Jennifer Wakeland chats with us about the inner workings of the brand Salt City Emporium. Offering urban silhouettes decked with whimsical illustrations that often include capricious animals and characters or eccentric geometric designs, the pieces are always a hit among consumers. The Salt City Emporium brand currently includes women’s leggings, children’s clothing and plush toys/pillows.
What was the catalyst for launching Salt City Emporium?
The catalyst for launching SCE was my desire to work with small businesses in our community, and to fulfill my entrepreneurial spirit. SCE was originally designed to be a large open market that would rent space to like-minded vendors as their own piece of the pie without running an entire brick and mortar. As the planning took longer and longer, I just decided it was time to create the fashion side and Salt City the brand was born.
Tell us about your design process. The brand use to outsource artists, but currently employs an in-house illustrator. Can you elaborate on how your visions become prints for the pieces?
We did originally start with a pool of international and domestic artists. We absolutely loved having different points of views to roll out, but as the brand built momentum and we were receiving requests for wholesale partnerships, we needed to build more cohesive collections. Kellie Holley, our in-house illustrator, is so incredibly talented and fits right into the misfit community we have built.
Usually the process goes like this: It’s 3:00 AM, and I cannot sleep because of all the crazy ideas floating around in my mind, pick-up the phone next to my bed and text Kellie who is usually up as well. I send her a thought that I’ve been wanting to try out, or from a team meeting we had the previous day. We continue to shoot texts back and forth to develop the idea and then she’s off! Meanwhile, I wrack my brain figuring out silhouettes, different applications or ways to bring it to market. The process is long and there are a lot of edits and mishaps with ill-fitting configurations, but it’s definitely a team effort. Some of the best ideas, like the pillow gift kit come from a comment a team member throws out and we decide to run with it!
Where is your product produced and what types of materials do you use?
Our product is 90% produced in-house, we have a studio that has a production room where almost all of the sewing is conducted, or with an outside stitchery team we have used for two years, that team makes up a group of women who are in business for themselves and are supporting their families through quality stitching.
We pattern, fit, style and source almost exclusively from our local community. We do have some killer relationships in LA, but otherwise it’s based in Salt Lake. The materials we use are cotton based with minimal blends to create a great fit. We use to use recycled polyester, but find that cotton is reigning superior to the other options available.
What was your fashion sense like as a child?
Oh boy, as a product of the 80’s and 90’s I’m not sure I want to revisit this, but I would have to say it was
was always edgy with one or two feminine elements. I have always been a minimalist and my go-to outfit is still a interesting top, with jeans, some great heels and a chunky ring or two.
You reside in Salt Lake City, Utah. How does this city inspire you and influence the design of the pieces within your brand?
Being from SLC, we are notoriously close to the mountains and outdoors. I am a BIG advocate of animals and their natural habitat, so the wildlife has been a constant influence from the region. I try to put an animal on anything. Our joke in the studio now is to say “Put a bird on it.” I have two big Portlandia fans on the team that are always teasing about it.
Are there any new pieces that you are excited about?
Yes! We have been working our way to expand more on the “Emporium” side of the business and have a few non-apparel items that we think will be a big hit with our customers. We like to figure out how to add a different aspect to the same old and our new toys are creating a lot of high hopes around here.
In regards to a new silhouette, our rompers have been on the design table for months, and we finally feel like we hit the mark. They are rolling out in our Spring ’15 collection and will be a mainstay piece going forward. We cut them on the bias to create a real sense of quality, added pockets, and the right amount of snap tape to make them a must have for every household as they are great for the kids, and the busy-but-style conscious parent.
A Few of Jen’s Favorite Things:
Winter treat: My favorite winter treat is frosted sugar cookies and coffee. I die.
Women’s clothing brand: I love Rag and Bone. Their silhouettes are modern, yet simple, and they use lots of blacks and neutrals.
Family travel destination: We love the Pacific Northwest, specifically Seattle. I love the ocean and city, plus that overcast weather makes for great layering.
Film: Any of the cult classic 80’s and 90’s movies. Pump up the Volume, Heather’s, Teen Witch (Yep, I said it), Legend of Billie Jean. I could go on, I am so nostalgic because of the great relationship I have with my older sister, and all the goofy things we did after being inspired by these movies.