result of your work? It’s great when people come in and within seconds proclaim their love for Kokorokoko. Phrases like “y’all got the coldest shit” and “how did this all get here?!” are favorites. Getting a hug or a high five is always rad but it’s great when people really stay and look around and find something they didn’t know they were looking for.