SJ Q&A: Monisha Murray, Black And Brown Boutique
San Jose Style on The Alameda
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Black and Brown celebrates its seventh anniversary with a fashion show on March 10. // Photo by Christine Kelly.
Name: Monisha Murray
Occupation: Owner of Black and Brown Boutique
San Jose native Monisha Murray opened Black and Brown in 2005 with a vision of creating a new kind of recycled clothing store. The self-labeled “modern and vintage clothing store” and art gallery celebrates its seventh anniversary next month and its recent move to The Alameda with a spring fashion show on March 10.
“It’s going be a runway show with very vibrant colors for spring,” says Monisha. “We’ve always done over-the-top theatrics, but this is going be our first straight-forward high fashion show.”
How long have you lived and worked in San Jose?
I’m born and raised. I took three years away, and for the last seven years I’ve been running Black & Brown.
What do you like most about San Jose?
Being from here, born and raised, [it’s good] to see the progression and the growth that’s happening with a lot of locals, and knowing a lot of them too. There’s a support system for everyone.
At what point did you decide to stay in San Jose and pursue this as a career?
I lived in New York and was going to open this business there, but decided that I couldn’t stay out there and dedicate my life to something in New York. I wanted to give back to San Jose because, growing up, everyone flocked to San Francisco or Berkeley to do anything artistic and creative. I wanted to stay around here and try to create some heartbeat.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting your business off the ground?
I’d say the biggest challenge was the fact that financially, we didn’t start with much at all. But it was also teaching the city what we were doing and what we were, stepping out of being seen as just a thrift store, because that’s where we were for a long time. I think we’ve finally stepped out of that box and stepped into being known as a boutique and specialty store.
Who are some of your fashion icons?
Right now, I’m really liking Christopher Kane and for me, forever [an icon] is Alexander McQueen. My fashion icons are forever changing, but those are my two highlights at the moment.
How do you like to spend your time when you’re not at Black & Brown?
Lately, I’ve been trying to travel more and get inspired, even if it’s just over to the East Bay. I’ve been going to art shows and things like that. Just seeing what’s going on and keeping ourselves up to speed.
What are some of your favorite places in San Jose?
I love Tofoo Com Chay. I eat there all the time. Empire 7, they do art shows regularly and hold events. I go and hang out there a lot to support them. They bring a lot of other kinds of people from other places too. I also like Wine Affairs because it’s really close and really mellow. It’s a nice place to meet friends and catch up.
If you could change one thing about San Jose what would it be?
I would make a central strip with an abundance of independent businesses that are thriving. I would make it an avenue that is walked by people, that’s just alive. Everything is so segregated. The Alameda is kind of a beginning, I think. You have Crema and The Usuals and then us, and hopefully in the summer we see a lot of change. I hope we inspire a lot of people to move into this area and build on what’s here.
Who is the most interesting person you’ve met in San Jose?
I’m going to say the people on my team. Because it’s just been just me and my partner, Irene Kim, for seven years, but they’ve enlightened me so much. They’re all younger and from different walks of life, and they’ve helped me with a lot of personal growth.
Have a suggestion for a future SJ Q&A? Email your idea to matt [at] blvds [dot] com.