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Indie fashion designers go pop-up in Lawrenceville

"Owning my own line has taught me so much more than just creating lines for others ever could."

A T-shirt from The Wonderful Life
A T-shirt from The Wonderful Life

Just as Pittsburgh's reputation for the arts is growing, so is its fashion scene, especially in Lawrenceville. 

Take Matt Gondek, co-founder and designer of clothing line The Wonderful Life. A few years ago, his fiancée convinced him to quit his day job and focus oon designing. Today, he says, "Owning my own line has taught me so much more than just creating lines for others ever could." 

And this week, Gondek, 29, is one of a group of emerging streetwear designers taking the next step, with a new pop-up retail outlet. From May 21 to June 1, nine lines will share space at Lawrenceville's Fe Gallery in the Two Week Street Boutique. Visitors can expect both original and vintage designs. 

Pop-up fashion shops are common in places like New York and Los Angeles, allowing designers to showcase their merchandise and seasonal lines, or simply to get noticed. "The biggest obstacle is always finding time to market your products," says Gondek.

This might be Pittsburgh's first such boutique. The nine lines include Gondek's Wonderful Life and Jock'n Roll, plus Grand Scheme, FarESH, StreetHeart, Crossfox, Vinny Vintage and R Dot Deals, Penny Candy, and Daily Bread. Most of what's on offer are T-shirts. Wonderful Life, for instance, pulls inspiration from Gondek's childhood, with shirts illustrated with cartoons, monsters and ninja turtles. An exception is StreetHeart, a women's line, which includes dresses and blouses with a 1950s vibe. 

As for the Street Boutique itself, Gondek describes it as a two-week party, featuring daily specials, parties and even a cookout in Fe's backyard garden.

Each brand has its own space to construct and dress up, with display areas hand-crafted by the designers, using locally purchased mannequins, hangers and such. And there will be a lounge area complete with couches for people to mingle and relax.  

Gondek believes that hometown pride will help draw people to the event.

"While I do know first-hand that Lawrenceville has a huge community of younger artistic people that will stop by, I think this will attract people from North Shore, South Side and elsewhere," he says. "It's going to be a great thing, not only for all the brands involved, but Lawrenceville as a whole. I have no doubt the city will be on board with this."