Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Welcome to Better Know a Store Owner, a weekly Racked feature focusing on the people who run our favorite boutiques around the city.Photos by Rebecca Dale
Since 2010, artist and designer Scosha Woolridge has been operating an unassuming storefront on Grand Street that carries her namesake jewelry collection, as well as assorted home goods from local designers and friends from her native Australia.
After learning weaving techniques in India, Thailand, and Turkey, and selling handmade bracelets at a night market in Brazil, Scosha decided to relocate to New York City. The debut of her first store, collaborations with Club Monaco and Ralph Lauren, and a fine jewelry collection modeled by Jemima Kirke all followed.
Despite a dream résumé and wholesale accounts at Odin and ABC Carpet & Home, Scosha has managed to do the impossible: keep an extensive portion of her line affordable—her signature charm bracelets retail for just $35.
Let's start with what got you into the jewelry business in the first place. I know you had learned weaving techniques in India and Brazil. When did it become a tangible line?
It really started manifesting itself in Brazil. I set up a night market there and I was really experimenting with technique. You would spend hours on these bracelets, but then you'd be selling them for a couple of dollars. At that point, I thought that I could go somewhere and actually start to sell them.
I didn't think about putting a brand or a line together—it wasn't even really my intention to do jewelry. When I came to New York, the woman that I was staying with introduced me to someone who had a showroom. He really liked what I was doing, and he basically just said, "Make me stuff. I'll pay you to make me stuff," so that's what I did. I started attaching these ID bars—it was a little more urban, and the ID bracelet was kind of the first "thing". I began selling to other people and celebrities, Ralph Lauren...I actually didn't know Ralph Lauren was at the time.
How did that transition to opening a physical store? Were you actively looking?
No, it wasn't my intention to open a store. The brand kind of happened on-demand. People just kept contacting me—I didn't do any outreach, and it was all just word of mouth. A friend of mine who knew I was back in New York (I had left, and then came back) said she had a friend who was opening a new store. She said, "Why don't you just make some stuff and put it in there."
I didn't really know if I wanted to that. I kind of got messed around the last time I was here doing that, and I thought I just wanted to do a major in sculpture. I also didn't have any money, but I scraped some funds together. The pieces sold, and I ended up getting a studio.
People just started coming to the studio, but it was so squashy. It was hard to talk in front of my employees and it was full of stuff, so I just thought, if I could find the right-shaped space and have a store, or even a showroom, and if someone comes in, that's a bonus. And that's why I thought this location was nice. It wasn't really high-traffic, and we have an office and a work space all in one. Literally two weeks [after we started looking], I found this place. We negotiated with the guy, and I had just enough to put down and piecemeal it like I had done everything else—I'm still piecemealing it!
When did you start incorporating home goods into the store?
Straight away I knew that I had things that I loved that I wanted to be in the store, especially textiles. I started bring in things that were handmade that weren't everywhere, and maybe they were a little bit quirky or weird and not super mainstream. It took time. I had never been a buyer—I'm just not really cut out for it—and it has to be really organic to me. I knew people that had some things and I would just be like, "Bring it in!"
Are there any categories that you don't have yet, but would like to in the future—maybe clothing?
When I first started I had some clothing in here, but I'm just not....I don't get on the ball and I get a little put-off by things that are too trendy or current, and I found that I was picking things that were weird. So no, but if I found someone that was really good at it, maybe. I would like to do a swimwear line or a lingerie line, though. I think I can connect to that. They're kind of accessories, with little pretty details—like caftans, that makes sense.
You also just launched fine jewelry for fall. What was that process like? Had you dabbled in that before?
Yea, once I got my studio I was working in gold and making samples out of gold—I was chucking away gold and then we were like—oh shit. Gold was obviously a lot cheaper then. I made chunky rings and things like that, and then I did one line that was fine, we called it Caravan, and it was nice. But then a year later the market crashed. So I found out about 10k gold and went into brass and we started doing more fashion pieces—more affordable pieces. They were still a little bit more expensive than the little braided bracelets with charms.
Do you make everything in the studio here?
I'm sure if you wanted to, you could expand to a larger store. Do you think as your business grows, you always want to keep a store of this size that's more intimate?
Originally one of my goals was to do seven stores in seven years—that's a lot. I definitely would want to open more stores, but not of this model. I think the nice poetic thing about this space is that it's kind of this little engine. If we did open a second space, it would probably just be jewelry.
As far as price point goes, you definitely have a lot of merchandise that's super affordable. Are you consciously trying to keep smaller pieces that people can just come in and walk out with?
Sometimes I really think we should be charging more than what we are, but it just doesn't feel right. I'm the worst—I'll say, "I would never pay this much for something like that!" But it's still a business, so we've kind of really chopped into the line this time around to figure out, on a business-level, what is profitable and what we basically are just giving away. So we've really had to price things properly so that we can actually make some proper moves. And unfortunately, [some pieces are just] tiny things but they take as long as something else that's really expensive to make.
Time for the lightening round: 8am or 8pm?
Favorite travel destination?
Beach or mountains?
Gold or silver?
Beer or wine?