Arts & Culture
SEX in SA Afterlife
Published: June 6, 2012
Picture yourself wandering down King's Road in London. The year is 1971. You stumble into a provocative shop full of bondage and fetish wear, creepers, and obscene T-shirts tucked between stacks of rock records and 1950s memorabilia. This humble outpost, operated by business partners Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, would come to define an aesthetic definition of punk the world over.
Much like London's iconic SEX shop, a new boutique by the name of Afterlife has arrived to bring San Antonio a taste of the profane. The shop, just a few months old, is owned and operated by a collective of San Antonio kids in their late teens to early 20s. Formerly known as Alamo Wasteland, the group has operated from a pop-up boutique every First Friday on South Alamo Street. With a convenient downtown storefront and regular daily hours, they hope to expand their reach.
"We all shared a love for secondhand things, D.I.Y., and reworking our own clothes," said Katalya Bustos, one of the collective's founding members. "We decided that if there was going to be a cool place to shop in San Antonio, we'd have to make it ourselves." Bustos counts Selena, John Waters, and Lisa Frank as just a few of her idols.
Platform sneakers, neon swimwear, mini back-packs, and Hawaiian-print blouses are in full bloom at Afterlife, artfully arranged amid the taxidermy-embellished walls. Skate decks suspend vampy patent-leather combat boots beside summer-friendly leather huaraches. "So much blood, sweat, and other fluids have gone into this," said Elena Hernandez-Peña, another of the group's founding members, as she glanced around the small shop.
While the outfit does sell some secondhand goods, the focus of Afterlife is to promote local and handmade creations. "We want local designers to bring their work into the shop, where they won't feel intimidated because they're maybe young or inexperienced," said Bustos. "We ourselves are just poor working kids."
Many of the secondhand items on sale have been reworked by the Afterlife collective themselves. Denim shorts are studded, slashed, and tie-dyed, selling alongside dainty flower crowns and embroidered patches made by Aracely Quintero depicting '90s celebrities like Bart Simpson and Brittany Murphy.
While much of the vintage and handmade items here would go far on eBay, the owners of Afterlife want to reserve these unusual, special pieces for the youth of San Antonio — not Austin, Los Angeles, or New York.
Also in the tradition of SEX, Afterlife ferments a society all its own. At the grand opening, guests ate pizza and shopped while a high school girl who designs her own rock and crystal jewelry did tarot readings. The evening had a feeling of something new for San Antonio that's been a long time coming. A recent Saturday night sale featured deep discounts … and trashcan punch.
For now, the challenge is just to sell enough to keep the doors open, and everyone in the collective puts in hours behind the register, despite competing demands from school and second jobs. The location, halfway between the River Walk and Southtown, is a perfect draw for creative tourists, bored teens, and local cognoscenti. So don't wait around for the Afterlife — ya se armó. •
628 S St. Mary's
> Email Natalia Ciolko