For 36 years, Devi’s mission has been to bring harmony, inspiration, ease, beauty, love and joy … in and through her company, Outback in the Temple of Venus. She has designed and produced clothing with messages on clothing tags sold in over 3000 boutiques and department stores. Along the way, Devi created and operated more than 20 Temple Shops* (she lost count!).
* Temple Shop … “LoveZones”… The merging of Spirit & Business … of spiritual practice and living life … “work is love made visible” –Kahlil Gibran
She once closed her business in 1999 because of economic shifts and family needs. But after hearing from thousands of her “LoveTribe” about their upset and depression over the closing, she told her local Bay Area customer/ community/ family that she would hold a sale event party once a year.
It was coming on two years when 9/11 happened, and she knew it was time to come back (she was living in her home in Hana Maui) and host a two weekend event to “Spread the love. The fear bug would be spreading and we need the antidote of love.” And of course, find beautiful clothing at half off (or less) prices that she was able to offer when she was manufacturing. What appeared was a beautiful 20,000 sq ft. building with parking lot, along with a loft live-in space a couple of blocks away. The shop filled up magically in 10 days and the LoveTribe gratefully poured in. And so began Devi’s “pop-up shop” model, which she calls visiting while hosting the party. Ashland has been the first commercial lease she has taken in over 20 years!
The wholesale business of Outback, operated for 18 years and then closed for 18 years, is slowly and organically re-emerging. Devi is producing special pieces with her suppliers and with a cut/sew shop in the Bay Area. Although she produces some items, she mostly “cleans out” warehouses of friends, designers and clothing companies she’s consulted and worked with for many years. She is able to get and sell the goods at about half off, and often way less. Her outlets offer high-quality special pieces at a range of prices and sizes to fit most people’s’ needs.
Combining shopping and temple environments, for sacred commerce, nurturing and community building, she has won numerous best shopping experience awards, “Best of the Bay.”
In March 2015 Devi opened a new store on 275 East Main Street. We stopped in to speak with Devi and her team about her latest creation.
Devi, thanks so much for talking with us today and bringing your lovely store to Ashland. Please introduce us to Outback in the Temple of Venus.
We have a wonderful staff of hostesses and stylists to serve our community, and a wonderful large space to host in. We feature a curated collection from my many relationships, using my innate talent plus a developed eye over 36 years of dressing my “LoveTribe” (the community I serve). And we intend to be a haven of love, peace, beauty and fun, while offering great prices on clothing, jewelry and accessories, to enhance our personal temples… our bodies, home and spirit.
It seemed to open overnight…
It always amazes me how effortless it is when it’s right, and in the flow of magic (not that it doesn’t take some full on energy!). My friend Chloe, who is a former Outback store manager from the 80s and now lives in Talent (and has a lot of talent!), drew me to Ashland. Her and her talented partner Erik helped build and put our Temple shop together. The owner of the building, Laura, was also a magical gift. She loves our mission (and has great style!) and went out of her way to make it beautiful and partner with us.
The week before I was planning on driving up to open the shop, I went to an auction that supplied me with amazing pieces to “anchor” a new space. A gorgeous huge Chinese screen and other special pieces were waiting for us. The SF Opera donated some pieces to us that week as well! And a few days earlier I was gifted a beautiful Mayumi Oda (a friend, awesome artist, farmer, activist and compassionate goddess) White Tara print for my birthday. Thanks Becky! It came just as I was putting Ashland together, so I realized it was for Outback in Ashland.
Chloe and Erik drove a truck down (in the snow!) and we loaded the found pieces along with treasures and clothing from my Bay Area warehouse and we all headed up. As my partner Robert and I were in the car leaving, I said, we have this beautiful Tara, but it is a big space and we could use some statues and paintings of Quan Yin (Goddess of compassion, where the heart and the mind meet in wisdom). A few minutes later I got a call from one of my LoveTribe friends, Karen, saying she was moving and wanted me to have the Quan Yins, so we stopped by her house and she loaded us up with statues, paintings and other beautiful pieces! That’s how things flowed. We landed Monday morning, unloaded, went to a local auction, found more display treasures, set up, put an ad on craigslist, hired and trained some fabulous women/goddesses, and had a First Friday opening party, hosting a couple of hundred people! It was almost overnight! Definitely magic!
The layout of Outback is fabulous. Please tell us more about it.
Since we are hosting the community, we always have a couch, a living room, serving tea and snacks. It is fun to watch spontaneous parties break out, whether it’s in the living room or the dressing room (where many a best friend has been forged). This particular space is one of our larger shops and it lends itself to private parties, classes and events. We’re looking forward to hosting more of these.
How did it get that name Outback in the Temple of Venus?
Outback started outback in the garage with an Australian girlfriend. We were always telling our kids we’ll be outback. It started out with the subtitle of adventurous clothing. Though that was for all the adventures of life, it was often confused with a line that could be found in REI.
The Temple of Venus is a longer mystical story. It’s now time for this secret to “come out.” Here’s the short version. I’m Venus and clan mother “loves all things” in an ancient clan from Eastern Europe, the Owl Clan. Norma was the “Clan Mother” who had a mystery school and church in SF, that fed thousands and helped many during the AIDS peak cross over. When I first closed Outback in 1999, she said I would reopen as the Temple of Venus, selling flowing robes and clothing. At the time I thought, hmmm… that’s your style, but I’m a “sporty” girl. But of course when it did reopen, all of these beautiful cut velvet and silk Citron robes, blouses and dresses came our way, Norma was always spot on! At the time, I didn’t want to turn anyone off by sounding too “New Age,” so I said the Temple of Venus was “outback in the dressing room, where Venus will enter you.” But eventually we “came out” came forward, as Outback in the Temple of Venus.
