Walking into Love, Adorned, a jewelry and lifestyle shop on Elizabeth Street in New York, is like walking into a wonderland of incredible, unique, and truly lovely items. From selling one-of-a-kind antique jewelry to luxurious candles to handwoven rugs, Love, Adorned almost defies categorization. Just about every New Yorker I know is head over tails for this shop, including myself, so I had to meet the woman behind the magic, Lori Leven.
What I found out was that Lori is just as wonderful and insightful as her store. Immediately I got feeling that Love, Adorned isn’t just her job, it’s her love project. You’ll definitely want to hear how Lori Leven is “making it.”
Steff Yotka: How did Love, Adorned come to be?
Lori Leven: Well, I’ve owned New York Adorned [a tattoo shop and jewelry store in the Manhattan's East Village] for almost 16 years. When I started New York Adorned tattooing was illegal in New York City. Besides tattooing my other love is jewelry, so I decided to put the tattooing in the back and have the front be a jewelry store, so that people wouldn’t know we were a tattoo shop, although everybody knew anyway. For years and years I did that, but I always had a dream of separating the two businesses. While it was a cool thing to do, it still alienated some people who were a bit concerned about coming into a tattoo shop, or who didn’t think that we had the caliber of jewelry that we carried there because we were a tattoo shop. So I had been thinking about, not only having the businesses separated, but also expanding into carrying other things that I really liked – I’m a traveler and I always see so many beautiful things that just wouldn’t fit into the concept of New York Adorned, so I just wanted to branch out.
What inspired you to start your own business?
I didn’t know what else I would do. [laughs] You know, when you’re in high school, getting ready to go to college and you sit with the guidance counselor, and they say, “Well, what would you like to do?” and you’re 18 years old and you’re like, “I have no idea.” I just figured the best thing for me to do, with my personality and the way that I like to work, was to work for myself.
Could you talk a little bit about how you find designers and items to have in your store? I know you were just on a trip to find new items.
I just got back from driving through California – I drive because I want to stop at all the flea markets, all the pawn shops, all the roadside stores just to see if there’s some small designer who’s just making a couple of something. We sell a lot of antique and vintage jewelry too, so I’m always looking for new things in that area. And I stop in the big cities to go into stores and see what my fellow retailers are up to.
Do you ever panic about not having enough merchandise or the right merchandise because you’re hand picking all your items from small sources like individual artisans?
Well, we just turned one year old on December 4th, and in November I definitely was panicked about it. It started to get busier and busier, and some of the people that we work with, obviously because small craftspeople only have two hands and 8 hours! I was definitely starting to panic that they wouldn’t be able to make as much as we needed. I mean, it all worked out. We basically expanded our designer base and got smaller amounts from a larger group of people.