Style Stud: The Strange and Unusual Philadelphia

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 9.53.37 AMIf you hadn’t noticed, I’m a big supporter of the arts :::hair flip:::. And to be well-rounded, and a real life art nerd, you need to indulge in it all. If you’re going to check out the Barnes, you gotta hit up the PMA. And if you’re going to hit up the PMA, you have to visit the Mutter Museum (I remember the first time going there and actually getting PRETTY nauseous, but I was also hungover so the cause is debatable).

Nothing excites me more than when a new store opens in Philly, especially one that will knock the vintage, oddities, and antique scene on its head. The Strange and Unusual Philadelphia, opening September 12, 2015 to the public at 3 p.m. will do just that, and according to one of the masterminds behind the store, is a mixture of “weird and pretty” … which quite frankly made me swoon … just a little

I had the pleasure of chatting with good friend and renowned taxidermist in the Philly art scene, Kristie Matt, who is part owner of the Strange and Unusual Philadelphia with her husband, Steve Matt, along with Josh Balz and Ryan Malarky. 

Oddities lovers. Vintage collectors. Antique animals. Taxidermy enthusiasts. Abstract jewelry hounds (myself included). And the lover of the arts. There is truly something for everyone at the Strange and Unusual. Please join me on September 12 at 3 p.m., 523 S. 4th St at their grand opening and check out their beautifully curated collections for yourselves.

How was the Strange and Unusual born?

The Strange and Unusual was conceived as a brick and mortar location to house the growing collection of our business partners, Josh Balz and Ryan Malarky. Their ever expanding collection of oddities and antiques had outgrown their living space and they decided they wanted a retail location to share their collection with the world. So a couple of years ago, they opened the flagship Strange and Unusual store in Kingston, PA. 

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What is your background and how did you get started with the Strange and Unusual?

I am a self taught taxidermist with a background in Fine Art. A few years ago my royal rodent taxidermy caught the eye of Ryan, and she contacted me requesting that I consign my work at her Kingston store. Following the store’s Instagram account led me to realize that the way their shop was curated was completely in line with my own personal aesthetic. So basically, I chose the Strange and Unusual because it was in my native state of PA, and because it was just really beautiful to me. Weird and pretty. My favorite combination.

What made you open this store in Philly?

Steve and I had known for several years that we wanted to open a retail business of our own, preferably an oddities/antique business. We have been collecting taxidermy and oddities together for over a decade. Our house is overflowing! At some point I mentioned to Ryan that Philly was sorely lacking a business like hers, and offered to pool our resources and team up. Thus the Strange and Unusual Philadelphia partnership was born.

We chose the South Street area because it has a tradition of being offbeat and fun. Plus, someone has to bring the weird back! I grew up hanging out on South Street and I am very proud to become a member of the business community there. I hope we can contribute to making it the destination that it was when I was growing up.

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What sets the Strange and Unusual apart from other vintage/oddity stores in Philly?

The Strange and Unusual Philadelphia is not your grandmothers antique store and it is not a college kids thrift store. It is a meticulously curated, macabre lifestyle boutique featuring unique items both new and old, with an emphasis on the dark, mysterious, and beautiful.

Will you be hosting any events at the store?

We hope to host many, many special events that will bind our community together. Taxidermy contests, tutorials, pop-up artist shops, and much more. Stay tuned. 

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What kind of brands do you carry?

Most of the items we carry are vintage, antique, or are ethically sourced new taxidermy specimens. The one brand that we are very proud to offer, though, is Black Craft Cult.

We are also very proud of the cross promotion that we will be doing with Philadelphia’s own Mutter Museum. There is a great deal of overlap between those who visit the medical oddity museum and those who we hope will come to visit our store. We intend to carry some of the museum’s t-shirts and books. Additionally, we will be offering reciprocal discount on museum admission and our merchandise. 

When will you be open to the public? What are your hours?

The Strange and Unusual Philadelphia will open its doors to the public on Saturday, September 12 at 3 p.m. Our hours most likely will be Tuesday-Sunday from noon-8 p.m.

