Frontlines

Some wear over the rainbow

Suzanne Fournier,Marni Jackson April 2 1979
Frontlines

Some wear over the rainbow

Suzanne Fournier,Marni Jackson April 2 1979

Some wear over the rainbow

Lois Lane, who went on that flying blind date with somebody into yellow belts and red capes, had a heavenly rendezvous of a different sort in Vancouver recently. Actress Margot Kidder collided with Angel, a store full of hand-painted fantasy clothes, and the result was Superspree: she bought piles of striped, star-studded, rainbow-splashed T-shirts, long johns, and kimonos, including personalized underwear for her brothers and father. Her daughter Maggie, 3, scoured the children’s racks. Kidder came back three times in the same day and spent several hundred dollars. “My accountant will go nuts,” she said. Then it was back to California to dispense the work of Angels to her Malibu neighbors, who include Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden. From the business point of view, it was a case of angel meets Angel.

“Margie’s got wild tastes and too much money—I knew she’d love it,” says her brother John, who lives around the corner from Angel and told his sister about the store, when she was back in Vancouver, her hometown, visiting relatives. Lois Lane is not alone. Since Angel opened last August on the edge of Vancouver’s Fourth Avenue, a once cosmic, now frankly commercial hangout for the city’s still flourishing counterculture, the store has been selling as fast as the two proprietors, Verena Radfux and Jackie Haliburton, can produce. Each garment undergoes a 24hour process that begins with naturalfibre fabrics and a base color of European colorfast paint. After drying overnight, the cloth is ironed and the Angel icons (stars, stripes, fruit, seashells, and, inevitably, angels) are painted on.

Angel offspring have become a familiar Vancouver sight, their distinctive, brilliant colors flaring on the backs of Stanley Park joggers and flashing down ski slopes. “One lady bought our skintight midnight-blue long johns with gold stars to wear to a cocktail party,” said Radfux. Folk-singer Leon Bibb, a former New Yorker with a nine-year addiction to Vancouver, calls them “good performance clothes.”

Vancouver bon vivant and television cooking celebrity James Barber wore his Angel-designed kimono on national TV and received more inquiries about his clothes than his Japanese recipe. Blues musician Taj Mahal was especially persistent, recalls Barber. “Taj was knocked out. He liked their brightness, but it’s also got that West Coast softness, blurry around the edges.”

Bibb first saw some of his friends’ kids wearing Angel gear, and children are central to the whole enterprise. Radfux has taught art to children in Vancouver and West Germany; Haliburton, who graduated from the Walt Disney-backed California Institute of the Arts with a line of hand-painted leather clothing, has a similar background, having run an art school for toddlers in affluent West Vancouver, painted on bed sheets to teach less-priv-

ileged kids in the east end, and worked as an art teacher in a junior high school. Prices, however, are grown-up: $10 for a baby-sized cotton shirt, up to $40 for adult T-shirts, jogging suits for $45 and kimonos that cost $75.

“People said I looked like an angel and started giving me angels in various forms when I was 20,” explains cofounder Verena Radfux. The two partners, aged 30 and 31 (Tauruses born a year apart on May 1 and 2—essential

Angel background) are cherubically naive when it comes to the business end of things, but luckily they now have a guardian angel—theatre manager June Clayton, who plans to expand Angel to other cities. “We don’t mind,” says Haliburton, “as long as we don’t have to give up our West Coast lifestyle.” All of which raises the unavoidable question of how many angels can dance on the head of a trend.

Suzanne Fournier

Marni Jackson