It’s fitting that Jenique Hendrix spends so much time surrounded by classic clothing and fabulous fashions. A manager at Little Brooklyn Vintage clothing store in downtown St. Pete, Hendrix is also a model, fashion designer and all-around creative spirit that is always looking for her niche.
Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, she lived there until the age of 14. Though apartheid officially ended in the multiethnic country in the early 1990′s, the 23-year-old admitted she and her relatives still felt its effects.
“My family is extremely mixed, so they had to deal with a lot of hardship,” Hendrix said. “But I’m here and we survived.”
Since moving to the United States she has lived in a variety of places including Rochester, Buffalo and Manhattan in New York state and also South Carolina, but now loves being a part of the creative community of St. Pete.
“I lived in Tampa for about six months before I found St. Pete and as soon as I did, I was here within two weeks,” said Hendrix, now a resident of the city for four years. “St. Pete is growing in the arts. I breathe music, fashion, art. I’ve got awesome artist friends around here who are just thriving. I figured it would be easier to be part of a movement here than go to New York City, where everybody’s trying to do it!”
Having studied at art schools in South Africa and New York, Hendrix found she had a penchant for designing and has been drawn to the art of crafting clothing for some time.
“I’ve always enjoyed making things,” she said with her amiable smile. “I’m very creative minded. But I was at the School of the Arts in South Africa for theater, and I graduated from the School of the Arts in New York for theater, then I decided to go into fashion.”
She ultimately found unique ways to give back to the community with her designs, even returning to her native country to participate in events.
“I went back to South Africa where I did a couple of fashion shows in underdeveloped communities,” she said. “The kids that don’t really have much, I took their clothing and rather refurbished everything. And I did motivational speaking, too. So taking the old and making it new was part of my whole speech about how you have what it takes, you can enhance your beauty and make it what you want it to be.”
Her designs have been featured in several local shows, and she has often put her personal touch on events such as a fashion show at the Local 662 in downtown St. Pete, which she coordinated.
“A whole dance group did a show where my designs were involved,” she explained, “and we [Hendrix and other designers] had an array of garments. And instead of walking down the runway the models danced down the runway!” she said. “That was my favorite one.”
Hendrix said that she is currently inspired by the uproarious decade of flappers and speakeasies, the 1920s.
“I’m actually working with the Old Northeast association, they have the Roaring ‘20s Gala coming up in April. I’ve created a couple pieces, including headbands that I’m going to be selling and doing some custom design as well.”
With her unique look and confident smile, it seemed only natural that she would step out into the limelight and walk down the runway herself. Though her modeling career actually began in South Africa, she continued to model after moving to America for various fashion designers and photographers. Then while in St. Pete Hendrix was approached by Corey Janney, the owner of Little Brooklyn Vintage.
“It just so happened that while I was on the job hunt I used to work downtown bartending and serving, and Corey happened to have this opening for modeling. So I jumped on it so I could be surrounded by my industry!”
Hendrix has modeled in various local shows, including the Don’t Stop St. Petersburg Festival and a theme show at the Museum of History, also in St. Pete. Hendrix said that she enjoys modeling because it’s “fun to play in front of a camera and deliver the artist’s idea.”
And the most challenging thing about it?
“It’s exhausting! It takes a lot of time, it takes many frames to get the right one—you don’t just take one picture and call it a day,” she explained. “It takes its toll on your body. You have to eat well, sleep well so you can look well,” she said with a laugh.
Hendrix did admit that she is against what she calls the false ideals of beauty in society, such as the ultra-thin model.
“So I am against the very industry I’m in, if that makes any sense!” she attested, but was mindful to add that shows she has been involved with have included models of “different sizes, colors, ages and shapes.”
These days she likes to keep her options open as she seeks to explore opportunities in the creative world. “When you study design you don’t have to be a designer,” she affirmed. “There are many other parts of this industry to explore. You can be a buyer, a merchandiser, a stylist, a model, a coordinator, a fashion show planner—the industry goes on and on. I think I want to find my niche.”
In the meantime, she loves being surrounded by vintage fashions of all eras at Little Brooklyn Vintage.
“I love dressing up,” she said, her soft brown eyes lighting up. “I can be in a different garment every day—that’s fun. Just working with garments and learning about different eras and times.”
Hendrix believes there’s a renewed interest in vintage clothing nowadays because people are starting to create their own looks. They are stepping outside of what is expected to be the trend and setting their own trends, she postulated.
“Vintage is a way to keep it classy while creating your own look,” Hendrix said. “Fashion repeats itself constantly. Everything that you see on the runway now has been there before years ago. So I think people are just embracing different times.”
Since she has her finger on the pulse of today’s trends, Hendrix has noticed that some of the fashions of the1980s have resurfaced and become popular again.
“The high-wasted pants, the studded leather jackets, the fringe, the band t-shirts, the crazy glasses, bold bright colors. They’re everywhere,” she said. Though conceding that she does enjoy some of the garb of the “Me” decade herself, she generally gravitates toward the clothing of older eras.
“I like the ‘30s. They were kind of subtle compared to the ‘20s, but very enjoyable, too,” she said. “I also like the loud, crazy ‘60s and ‘70s, because it was kind of like, ‘anything goes.’ If it’s bright and psychedelic, I like it!”
Whether she’s modeling, designing or simply staying active in the arts community, Hendrix believes that keeping a cheerful, positive outlook is key.
“Energy works on a circuit,” she asserted. “What you put out definitely comes back in. If you want happiness you can attain it by choosing to do so. If you want to have a good day you can wake up and decide it will be a good day and it will be. The mind is a powerful, powerful tool. I’m on my own journey to enlightenment.”