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What are some items you will be carrying that you are most excited about?

I am most excited to be able to feature my own taxidermy designs. My company is called Cloven Hoof and I’m thrilled to have a permanent, year-round, brick and mortar location where one can find it. 

Are you showcasing any local designers/artists?

Yes we are! Myself, as mentioned, and other cosigners are in the works. When the ink is dry, I will be able to disclose exactly whom. We will always try to support local artists.

For people who may not be comfortable with taxidermy, what other cool things can they find at the store? 

Many items. Antique medical instruments, inspired vanity items, jewelry both new and old, books on witchcraft and the occult, tarot decks, vintage Ouija boards, amazing gothic-style furniture. There’s a lot more to our store than death. Though to us, death is only the beginning! 

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Style Stud Of The Week: Jill Kargman

4ffc3f405ab1e2d6ddccdb4321531270I never understood the people who would roll their eyes at the Real Housewives franchise and be all, “how can you watch this rubbish?!” To me it was an excuse to put my brain on the shelf and drool as I watch these fantastically rich women shop, eat, and bicker over meaningless drama. After a long annoying day, nothing is better than a little escape, am I right?

But it happened. Recently I had to turn off a Real Housewives of NY episode mid-way through because I couldn’t take it. I just can’t deal with eight women screaming at each other for a solid hour. When you feel like you need to pop a Xanax whilst watching a reality show … it means it is time to shut it down. 

So when my best friend mentioned to me how “Odd Mom Out“, a scripted show by Bravo, was actually entertaining, I had no other option than to give it a whirl. While I may have given up on the RHONY, I wasn’t about to give up on Bravo as whole. That is just crazy talk.

And that is when I met my new best friend (sorry current best friend), Jill Kargman. I want to shop with her. I want to drink with her. I want to make fun of people with her. I want to eat a whole baguette with her. I want to braid her hair (wait … what?). I didn’t even know there was this massive void in my life until I became one with this amazing show (by the way how creepy do I sound right now?).

As someone who loathes snobby people, is an eye rolling perfectionist, loves carbs, and wears all black all day errday … Jill Kargman, the star of Odd Mom Out, is now my soul sister. I’ve declared it. Anyone who has their outfit complimented by a gay man as, “it’s like Marc Jacobs had a threesome with Morticia Adams and Karl Lagerfeld’s angrogenous sister,” is destined to be my soul sister.

Not to mention her catchphrases are brilliant … some of which I’m working overtime trying to incorporate into my every day lexicon. I’ll only dazzle you with a few as I could go on forevski (stolen from Jill Kargman).

“Let’s get the check-oslovakia.”

“Thigh plus ass equals thass” 

“Donuts are just gay bagels.”

Listen … I know I usually premiere “Style Stud” of the week on Friday, but this is a “holiday” week and I make the rules up in this bitch, so I’m breaking them. Jill Kargman of Odd Mom Out, you are the Style Stud of the week on Life Sucks In A Strapless Bra, because you’re smart, stylish, bad ass, sarcastic, extraordinarily witty, and show women you don’t need to turn into a robot freak of nature only focused on kids and kid-related topics once you procreate. 

Cheers and let’s get cocktails, kay? 

Style Stud Of The Week: Geoff Peirce

art-museum-hottieThe idea of exercising in this heat, let alone outdoors, on the Art Museum steps, with my shirt off, makes me want to crawl back into bed and take a long nap. But for Geoff Peirce, the simple act of getting his fitness on turned him from regular handsome dude, to the Justin Timberlake of Philly. 

Personally I found the whole ordeal fascinating. You wake up one day, do your normal routine, and hours later find out some guy (Hi, Hugh E!) was taking your picture and it’s all over the interwebs and Philly news outlets?! What?! 

So ladies, and gay gents, prepare yourselves, and try not to swoon TOO hard, as I give you a deeper dive into the life of Geoff Peirce, the latest dreamboat to roll into Philly. 

