Aprli l3, 1969 Chicago Sun-Times
By Abra Anderson

Ghetto Fashion Spa Has Roaring Start


The African Lion opened Wednesday with a roar of miniskirts, steak bone jewelry and hopes for a productive future in the black community.

A jazzy boutique emphasizing the Afro-American styles in women’s fashion, the store is the latest venture of the Conservative Vice Lords, Inc.

Squeezed into a spot once occupied by a dingy tavern at 3702 W. 16th, the African Lion adds a touch of glamour to this commercial street in the heart of the ghetto.

The area has been credited with having more problems for a square block than any other in the city, but the Vice Lords intend to change all that.

Low On Merchandise

Last week, they received a $130,000 Ford Foundation grant to help improve the community; $25,000 of this has gone into the African Lion.

The shop’s rustic wood interior is filled with leafless trees, African sculpture, animal art and Afro hair-styled salesgirls.
A bit low on merchandise the opening day, the Lion will eventually carry dozens of items ranging from skirts to uni-sex outfits based on dashiki- a loose fitting shirt.

“The store will stress Afro-American fashions with European tailoring from miniskirts to bell-bottoms,” said manager Shirley Fisher, 25. “I guess you could call it an integrated line,” she noted wryly.

Steak Bone Necklaces

The first designs and patterns will come from Bob Page and Buffy Strong, two Chicago Negro artists whose work has been sold in this country and abroad, according to Bill Stevenson, co-director of the African Lion.

Prices will range from $8 for a shirt and $1 for a dress or pants suit. [The shop will also include] necklaces of steak bone, wire and wood, designed by Norbert Wilkinson, another Chicagoan, [and] start at $1 and go as high as $12.50 for a set.
Bobby Gore, a spokesman for the Vice Lords, said that people in the community can well afford the “reasonable prices” offered at the African Lion.

“They have the money to buy things, but it usually goes out of the community,” he said.

Plan Manufacturing Plant

Plans call for establishing a manufacturing plant nearby where local residents can be trained for design and make merchandise for the African Lion. Eventually they hope to set up franchises.

The shop officially opens for business Thursday. Hours will be from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, Stevenson said.

Judging from the curious glances of window shoppers Wednesday, the Vice Lords have a lion by the tail.