The Sable Collective: A fashionable oasis in the heart of North Philadelphia

My hair appointments at Duafe Holistic Hair Salon overflow with comforting #blackgirlmagic. 

After a vigorous wash, salon owner Syreeta Scott and I chat it up for about an hour while she palm-rolls each of my locks. There is giggling and dolling out of sisterly advice. Once all my individual twists are neat and flush to my scalp, Scott massages my head with scented oils.

Ahh ...

It’s hard to sync my crazy work schedule with Scott’s always filled appointment book — she’s regularly called upon to style the hair of A-listers like Janet Jackson, Jill Scott, and movie director Ava DuVernay. So my trips to the beauty respite are, unfortunately, few and far between.

But I have a sneaking suspicion I’ll be checking in more often. Late last month— just in time for the holiday shopping season — Scott launched the Sable Collective, a 1,000-square-foot home goods, vintage fashion, and beauty boutique adjacent to Duafe. The broad range of products would classify Sable as a trendy concept store — think Bryn Mawr’s Kirna Zabete or Joan Shepp in Center City. But the funky, artsy items — at much more affordable prices — give the loftlike Sable Collective an Urban Outfitters vibe. And that’s a sweet addition to North Philly’s Allegheny Avenue. 

The idea, Scott said, was to create a haven for neighborhood women to pop in and buy the luxurious extras that bring them joy, including candles, incense, bushels of sage, marbled blocks of scented handmade soaps, herbal teas, and lip glosses in brown, mahogany, and burgundy hues.

The decor is very women-friendly: Banners with inspirational sayings --  “Thick Thighs Save Lives,” “Eat Yo Greens,” and “You are Magic” -- hang along the back wall.  A shelf lined with brown-skin rag dolls sits underneath. Mannequins draped in West African-style dresses fashioned from bold wax print stand throughout the space.

“We curated this store with the things that make women feel good,” Scott said. “Everything has a meaning to it.”

Nearly all the products are made by women; many by local artisans. There is fine jewelry from Charita Powell, known for her Amazulu kiosk in Reading Terminal Market, and from Arimas Alston, a University of Pennsylvania graduate whose eponymous collection has more than 29,000 Instagram followers.

Dynamic, exaggerated prints of musical greats, from Marvin Gaye to the Temptations, by West Philly's Oronde Johnson are for sale, along with carved statues from Galerie Hamid in Glenside. 

“Many of these local artists rely on social media,” Scott said. “They often forget the customer who wants to feel, touch, and really experience their craft."

Sable boasts a fair number of pieces by African American artists from across the country. I liked the canvas, envelope-style clutches from North Carolina artist Rachel Stewart. And I kept coming back to the Brothas N Sistas collection, Chicago artist Arielle Wilkins' illustrations of rappers Run DMC, Tupac, and Salt-N-Pepa — without eyes or noses, but with their signature lips and familiar '90s accessories. 

And then there's the apparel. Cozy sweatshirts by Philadelphia Printworks take some knowledge of black history to understand their sometimes biting wit.  But true clotheshorses will love the selection of vintage pieces for women larger than a size 10. We're talking circa-1970, full-length coats in wool, corduroy, patchwork, and plaids; leather skirts and suede shorts, all from Beverly Edmonds, a Penrose curator of the now-closed online boutique Esther Woo Vintage. 

Women who wear a size 10 shoe are even more in luck: There are plum, high-heel wedges, cowboy boots, and leopard-print heels, courtesy of Scott's personal collection. (“When I had kids, I had to get closer to the ground,” said Scott, a single mother of two. “Running behind 2-year-olds was not sexy in stilettos.”)

Scott, 42, has been a local stylist for 20 years, but she said she was at her happiest when she dabbled in retail. 

Last year, when she moved to the space on Allegheny Avenue, a computer company was her neighbor. Four months ago, the business closed and Scott decided it was time to expand. 

She asked friends Celeste Bryant, a 38-year-old marketing professional, and Shanti Mayers, 26, the voice behind the popular Around the Way Curls blog, to go into business with her. 

“I called them and asked them if they wanted to start their dream,” Scott said. “Shanti wanted a space for her beauty products and Celeste wanted a clothing line. It just made sense for all of us.” 

The three  decided to split the nearly $40,000 investment. Two days later, Scott signed a contract with the landlord, and within a week, contractors were knocking down the wall between the two buildings  and laying down the blue-patterned hardwood floor.

Scott hopes Sable will serve as a center for community outreach. 

Already, she has planned a Jan. 11 event for J.J. Smith to sign copies of her New York Times best seller,  The 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse. The first Sable Collective Book Club meeting Jan. 15 will discuss  Ta Nehisi Coates’ award-winning Between the World and Me.  Scott also hosts a series of monthly community breakfasts.

See why I'll be stopping by more often? 

The Sable Collective and Duafe, 3129 N. 22nd St., 267-297-7636, Instagram @sablecollective.

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