BY LEE ANN SANDWEISS
After living on the East Coast for 15 years and building their wholesale clothing business, American Colors, Alex and Shannon Lehr were ready for a change.
“The hectic New York City pace was fine when we were in our twenties and childless, but now as parents of two small children with a third on the way, we wanted a slower, saner pace of life where we could be part of the community. Bloomington was the perfect choice,” says Shannon, who grew up in Indianapolis and met Alex while both were students at Indiana University in the late 1990s.
American Colors is a fashion label manufactured in Pennsylvania and carried in more than 250 clothing stores nationally and internationally. In addition to moving their base to Bloomington, the Lehrs have ventured directly into the retail market for the first time.
After 18 months of planning and hard work, they opened their store at 316 E. Kirkwood in the space formerly occupied by Haley’s and, before that, Roberts Camera. Alex, an East Coast native who comes from a family in the fashion retail business, says each facet of the space’s renovation was carefully considered.
“We removed the dropped ceiling and installed vintage lights we found at a flea market and painted everything white, which really sets off the rich tones and patterns of our apparel,” he says. “To warm things up, we added shelving made from repurposed wood and display tables from wood pallets.”
“Most of our line is women’s tops—tunics, dresses, hoodies, shirts, and T-shirts—but we are selectively adding some men’s designs, too,” says Alex. Several Hollywood celebrities have taken a liking to the classic, broken-in look of American Colors garments, including Katie Holmes, Miley Cyrus, and Jennifer Aniston.
The Lehrs say they are excited about the connections they have made since moving to Bloomington. “We have formed a collaboration with Rowland Ricketts [click here to see a story about Ricketts], who is an assistant professor of art at IU’s Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts. Rowland is growing indigo from seeds at Hilltop Garden and making the dye and dyeing fabrics using ancient traditional techniques. We will be carrying a very limited line of his shirts,” says Alex. “Bloomington has such a diverse, fascinating community of people doing interesting things. It’s great to be a part of that.”
Store hours for American Colors are Monday-Saturday 11 am-6 pm, Sunday noon-5 pm.