Story by Rachel Schwartzmann – Follow Marleigh Culver – Photos by Ethan Hickerson for The Style Line
“I’ve visited a lot of cities, but Richmond is the most
unique and conflicted because of its past,” Marleigh Culver explained in our interview below. “It’s gentrifying in certain areas and is still decorated with Southern general statutes, but the whole of it is full of people who are here to work together and make it grow into something beautiful.” Richmond’s communal (and in many ways entrepreneurial) spirit has certainly resonated with us, and with flourishing businesses like Need Supply redefining the city’s small business landscape, this emerging hub has been our radar for quite some time. After discovering tidbits of city life and living vicariously through dynamic creatives like Marleigh (who by the way, is a rising star in the graphic design world and current social media manager/graphic designer at Need Supply), we’ve learned that there’s no better way to experience it then through the eyes of a true local. Case in point, today’s Neighborhood Story.
As you’ll discover more of below, Marleigh’s genuine love for Richmond has translated into just about every aspect of her life. She’s called Richmond home since 2008 and since has observed the city’s immense evolution, especially in the art and design fields.”I’m really proud to be here and to have incredible friends who let me do work for them,” she shared. “I am just another person doing what they love here. I’m just focused on getting stronger and better as an artist and designer.” Naturally, we found ourselves wanting to know more about how Richmond as a city has provided a support system for emerging creatives like Marleigh, along with her thoughts on the best way to live like a Richmond local no matter the season. Without giving too much away, discover the full story below featuring moments from our afternoon with Marleigh, captured by Ethan Hickerson for The Style Line.
*THIS STORY WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN JUNE 2016 AND REFLECTS UPDATED CHANGES TO THE LAYOUT AND INTRODUCTION
I’m Marleigh. Outside of my working life of graphic
design, I paint my feelings with color and eat my feelings in ice cream. I value the deepest, most beautiful and mysterious parts of the world; the things we can and can’t see.
As a native Virginian how would you describe your relationship to Richmond and how would you characterize the community? Is there anything you’d like to see change within the city?
I’m originally from the beach two hours East and have lived in Richmond since 2008. I’ve visited a lot of cities, but Richmond is the most unique and conflicted because of its past. It’s gentrifying in certain areas and is still decorated with Southern general statues, but the whole of it is full of people who are here to work together and make it grow into something beautiful. There are different communities of people influenced by coffee, bikes, jazz, food, street art, natural and handmade items, cultural progression. It’s welcoming, central to other cities and the mountains, and always going. It feels like things are changing faster these days; we’re getting a contemporary art institute for the main college here. If anything were to change, I’d say more spaces for artists to work. An amazing street art project was completed in an empty bus depot a couple years ago and it’s still a visual highlight of the city.
Celebrated businesses like Need Supply have probably played a role in the evolution of Richmond as a city – would you agree? How do you think the city fosters its creative community and what role do you feel like you play in this group?
I absolutely agree. It’s crazy too since Need was started in Atlanta first and then moved here. It’s moved two locations and is in the middle of an intense renovation. It’s going to look incredible and so unlike a Richmond store. So, basically, Need has been top tier for inspiration of other shops to open, for creatives to work with us and to be inspired by our visuals and identity. It’s been amazing the past three years to see its growth. Richmond is affordable and an ideal place for people to start their dreams. Everyone here is so supportive and inspired to do new and risky things. I’m really proud to be here and to have incredible friends who let me do work for them. I am just another person doing what they love here. I’m just focused on getting stronger and better as an artist and designer.
What is one thing you think people should be aware of when visiting a city like Richmond?
Everyone is friendly. Eat everywhere and go to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, it’s free and has housed exhibitions of Picasso and Rodin. And their Friday happy hour on the lawn is a dream.
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Richmond Farmer’s Market
Address: 100 N 17th St, Richmond, VA 23219
“A Saturday morning at the farmer’s market is my favorite energy boost. It’s outside and there are tons of dogs with the best donuts are in town. The amount and kind of produce we have there is wonderful and it’s rewarding to buy from local farmers. I’m wearing my favorite t-shirt from Hilary and her company Bliss and Mischief. I bought it at A Current Affair in L.A. this March, Vanessa Hudgens was at the booth too so it was cool experience. She’s impeccable. My pants are the Jesse Kamm sailor pant (Such a wonderful female staple based off an iconic men’s style) from Need Supply as well as my Le Specs sunglasses. The red flats with a block heel are from Zara.”
Shop Marleigh’s Look: Bliss and Mischief t-shirt $118, Jesse Kamm pants $395, Le Specs sunglasses $59.99, ZARA shoes
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE RICHMOND IN THE SUMMER AND HOW DO YOU THINK IT FOSTERS AN EQUAL BLEND OF AN URBAN LIFESTYLE WITH A NOD TO NATURE/THE OUTDOORS?
