A Long Oktober: Secret Oktober

Posted by drew On August - 11 - 20103,153 views

Austin, Texas has a rep for hip clothing stores. Secret Oktober is no exception.  Focusing on subculture fashion, the store has found itself with a niche  among lone star based scenesters.  We caught up with the owners and asked them a few questions.

You first opened your doors back in 2004. Most small businesses don’t make it beyond their first six months in this economy. What’s been your secret to success?

First off, we show up to work.

What we mean is that we have regular hours. We’ve seen a lot of our business neighbors change their hours depending on their mood, and this just confuses customers.

We try to carry name-brand items, but we also have vintage items at a reasonable price. We employ a range of prices for everyone, no matter what your financial situation is at the moment.

We have community events surrounding the subculture. In Austin there are so many artists who do henna, makeup, clothing designers, jewelry designers, etc., and we’re happy to promote our local artists. All people need a start, and it’s great to have a place to provide artists with an opportunity to get their name out, especially in a fun environment.

Do you think being in a subculture-centric place like Austin has helped?

Honestly, I don’t think that Austin is purposely subculture-centric, just that it’s “weird”, as the motto goes. In fact, if we were to pick a subculture, Goth/Industrial would not be it for Austin. Yet we do have a club here, Elysium, which is dedicated to the Goth/Industrial culture, and that helps a great deal. When Secret Oktober started out, we catered to mostly Goth, but have definitely branched out based on the blending of styles here in Austin. You have a mixture of Punk, Industrial, Rockabilly, Indie Rock, Hippy, etc. These styles end up blending or overlapping at some point, and we don’t want to just be specific to one subculture, but we still want to stay somewhat odd & unique. But in our hearts, we will always be loyal most of all to Goth and Industrial.

Have so-called “mall punk” stores like Hot Topic and Torrid made it harder for a place like yours to operate? Or do you think your demographics are slightly different?

Well, yes, it does create more competition. But, on the other hand, we can order items on a smaller scale, therefore carrying more “underground” things. For instance, we sell a lot of music merchandise and can choose bands that aren’t as big as what they sell in the mall, because they have to order for hundreds of the same stores, whereas we only have to sell that band to a few customers.

Also, as we said earlier, we sell locally made items. That is definitely something that a chain store cannot do.

We also have a personal relationship with our regular customers, and sometimes the shop feels more like a hangout than a store.

And we keep in the know about local events/concerts. Our customers rely on us to keep them up with what is happening in the scene.

Along those same lines, have you ever thought about expanding into a second location?

We have thought about it, but in watching other businesses, we have noticed that this causes a lot of new issues and problems. Instead, we have decided to add to our web page and revamp the mail order side of the business.

Having been in the store a several times, I think you have a very welcoming atmosphere, sort of flying in the face of the stereotypically “chilly” Goth scene. Is a sense of fun important to running a store like yours?

Here in Austin, we haven’t run into a “chilly” Goth scene, only a few “pretentious” people. Yet that’s very rare, most people have been laid back, and just looking for cool stuff to wear at the club or what music gear they like.

In our experience, that has been a misconception of Goths. In reality, the Goth scene is no different than any other scene. We’ve had nothing but mostly warm receptions from people. If anyone takes themselves too seriously, we’ll likely laugh at them. We love seeing the elder Goths and the new generation of baby bats coming into the store. The whole thing about depressed Goths is a complete cartoony stereotype and we want to dissipate that myth right now!

At this point we’ve seen Punk turn to New Wave then New Wave give birth to Goth. Seems like Goth had a hand in spawning Emo as well. While it’s clear that black clothing and undead imagery is long in its appeal – what do you think is next?

Well, with the trendy resurgence of the ’80’s, some of the old New Romantic and New Wave music IS back in style, along with old school punk.

We have always thought of Emo as being a really watered down, mall, kiddy-friendly version of Goth and Punk. Maybe it’s our ages, but we never could relate to that stuff. Our customer base has never been noticeably Emo.

Thanks to the internet, styles will stay around for much longer. There will always be some version of Punk and Goth around.

As far as trends go, right now, we have been catering to Steampunk and Diesel Punk and even a little Gypsy Punk and Gothic Lolita. These both go hand in hand with what we have already been carrying.

What’s next for Secret Oktober?

A great question… everything is day-to-day for us. We are only as strong as our customers, and we really appreciate them. We try our best to keep up with trends or what our customers ask for. Right now, in this desolate economy, we try to keep up with desolate trends. Of course, Goth fits in quite well for this idea.

But once again, Steampunk has been a fruitful futuristic subculture for what “Goth types” love. Yet, our whole subculture is limitless and unwavering. We continue to find new styles that key into music, comic books, fashion and anything that inspires us. We love the constant change, and what people come up with to add to it. Regardless of what the future might hold, it will always be dark.

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