Play Dress Up for a Living--Fringe


Owner: Rhiannon Troutman

Why Bellingham? “There is something so special about Bellingham. The fact that I can look out at the bay everyday is incredible and the mountains are so close. The community is special. I love how you can walk down the main streets of Bellingham and lots of the businesses are locally owned. “

Favorite shop downtown? “Wonderland Tea and Spice. They are so amazing for so many reasons. They are all so knowledgeable and they have amazing tea blends for everyday.”

While growing up in Bellingham, Rhiannon always thought the city lacked a place for the younger demographic to shop once she had grown out of her “middle school mall phase.” Most of the clothing shops seemed to target an older audience with their styles and prices. After living in Portland for a while, Rhiannon moved back to Bellingham in 2013 and opened her shop, Fringe, in October 2015.

Inside Fringe, you’ll find good basics, casual wear, work attire, and styles that are younger and trendy with a Bohemian flare to them. There are also regionally made gifts that are all handmade or small-batch items. One of Rhiannon’s goals from the start was to offer clothes that are affordable. When selecting clothes to sell in her shop, the price point is important in staying true to that goal. The result is a shop that she herself would want to shop in, which makes customers of all ages happy shoppers.

Only two weeks after opening, a college student came in and bought a good, quality sweater for under $40. “She was so ecstatic she could come downtown and buy something she liked and could afford,” Rhiannon said. More recently, a couple groups of women came in and were very excited to find a store like Fringe downtown. Moments like these provide Rhiannon with a sense of accomplishment and happiness.

Rhiannon’s favorite activity as a child was to dress her dolls and set up a house for them. When her friends wanted to play house after that, she really just enjoyed picking out outfits for them and making them pretty. By the time she was 16, she knew she wanted to open her own shop in the future. While living in Portland, she got a job at a unique shop that sold everything from clothes to chandeliers. She learned to sell a wide variety of items, an extremely valuable skill to acquire. After a few years in Portland, she decided it was time to start pursuing her dream of opening her own shop.

Once she was living in Bellingham again, Rhiannon started her own jewelry line called Fringe and Feather. She used recycled items and created beautiful jewelry to sell around town. When she opened the doors to her shop, she shortened the name to Fringe, an element that inspires her. To Rhiannon, the word has multiple meanings. Fringe was popular in the 1920s on flapper dresses and clothes in the 70s – it’s something that always comes back. The word also represents something a little bit different and not quite what you would expect.

Now Rhiannon is continuing her favorite activity as a child, just on real people! She absolutely loves when people come in and let her play dress up. She also enjoys how owning her own business allows her to be more integrated in the community. “It’s really exciting to be on State Street and watch the revival that’s going on here,” Rhiannon said. Rhiannon and a few other female business owners on State Street have started getting together once a month to form a better community and inspire each other.

In addition to continuing to get to know her neighbors, Rhiannon hopes to launch her idea of after-hours shopping parties. During the parties, which could serve as a prep night for a girls night out, a bachelorette party or anything in between, Rhiannon would close the shop for a group of women and either give a group discount or donate a portion of sales from that night to a charity of their choice. It would be a good opportunity for a group of friends to try clothes on, branch out, make suggestions, drink some champagne and have some fun.

Head to 1147 N. State St. for a fun shopping experience!

Today's post was written by Kristin Foster, Media Intern.