What do Birmingham, vintage fashion and a 1971 cult classic starring Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort have in common? They have culminated in inspiring a new vintage shop on Third Avenue North. Since the opening of their first pop-up shop a few months ago, Harold & Mod is promising to be an injection of fresh style straight into the arm of Birmingham fashion and design.
The brainchild of stylists Milo Beloved and Heidi Smith, Harold & Mod is more of a personally curated exhibit of fashion and home furnishings than just the place you go to buy pants and paintings. The duo has worked hard to create a collection that is equal parts forward-thinking fashion and funky personal statement, rather than focusing on hip individual items.
“Sometimes we find a vintage piece that we like and will sell it as part of a look,” Beloved said. “But most of what we’re into is creating new pieces out of old ones and custom designs out of wild fabrics. We want to give designers free reign to create whatever they feel. We’ve dedicated half our space to the shop — the other half serves as a studio for our artists to bring their ideas to life.”
Stepping into Harold & Mod is like strolling though a funhouse-mirror version of a Godard film. Everything is undeniably suave and fashionable, but conventional reality seems to have been checked at the door. The sheer individuality of the sparse furniture and handcrafted art décor, almost all of which is available for purchase, makes them appear to leap from their corners and walls. Funky neon plastics blend effortlessly with tiger-stripe print and crystal accents, all with a personal touch.
Beloved combines his experience as an image consultant with a penchant for offbeat patterns and fabrics to craft one-of-a-kind looks. Mixing high fashion with taxidermy is what passes for a mundane idea in Beloved’s world. His personal style is as immediately recognizable as the eclectic shop and studio he’s helped to create.
Smith — the other half of Harold & Mod’s fashion dynamic duo — and her daughter Liv usually spend their time carefully navigating closets stuffed with pieces both classic and edgy alike. Her designs tend to hew more to the side of space-age design and a retro-futuristic feel. Neon sequins highlight drab tones as Eames meets Elton in Smith’s creations.
Beloved says that the shop is proud to be a part of what he refers to as a renaissance in Birmingham. Not necessarily as it was described in a recent New York Times article, but one where downtown Birmingham is a place someone could spend all day and not see one-tenth of what there is to see.
“People talk about the big businesses, but any real artistic change has to happen in a grassroots way,” Beloved said. “You’re starting to see it happen, but people need to get involved if it’s really going to catch on. We’re very excited to contribute with Harold & Mod. After all, we couldn’t have done what we’ve done without the support of Good People Brewing, Yellowhammer Creative and the city in general.
“Birmingham is getting a lot better,” he added, uplifted. “There are a lot of retail places downtown, but we would like to see more for people to do, not just come shop and eat. Railroad Park and Regions Field are neat, but we want to see people walking around everywhere, having a good time, creating a truly downtown vibe both day and night. It’s tough because things are so scattered. Here on Third we’re only a few blocks from places like Urban Standard, but five blocks is like no man’s land when a person is out walking.”
Things have been wild so far for Harold & Mod. After Beloved and Smith held a successful fashion show at Beloved’s home back in March, the duo transitioned to helming small pop-up shops around town before settling into their new digs on Third Avenue, which they set up in a week. Now finally able to abandon their nine-to-five jobs, Beloved and Smith have found themselves tasked with organizing fashion shows and photo shoots for their designs while promoting their growing business and creating new products.
“We have seasonal clothing lines that we’ve been working on, and we do a fashion show based around each of those, the next of which will be in the spring,” Beloved said. “All of our runway shows and photo shoots use local models and staff. Thinking locally is something that we’re very passionate about. We try to incorporate what we can of Birmingham’s distinct soul.”
By the tone of Beloved’s voice alone, it’s evident that Harold & Mod is, in some small way, a quirky ode to the Magic City.
“Heidi and I want to give people a sense that they’re buying things that were lovingly crafted, gifts with personality and soul,” Beloved said. “That’s what is so great about shopping locally; you are able to buy something that has warmth because it wasn’t made on an assembly line and you get to help support Birmingham. If people want to go do the early-morning Black Friday thing at Best Buy or wherever, that’s fine. We’ll be right here with gifts and styles that were created just for them. We’ll even have coffee ready.”
You can visit Harold & Mod at their new shop at 2323 1st Ave. N., or get more info at haroldandmodshop.com.