Visit: 3962 N Mississippi Ave, Portland, OR 97227 or 421 SW 10th Ave Portland, OR 97205
STORY by Rachel Schwartzmann – Shop Backtalk – Photos by Nicholas Peter Wilson
In our stories so far, we’ve learned that Portland is notorious for unapologetically fostering individuality and cultivating community.
Today’s discovery features the story of one of the city’s most celebrated shops, Backtalk. With two bourgeoning brick-and-mortar locations, we found ourselves in awe of dual shop-owner and jewelry designer, Katie Freedle’s commitment to independent design. Paying careful attention to her customer’s sartorial desires, Katie has made sure the store’s curations equally blend pieces that nod to the Portland lifestyle while still catering to an aesthetic that is accessible to anyone and their personal style. “When you come into the shop you know you are going to find special pieces that are either one of a kind or small batch production.” she explained. “There is constantly new merchandise to keep things fresh and exciting.” Katie attributes most of her personal style inspiration to mixing bold vintage pieces with more contemporary brands.
Perhaps most importantly, Katie’s overarching goals for her creative endeavors are to contribute to a shift in thinking about how and what we buy. In the below conversation she places a lot of emphasis on the necessity of moving towards small-batch and sustainable production and purchases. While the city’s ethos already encourages these ideals, Katie hopes her impact reaches even further. As she puts it, “My biggest goal with the shop is to get people thinking more about supporting the small artist community and opposing mass-production.” So in the case of ethics, one could argue that back-talk towards the industry’s lax attitude is much needed. Read on for more of Katie’s thoughts on these issues, along with some background on her personal and professional story and discover Portland’s view on style, community and everything in between.
Hey! I’m Katie Freedle, 27, born and raised as an original SE Portland-weirdo.
I would say I’m a goofy person who likes to have a lot of fun. I like exploring, being outside as much as possible, experimenting hands-on, pushing the boundaries and taking on challenges. I’ve been a shop owner and jewelry designer for almost 5 years and wow have I come a long way since my first shop on Alberta.
What has the balance between working with vintage vs. contemporary pieces inspired your personal style?
My personal style inspired the premise of the shop. I can never wear enough vintage but there is something about mixing it with contemporary pieces or accessories that take styles to the next level.
Talk to us about the collective personal style in Portland. How do you think the community’s personal style has influenced how you curate the store’s products?
I’ve found that the city likes to dress more on the safe or comfy side so I always have a lot of natural fiber basics on hand. It’s kinda of a clog or nike type of town here but I also love lots of bright colors, funky patterns and wizard capes (as my boyfriend calls them) in my wardrobe so the shop is a good mix of classics + crazy.
What do you hope Backtalk contributes to the small shop scene in Portland and beyond?
There is a growing community of independent boutiques in Portland and around the U.S. and I think it is so special! I hope someday it becomes the norm of shopping and all of the malls and department stores shut down. Quality and slow fashion.
How would you characterize the Backtalk community and in-store experience?
Backtalk fans are girls who just GET IT! I love my shop regulars! When you come into the shop you know you are going to find special pieces that are either one of a kind or small batch production. There is constantly new merchandise to keep things fresh and exciting.
What is one question you wish people asked you more often?
The dark side. Owning a business is not as glamorous as it may seem. It’s not for everyone. It has taken me a lot of years of hard work and dedication to get this far. I think it takes a certain type of person, someone who may be a little crazy, to make it work.
Shop Katie’s look: RillRill necklace $120, Laurs Kemp dress $240, Maranda Powers brass choker
My shops are extensions of myself, they need endless nourishment and demand full attention, which means you have to make a lot of sacrifices. However, seeing your vision come to life and the fruit of your labor bloom is an irreplaceable feeling that makes it all worth it. I adore seeing customers enthusiastically react to all the magic in the shop. There is something very special about being the one who hand selects what people choose to wear every day. I love what I do even though it kicks my ass sometimes!
As a small business owner what tools would you advise aspiring designers to utilize in their own endeavors?
Utilize the people around you and soak up the knowledge of others who may be more experienced than yourself.
The Style Line was built on the premise of discovery, exploration and transit. With this in mind, if what is your “the style line” in your wardrobe?
Walking around town and admiring the different street style always gives me new fashion ideas, especially near the Ace Hotel where the hip tourists usually congregate.
How do you think creativity contributes to some of the world’s bigger conversations and what role is Backtalk playing in this shift in thinking?
Everything at the shop is either hand-made by an independent designer or vintage. My biggest goal with the shop is to get people thinking more about supporting the small artist community and opposing mass-production. I aim to change the way people think about shopping, to value craftsmanship, ethical production and sustainability.