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It was a slow Friday for me. Froze my ass off walking downtown for a ‘cut & style’ then continued to fight off the cold for the rest of it. Well, I decided to stay out and about and after grabbing a coffee and muffin from McD’s, I did a quick stroll downtown. The Hydro building still isn’t finished, the local unemployed still ask me for change and I’m cold. Not much different…until my walk back.

Click “read more” to see the rest of my adventure.

Off to the right on Langside I notice a new little “place”. Not sure what it was at first so (at 6 foot 4) I venture down Langside. Nothing out of the ordinary yet.

About half of a block down, there’s this place called ‘Hungover Empire’. Interesting looking place…but a good kind of interesting if you know what I mean.

I head in and hear a polite ‘Hello’ from I really don’t know where. At first it seemed like the mannequin with blonde hair and pink hat was talking to me but no…it was a cute girl off to the side (who calls herself ‘Empress Melanie’ … sorry, didn’t I.D. her) of the eccentrically designed space.

The design and layout of the store is all Melanie’s doing, from the dolls and action figures of her childhood in the 80’s in the displays which you can make her an offer for, to the woman-made wire mannequins on the walls. The color scheme is teal, deep purple with deep red and black accents. The wall against the front window is lined with black pinstripe curtains in the style of Tim Burton’s films, with a window in the door reminiscent of the tank Frankenstein was fabricated in. The walls themselves are plastered in the same style as that emanating from the speakers; the multiple mirrors reminding us of the vanity and focus on aesthetics of our time, along with music and movie culture, including the Breakfast Club, The Crow, the 80’s goth outfit Bauhaus, David Bowie and Madonna. The rest of the negative space is filled with cut up album covers and CD leaflets from Depeche Mode to Propaghandi to ABBA to Orbital to Tool to Madonna to Radiohead.

It wasn’t too busy and seeing as how I had nowhere to go, I stuck around for a bit. After all, it’s hard to pull this cracker away from a cute girl. Her plan was to open a store where everything was handpicked and washed, where she could recycle her own used clothing back into the economy so she could keep buying things that suited her better. She aspired to dress the world more stylishly at reasonable prices, without having to “mall shop” and wear the same as everybody else. The purpose of places like Value Village has never been to shock us with their elite fashion sense, and back in the day, the joy of finding old gems was rampant, but has been somewhat lost in the slew of interest in vintage clothes of the past two decades or so.

Located two blocks west of U of W at 357 Langside St just north of Portage Avenue, you can’t miss Melanie’s feather boas flapping in the wind in front of the store and at Portage and her inventive posters, from Barbies with bags over their heads to a statuesque Empress figure with hands on hips in front of a superhero-like vehicle commanding catchy taglines.

If you do miss them, find her at www.hungoverempire.com, on her Facebook group page or at 415-HUNG (4864). Hungover Empire Clothing is open 6 days a week, winter hours starting November 17th: Monday – Thursday 11-5:30, Friday 11-7 and Saturdays 11-5:30.

Maybe next time I’ll remember to bring more than the change in my pocket.