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.
What's a typical workday like for you, if there’s such a thing as typical? I would say I get up around 8 o’clock in the morning, immediately check my email on my phone. [laughs]
Me too. Sometimes I think I check my email when I’m sleeping, which is starting to get scary. It’s funny because it just gets worse and worse. Before I go to the bathroom [in the morning] I already know what my emails are.
Exactly. So I get up, and I check my emails. I work from home in the morning answering emails and just getting the stuff done that I need to do without having any other sound around. Then I take my friend [her dog] to the dog run for anywhere between a half an hour to an hour, while answering more emails. I come into work - I usually check in at New York Adorned first and see what they’re in need of and what kind of jokes they’re telling, just to bring them over to Love, Adorned. [laughs] And then I start my day at Love, Adorned upstairs in my office. I work for both New York Adorned and Love, Adorned from my office at Love, Adorned. Usually I’m with our photographer and our brand manager, and we do a lot of throwing ideas around, and curating… and generally pushing things along up there. But I always have an eye down on the store. I’m always interested in talking to my clients, so I’m up and down a lot. The designers are in-and-out, and we’re having conversations about where they’re going to go next season, and we’re talking about what kind of stuff we’re going to be selling. It’s fun, I have a great life.
Yeah. I’m so jealous! I bet you have a pretty great life.
It’s pretty good. I don’t get to hang out at Love, Adorned all day though. [laughs] So what the biggest challenge that you face in owning your own stores? I have a lot of employees between the two stores – obviously we’re still a small business – but I have about 30 employees total, and I’m the only owner, so everything ends up at my doorstep. I would say that personality conflicts between personnel is the hardest part of my job.
What the biggest business risk you've taken? I would say closing my Brooklyn tattoo shop. It made money and it was a well respected place, but I didn’t like the neighborhood, and I didn’t feel like what I wanted to do would work well there. So I started to, kind of, dumb down my concept a little bit, and I just didn’t like it. I didn’t like what it was doing to me. I didn’t like what I was doing to it, and so I closed it.
What's the most fulfilling part of your job? Being able to find all these different makers in the world. I love being with the people who are making things and being able to help them in their career. Yeah, I like the makers, man. I do.
What's in store in the future for Love, Adorned? Well, I’m opening a new store this spring in Amagansett.
Amazing! Yeah, we're going to be in Amangansett Square which we’re really, really, excited about. We haven’t fully decided exactly what it’s going to be – we’re working on our mood boards now. I suspect this Love, Adorned [in Manhattan] is maybe 65% jewelry and 35% other; we’re probably going to flip that and do 35% jewelry and then kind of 65% other.
How did you choose Amangasett? You know I spent my summers out at the beach, and out in the Hamptons it’s kind of hard to find a store that you can go in and get tools that you need and beautiful items at the same time, so I’m really excited to have a store that I want to shop at in the Hamptons.
I will definitely be visiting you there. Thanks! We're really looking forward to opening.
Love, Adorned is located at 269 Elizabeth Street, New York, NY, 10012 and on the web at www.loveadorned.com.
And if you're looking to get inked or pierced, be sure to check out New York Adorned at 47 Second Avenue, NY, NY 10003 and at www.nyadorned.com.