Tell me a little about yourself … age, what you do for a living, what you like to for fun?

Im 27 years old. My full-time job is as a product manager of indoor air quality for my families company Peirce-Phelps Inc. and my part-time job on the side is as a fitness model and actor. I obviously love to be active in the city and workout in many different forms from calisthenics, power lifting, Olympic lifting, plain old body building, and cross fit. I really can’t get enough when playing sports, too. I am a huge soccer, volleyball, and tennis player, but can also dominate the field in ping pong and fuse ball (all challengers welcome)

What does it feel like to be one of the most desired men in Philly?

It’s pretty odd, but cool at the same time. Doesn’t really register with me. I have always been a friendly outgoing person, in my own opinion, and this attention recently has been a surprise. I don’t mind the attention, but I would hope to use it in order to make other, more important things, relevant to the masses.

Where is your favorite place to shop in Philly?

My favorite spot to shop in Philadelphia is Lululemon (haha). I love the selection of guys stuff for casual wear. I only really wear their shorts to workout in but if I’m going somewhere casual and still want to bring some style I wear Lululemon. As for higher fashion I hit Macy’s as well as South Moon Under for a bunch of looks.

Obviously you’re just a little on the athletic side (kidding), how would you define your workout style? Is there a style to a workout look, or is it more of just pick out a t-shirt and shorts and go?

This is a great question. Everyone who is part of the gym scene either knows there is a style or should take this information I am about to give right now and recognize its truth. Style is very much a part of the gym. Dress partially for the functionality of the exercise you do such as running shoes and shorts for runners, maybe a sleeveless shirt if you are going to be doing motions that require more arm flexibility. My personal style is I dress as if I were a professional athlete at the gym. I wear Nike combat compression or slim fit shirts that support proper form and help the visibility of what you are doing. I also wear Lululemon pace-breakers since they have built-in compression shorts that are crazy comfortable to squat in. Everything has to be colored correctly. No dark blues and blacks and no lose shirts with tight shorts. The goal is show your bodies best form so you can be aware of the changes you would like to make as you’re working out.

A lot of men are turned off by the idea of “manscaping” or getting pedicures … going to salons. How do you feel about that kind of “man maintenance”?

(Haha) I am personally for it … but to degree. Trimming should be a must unless you got a Gaston or lumber jack look going on. If you don’t like that hair on a women she probably doesn’t like that hair on you. I don’t get pedicures but I have always had my hair cut at the same salon since I was a kid and I don’t plan on changing it anytime soon.

Have to ask, what is a trend women are rocking right now that you hate and why?

That’s a hard one. I generally like styles of all kinds if the person can rock it confidently. The only problems I have thus far are those aviator and large sunglasses covering the entire face as well as the parachute floral pants that basically give sweatpants a high-end alternative. The sunglasses make a couple girls look like bugs and for some other women it makes them look almost identical. I have had double takes on many occasions thinking I saw the same person 4 different times.

I see that you’re single. Are you just enjoying the single life for right now? 

I am indeed enjoying the single life right now but am now more open to the idea of commitment. I always pretty much knew what I liked and what works with my personality and lifestyle but I think I am ready to accept that I may need to make changes to my own lifestyle to really date someone effectively with long term goals in mind.

How do you feel is the most effective way to meet ladies? 

I feel meeting people through friends and friends of friend’s at large events or parties is the most effective way to get things going in the right direction. By having a mutual friend or someone each person knows around pretty much endorses someone for not being a complete weirdo … something I think that lacks on the online dating apps. Also, you are right there in person face-to-face, no pictures or photos or nonsense to worry about. What you see is what you get and I like that. Being in one of those larger parties or at a concert or sporting event tailgate I think it also gives you a relaxed atmosphere to be yourself and to also have fun regardless of trying to meet someone or not. For the guys that stay strictly to the bar scene I recommend staying close to the bar if not right up on it … all the weird stuff happens up at the bar if you hang around long enough.