Devi, you have been a lifelong entrepreneur. I would love to hear more about your own story of how you first started in creating clothing and opening up stores.
Fun, beauty, love and business seemed to be my mix from a young age. I put on carnivals, shows, lemonade stands and made and sold Barbie doll clothes. I personally didn’t enjoy playing with Barbies, but loved making clothing for them, and making money to buy ice cream for my brothers and sisters (and me) when the Good Humor ice cream man came around.
Later on, after a year traveling … in the play Hair in Paris, in Ashrams in India, I had a fun job selling door-to-door in economically challenged neighborhoods in East Oakland, meeting many wonderful people. While in that area, I discovered thrift stores with these amazing vintage clothing for 10 – 25 cents a piece, and so I opened a shop within a collection of small shops on Telegraph Ave in Berkeley near the UC campus. It was called, “Funky Junk and extra added attractions” … (These long names attach themselves!) It was 1971 and I helped young people from around the country as they came to Berkeley acclimate and fit in with a hip look of vintage vests, shirts and work boots or skirts made out of denim jean tops with full skirt made from vintage ties. Fast forward 10 years … I had gotten into real estate, was a wallpaper hanger, and was living in a community. Someone brought back some army surplus painters pants. Everything was going into the dye bath those days (hot pink diapers!), so into the dye bath they went and they were beautiful! I made an outfit out of the pants and put ads in the Yoga Journal to mail order the outfit, and it kept growing from there.
Devi, in listening to your stories and hearing of your adventures, I really see the work you are doing as representing something much deeper than simply creating stores and selling clothing.
A Korean/Tibetan woman came in the Berkeley shop yesterday and said she’s been coming for years because it is her favorite center for honoring the feminine. She wanted to straighten up the altar of our Quan Yin and White Tara because she said in this new Year of the Monkey, the feminine will stand front and center, and take charge to set our priorities, creating a world that works for all, to bring the “we” before the “me.” Sounded right to me… straighten up and come forward!
So many stories over the years of women finding their voice, finding their beauty, their best friend, their health. It is my intention to host a space, a “LoveZone,” where people can take a “time out,” a safe space to “let go and let goddess,” as well as nurture themselves and honor their personal beauty. Which is so what Ashland does. Main (our) street alone, besides having fabulous performances, has wonderful clothing, jewelry, accessory and shoe shops, a spa, a new aroma dome therapy café, a shop with great personal care products, a stimulating shop to arouse our sexual juju, antique curios adventures, books, music, cafes … Not to mention gorgeous nature and hikes! Ashland is a great place to come and get renewed!
Over the years as a business owner you have continually used your business as a way of bringing awareness to important social issues. Please say more about this.
I’ve used our “marketing” to bring awareness to issues, which are woven into all of our communications. When I manufactured, themes were woven into the fabrics, poetry on hangtags, windows, ads and even invoices. Some themes in the 1980s informed things like monasteries being burned down in Tibet, Free Tibet, and trees being burned down in the rainforests, Save the Rainforests, while the inner spirit stays strong, And Buddha still sits in the garden. Along with personal changes like Menopause Women a Go-Go. I wrote a little booklet saying how women going through this change will be the guides to bring the world through this change into maturity and wisdom (as in our worldwide menopause going on now!).
Our motto “Be Fearless-Choose Love” has been woven into our communications through the years.
Some of the themes on hang tags:
We designed the first fashion organic cotton clothing collection with a theme, Reciprocity and the Matriarchal Lineage, establishing full cycle production, using the “wastes” as “food” for an organic farm. And sharing a culture (and paying them for this). Reciprocity and the Matriarchal lineage.
You have described Outback as a “love temple.” Tell us more about this.
Usually temple shops are outside the temples. I believe it’s all sacred (even the profane!).
We are living in the world of spirit and earth. Keeping all life sacred and honoring all of it is essential to keeping life in balance. Not that there aren’t many hypocrisies along the way. One of our lines had the theme of HOPE – Hypocrites of Planet Earth. Not until we acknowledge our hypocrisies is there any hope. And I had a 12-step program for recovering hypocrites (which like all 12-step programs is constant maintenance!).
I see value in many different kinds of practices and points of view leading to unknown places … the mystery. Like the story an old man tells of the things that happened in his life, where a bad thing led to a good thing which led to a bad thing which led to a good thing … this leads some to think it’s all bad and some of us hopeless optimists to think it’s all good (especially because I surround myself with great dance partners!).
Devi, where did your sense of fairness come from?
Devi is the name of the mother. I have my connection to “The Mother” and channel her energy in both a universal way as well as a “householder” way. I had guardianship of my brothers and sisters from a young age, as well as daughters of my own and loving friends and a community that I care deeply about. As one of my friend’s mother says, “it’s all relatives,” which I know to be true. My fairness comes from my awareness of our oneness!
Many of our readers from the Bay Area will also be familiar with other stores you have created.
Currently our Bay Area shops are in Berkeley on Fourth Street, a very fun area, and in Point Richmond, the “Hidden City” on the Bay.
Thanks so much for doing this interview with us today. Do you have any last comments or thoughts you would like to share with our readers?
This article comes out on my birthday, what a fun gift! Thank you. We will have our one year anniversary party on this First Friday. I’ll be there and looking forward to seeing the friends I’ve made and meeting many new ones!
Be Fearless – Choose Love
Outback in the Temple of Venus
275 East Main St. Ashland
Check out their website here