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Essentially Ashland

Clothing artist combined Western, counter cultures

In the history of human civilization barter has always had its time and place. The time was 1972 and the place was the Plaza. It was quite simple: I had looked longingly at a cowboy shirt handcrafted by Fredrica &

Fredi&

Lawrence and she had a serious need for lunch and a pair of Birkenstocks, both of which I sold at Lithia Grocery. In the blink of an eye I was westernized and Fredi was walking back to her shop inside Village Faire (soon to be taken over by Nimbus) with an Avocado and Cheese Super Deluxe sandwich and a new pair of shoes on her feet. Both of us came away winners&

133;

Fredi put herself through Hunter College of The City University of New York by working as a model in the garment district in Manhattan. She commuted to 30th Street in Manhattan every day from Brooklyn. She then attended the Pratt Institute to study architecture. After she finished school, Fredi was living in a loft in SOHO in Manhattan, when her neighbor, the design legend Betsy Johnson, made a phone call to Ashland and secured Fredi a job in the Festival costume shop in 1972. Within a year she was sharing rent for the Village Fair (soon to be acquired by Nimbus) space with Lois Prinz, a talented seamstress. Both of them designed and manufactured layered prairie dresses and cowboy shirts, then all the rage. The quality was exceptional and the zenith of counter culture haute couture for me then were blue jeans, Fry boots, said cowboy shirt, long hair and a glint in the eye. I was told that the dimples did help.

— — —

Fredi Lawrence, left insert and center in group shot, — set up shop in 1972 Ashland tailoring Western counterculture wear. Who — can spot David Jones, M.D., John Darling, Don Mercer and Steve Boe as — all model Fredi&

s Cowboy shirts?

Submitted photo

I asked Fredi about the detail she put into the shirts and dresses, as I had been a buyer for Men&

s Sportswear for The May Company and had an educated eye for such things.

&

I was inspired by the patchwork of olden times,&

she said. &

Both the prairie dresses and the cowboy shirts that I designed used many different patterns of small floral fabrics. The dresses sometimes took up to seven yards of fabric, with at least two to three different layers of ruffles for the skirts. Lace trim would also be used on the bodice. Sometimes the lace would be dyed in tea to produce an antique effect. These graceful dresses were great for swirling around &

133; the cowboy shirts were not ordinary cowboy shirts &

133; sometimes the yokes would be patchwork in different fabrics before they were stitched down to the shirt. Rich colors and quality fabrics were used in both &

133; many of the garments are still around.&

By 1974 Fredi had moved one store up from her current location at 37 East Main. Lois also made a move over to the current location of Chateaulin&

s Wine Shop, which was then Scott&

s Baby Shop, then Birds of a Feather.

In 1978 Fredi moved into the former Joe Nab&

s Shoe Repair, which before that was Gruber&

s Shoe repair. The location still meets her needs and seemed to have a lot of sole to boot. Fredi began with a tailored collection of clothing and, over time, has refocused on a &

playful, comfortably sophisticated look,&

with emphasis on art to wear. Her high style designer boutique is a delight to the eye and touch, a place to comfortably sift through fashions that stay in style. Her knowledge of the garment industry and design, coupled with her innate ability to assemble a tasteful wardrobe, have kept her business thriving since her first shoe/shirt trade with me, back when a good portion of the Plaza was boarded up for lack of business.

During the years Fredi hung out with us all, though she had a predilection for Jazmin&

s, which provided cocktails, hors d&

oeuvres, dinner and entertainment, all of which amazed her friends from New York City who deemed many of us from Ashland as funky Argonauts in a distant outpost of civilization.

Time has worked its wonders on Ashland. People come and go, houses are remodeled and McMansions explode into view like mushrooms after a forest rain. Throughout this all, many of us, like Fredi, retain the memory of the fabric of Ashland, down to the touch and feel of a fine custom-made shirt or skirt as we geared up for a night on the town.

Future columns will focus on various businesses as well as key individuals and events that will lead the charge from times past to lend perspective to the revival of Ashland. Send your favorite remembrances to: lance@journalist.com.