Ah! Richmond in the summer…very sweaty, haha! Southern, humid heat. Lucky for us, we are a city built on a river with different points to relax. Belle Isle is a great place to run, but also where to find your crowd of potheads and college people. Texas beach and further up the river is quiet and fun to climb around on rocks. Everyone is drinking and happy and tan and tubing. You’ll find everybody at the river in the summer. Some parts near the water have more greenery and places to run or go on small talking trails. It’s just enough to not feel bored.
What role do you think creativity plays in some of the world’s bigger conversations and how do you think Richmond is contributing to this shift in thinking?
Creativity is what makes people think, want to be included, and it makes people smarter. People take whatever you put in front of them. IF you are putting bad design or design that isn’t easy to understand, you’re going to confuse them when you finally figure out how to correctly engage with people. Do it right the first time and utilize people who work in problem-solving from a creative standpoint. Creative people see the world in different layers and can make life easier and happier to experience. Richmond has a lot of people in it fighting for the right things. People who are building community with classes, gardening, farmers markets, moving art, community events and peaceful protesting. We may not always be on the map like bigger cities, but everyone here wants to fix things and make them better. Ripple effect.
What is one question you wish people asked you more often about life in Richmond?
Ask me what is magic about it.
“Richmond is affordable and an ideal place for people to start their dreams. Everyone here is so supportive and inspired to do new and risky things. I’m really proud to be here…”
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Address: 201 W Broad St, Richmond, VA 23220
“The Quirk Hotel has become a central destination of Jackson Ward, my neighborhood, in Richmond. It’s a beautiful building with a lot of charm and a new rooftop bar. They have a gallery attached which features wonderful artists every month and the gallery store has so many unique items. They collaborate with designers for items that match the color and theme of the hotel. My dress is a Reformation inspired piece from Zara with matching shoes from Marais USA. Wonderfully made and designed with an affordable price point. I take this vintage Coach purse with me everywhere.”
Shop Marleigh’s Look: ZARA dress, Marais USA shoes $225, COACH (vintage) purse (Similar, $234)
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?
I, unfortunately, am rushed and uninspired in the morning to dress for work the way I want and feel, but I love that restriction because after work if I have plans, I can run home and change and feel free and be myself. I’ve evolved into who I want and am inside and it’s refined and about details. I like to wear things that make me feel good. Fitted items and flattering cuts. I’m struggling with my actual image at the moment and I wish I had the money to buy all the strange pieces that express certain parts of me. I love leather jackets, dress with unique patterns or cuts and shoes that are comfortable for my worn knees. I love a mix of everything, you know when you flip through magazine editorials and there’s a clash of cowboy, club kid and maybe an era-specific silhouette? I love that it’s a plane with no end. You could cap things at a certain trend but since over time, we’ll continue to evolve and match opposite ideas, anything is fair game to wear comfortably. People are complex and wearing weird clothes is comforting to our being. It’s protection as well as an advertisement of who we are without words.
How would you describe the small business/small shop community in Richmond? What are some of your favorite local boutiques/designers that you would recommend to first time Richmond visitors?
It’s really fantastic! Right now it’s just the right size. There may be some product overlap, but everyone is doing their own thing and figuring it out as it goes. A lot of the incredible restaurants have opened up markets the last few years and they have stepped up the shopping game. Na Nin is always #1 on my mind because Kate has been doing the vintage clothing thing for over six years and opened up her first store location almost two years ago. She is a very unique person. So open and feeling to everyone. Kind and hard-working and selfless with the most amazing eyes and dance moves. Kate used to be an inner-city school teacher, and she’s a huge part of the community. I also love the work of designers, Christine of Young Frankk and Kristy of Drift Riot who I have done some illustrations for. They are wonderful representations of how powerful the creative prowess is in Richmond.
What is one question you wish people asked you more often?
My e-friend and collaborator, Gittit of Knobbly Studios, has asked me the kind of questions that hit my core and make me want to think and give a thoughtful answer. It’s a little challenge and a lot conversation with someone on the same level. She asked me about copying and imitating lately. Which is essential awareness to have as an artist notably in this age of flooded media and “profiles” and self-proclaimed artists. It’s all a mess and everyone wants credit for things they haven’t earned yet. I wish people asked me deeper questions about life and design. I have a lot to say and it seems I need to bring it on myself to talk about them in a wider way.
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Address: 3100 W Cary St, Richmond, VA 23221
“It’s sad to have these pictures of Need since the store is being renovated. I have so many memories there! I fell in love with Need my freshman year of college, by that point I hadn’t really experienced boutiques where things were on a specific idea with clothing not bought in a mall. The new store is going to be so different and cool, I’m excited for the future of Need Supply. I’m wearing a Stelen jumpsuit. Stele is one of the in-house brands at Need. I have this lace shirt from Urban Outfitters I found on sale that I love to layer with and a Young Frankk necklace. These pink leather/suede Common Projects are definitely not my last pair. They’re comfortable and I always get compliments on them.”