Emergingthoughts is an online boutique based out of Chicago that features a refreshing array of jewelry, clothing and accessories crafted by independent designers from all across the nation. Founder Lauren Katz started the enterprise six years ago to counter the “mass-produced” choices inundating retail stores, and since then has established it as one of the most exiting boutiques in Chicago. CenterStage caught up with Lauren to talk about her story and how this is simply the beginning.
Can you tell me a little bit about Emergingthoughts and how it came to be?
Emergingthoughts is an online boutique comprised of emerging designers. In high school, I grew tired of shopping at my local mall, where everything was and still is mass-produced. In my neighborhood, everyone was wearing the same dress and sadly few alternatives existed. I was a huge fan of Keikolynn.com, who at the time had a handmade clothing line. I supported her for several years before creating an online shop comprised of my favorite indie designers. There's something more personal about supporting an indie designer and since I'm an independent retailer, I try to maintain that same personal quality. I feel very in touch with my customers.
What prompted your move to Chicago?
I have had my website for over six years, but I was always working in the corporate world while keeping my little business as a side project. Most recently, I co-owned a large children’s online department store. I would sell diapers and cribs during the day, and then race home to work on my real passion. I finally got to a point where juggling my job and Emergingthoughts was getting out of hand, so I left the corporate world behind. In order to do this, I had to severely cut expenses, and relocated from NYC to Chicago.
What about the city inspires you?
Chicagoans are very down to earth and lack pretentiousness, while still having a taste for unique and creative style. The city is very fashion conscious without a lot of the New York snobbery. When business gets super stressful, I take long walks on Lake Shore Drive or visit the MCA.
It’s important to have a sharp aesthetic eye as to distinguish yourself from other boutiques. What's the process like when you invite someone into the Emergingthoughts family?
This is actually the toughest part about my business. If it were up to me, I would only carry obscure pieces. Since I'm still a very small business about half of my customers come to my shop looking for a specific designer that they already know, so I have to mix the known emerging designers with the new designers who still work out of their living room. The goal is for people to visit emergingthoughts.com and to discover new designers, but this will take time. Until then I mix emerging designers with the smaller known designers like For Love and Lemons. Another way I strive to distinguish the shop is to offer a level of customer service not found elsewhere. I really appreciate every customer, and I think they all know this. I guess I'm always looking for a designer who creates a certain aesthetic. I love new designers who combine feminine with edgy. I love pretty things like dresses that you would wear while listening to Belle and Sebastian and drinking tea.
You've been in business for six years. Who are some of your favorite designers?
I'm obsessed with Sea of Bees jewelry based out of Orlando, Florida. She hand makes every single piece. Every designer on my site has a great story. Dear Creatures is a husband and wife team based out of California. Another would be For Love and Lemons, who are two best friends inspired by a bunch of cool things like Fleetwood Mac (one of my obsessions).
What does Emergingthoughts have planned for the coming year?
We will be doing a few local events like Dose Market in April, Pitchfork Festival in July and of course introducing exciting new designers in the Spring like Dusen Dusen and Curator. I'm also working on a big project for the summer but I can’t talk about that yet since plans are still being finalized.