Urban Vintage Clothing pedaling forward
January 26, 2024 · Develop, Why Birmingham
For as long as he can remember, Ty King, owner of Urban Vintage Clothing, has had an inclination for fashion. To him, style is more than the clothes on your back. It’s a feeling – and a really good one, if you’re intentional about expressing yourself through your attire.
“People can buy expensive, name-brand things, but something might still be missing,” said King. “You may have on a thousand-dollar outfit, but how do you rock it? Does it speak to you? That’s how I’ve always felt.”
That passion, combined with an unwavering entrepreneurial spirit, is what drove him to open his storefront for Urban Vintage Clothing in December of 2022. But the origins of Urban Vintage go back much further than that.
Like many of us, King used to frequent big-box stores like Target to help build his wardrobe. He was especially into their collection of graphic tees featuring nostalgic imagery like Atari games, classic Coca-cola logos, and Marvel superheroes. However, something was always not quite right about the fit or construction of those mass-produced garments. King knew he had the capability to produce something better, but bringing his ideas to life was a daunting task.
A phone call with Kelvin Swint, a close friend and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity brother, changed everything.
“By the time we were through with that conversation, we had changed the fashion industry,” King joked. “It was all kinds of grand ideation, but it really was a good talk.”
About a month later, Swint called King again, inquiring about his progress since their lifechanging chat: “What have you done since we last talked,” he asked.
King’s answer? Nothing.
“That moment made me understand that most people – including myself – are prone to talking without doing,” said King. “From that day forward, I was committed to starting my clothing brand.”
From there, King began writing. By putting pen to paper, he was committing his dream to action. He didn’t dwell on finances, either. Rather, he focused on removing the obstacles he could control and allowed for his creativity to continue flowing.
“When you make it real and start doing everything you can do that doesn’t cost a dime, the money comes,” said King.
Before long, he had a way to order shirts. He sold those shirts, and used that profit to make more and make them better. He didn’t have a brick-and-mortar, but he had tenacity. Once word spread about the quality of his apparel and the vision King had, his supporters grew.
“There’s no question that I’ll produce something that draws your eye and piques your interest visually,” said King. “But across the board, I wanted people to know that when you buy Urban Vintage Clothing, it’s going to be quality.”
What’s in a name?
Like many ventures, the name King began with is not the name he ended up with. With an affinity for nostalgia, it’s only fitting that “Urban Vintage” has roots in a Y2K-era R&B record. “Instant Vintage,” the name of Raphael Saadiq’s debut album from 2002, was a clever play on words that deeply resonated with King’s vision for Urban Vintage: combining a vintage look with a modern feel.
“I wanted to pay homage to the past and to growing up,” said King. “That’s why Urban Vintage’s tagline, which is found on so much of my merchandise, is ‘Recognize and celebrate the dopeness of the past, all while pedaling toward your future. It’s as easy as riding a bike.’ That’s where it stems from.”
King added, “So many times we want to move away from our pasts and look toward the new, but everything that’s new has an origin. Giving honor to that origin, and blending those eras together is what it’s all about.”
King’s next challenge was deciding on a visual that could aptly represent such a nuanced and distinct point of view. Seeking to build community, King searched for a symbol relatable to everyone who might encounter Urban Vintage – and what better captures the universal essence of childhood than a bicycle? From training wheels to ten-speeds, riding a bike is an experience almost everyone shares.
The specific bike that inspired Urban Vintage’s logo is the Schwinn Phantom 1957, a model that was described in King’s research as the “most urban bicycle of its time.”
Growing into Downtown
Urban Vintage’s brick-and-mortar location has been situated at the corner of 2nd Ave. and 17th St. North for just over a year, but King’s dreams for the space began long before he ever signed his lease.
“I would ride past this place all the time,” said King. While it looked completely different at the time, King had a strong vision for the space and knew it would be perfect for Urban Vintage Clothing.
“I didn’t have the ability to get it then,” he added, “but every single time I rode down 2nd or 17th, I would say a little affirmation to myself: One day, I will have that store.”
Years later, the stars aligned for King. The previous tenant had vacated the space, and a newfound partnership with the property owner yielded the opportunity of a lifetime — securing the space he’d been manifesting for so long.
As a Birmingham native, being a part of downtown’s historic business ecosystem holds a lot of meaning for King.
“The city is growing. Downtown is growing. I want to be where things are moving and happening, where people are going to congregate,” he said. “As Downtown grows upward and outward, I’m right here with it.”
As Urban Vintage pedals forward, you might be wondering what’s next. For now, King has plans to continue building community through Sip n’ Shop events, as well as speaking engagements with fellow entrepreneurs.
Visit Urban Vintage Clothing:
1623 2nd Avenue N Suite 105 Birmingham, AL 35203
Tuesday – Friday: 2 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Saturday: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
For more than 25 years, the Alabama Theatre’s holiday film series has cemented itself as a cherished tradition for families in Birmingham. The historic theatre has played a pivotal role in the city’s cultural refresh. With the support of investors, music and arts enthusiasts, and historians, the theatre successfully avoided a bleak fate as a surface parking lot. Thankfully, Birmingham Landmarks Inc. was formed in time to save both the Alabama and Lyric Theatres. Without these iconic spaces, holiday magic and family memories wouldn’t be the same in downtown Birmingham.