The Local Nomad
In this age of fast fashion where stores such as Forever 21 and H&M are growing in popularity, Lauren Danuser decided to take a different approach when she opened up her store The Local Nomad. It was a dream of Danuser’s to own her own shop and five months after moving to the Phoenix area from San Francisco, her dreams became a reality.
Falling in love with the idea of bringing unique items and “treasures” from different parts of the world to the local community, began her journey into the slow fashion movement which allowed her to work with vendors locally as well as internationally. For those who don’t know exactly what “slow fashion” means; the slow fashion movement strives to buy and sell sustainably and ethically made goods.
This means that the workers are paid fairly, are working in a safe environment and the merchandise itself is made from sustainable and environmentally friendly materials. The goal for the consumer becomes quality over quantity and it is important for consumers to support local stores like Danuser’s and be an advocate for the slow fashion movement.
The Local Nomad not only carries clothing for women, but for men, children and she also carries household goods. She explains that her store is primarily a gifting store where women, as well as men, can shop for their friends, children and significant others. I sat down with Danuser at her shop in central Phoenix at Uptown Plaza and discussed with her the importance of the slow fashion movement, how her shop positively contributes to the local retail community and gives advice to those who aspire to open their own retail store.
WWFF: So how did the desire of wanting to own your own shop come about for you?
Lauren: I’ve always been interested in retail and interested in opening my own shop since I was in high school. I was always fascinated and enthralled by little boutiques. Whenever I travelled anywhere and growing up in St. Louis, I always liked stopping in little shops and looking around. I love the romance of having a little shop and collecting all of these treasures and bringing them to people. I always knew I wanted to carry unique hand made goods that you can’t find in other stores because I always liked finding unique things. The shop came to life with that idea and with the slow fashion movement which really means buying sustainably and ethically made goods, not things that are made in big factories. That consumer mind set helped me to create this shop so I wanted to have a global feel, again not being from Arizona, I thought how can I still carry locally made goods? But maybe not all from here because that’s not who I am and that’s why we have hand made things from all over the world. We work with quite a few vendors who work with women, especially in underprivileged countries such as Africa and some places in South America, and pay them fair wages and empower them to create their own lives through these jobs.
WWFF: Who were some of the first vendors you worked with when you started your business?
Lauren: One of the first vendors we had is called “My yellow” and she is a woman who lived in Kenya for a few years and started working with women there. She partnered with a lot of these women and again helped empower them by paying them a fair wage and helping them learn these skills to have their own businesses someday. Also one of my first vendors was Gobi Shaw, she’s actually a ceramicist out of California and I really lover her work. She’s amazing, she does it all by hand, she is one of our domestic artists that we work with. I would say about 70% of our things are made domestically and 30% in other countries.
WWFF: Tell me more about the slow fashion movement and why it is important for you to be a part of it?
Lauren: I think it’s important to one, educate people about the fashion industry. I use to work for a big corporate retailer and they did a fairly good job of vetting their factories, but they also made millions and millions of pieces of clothing every year. The average consumer doesn’t know the conditions of their clothing or other items that are made and usually it’s in really poor conditions like factories in China or Vietnam. So I’m trying to be a part of that movement and educating people and saying, yeah, this blouse is $180 but its hand-made and a couple things we have are made in a sustainable factory in India and so again the workers are paid a fair wage, they use sustainable fabrics and sustainable dyes which are non-toxic dyes they are not harmful to the environment. So many clothes are made with dyes that are toxic and the chemicals are dumped in the oceans and rivers. Slow fashion is a really important movement and I think people in the retail industry right now are going more towards fast fashion because there’s a lot of cute clothes you can buy and Forever 21 or Zara and things are $7-$15. I get it, and especially for millennials who don’t have a lot of money and want to look cute but if you start adding more pieces to your wardrobe that you know you’re going to have for a few years and are higher priced, the whole thing is buying less but better things.
WWFF: When searching for vendors, what criteria are you looking for when choosing who you want to work with?
Lauren: The aesthetic I go for are things that are modern yet organic feeling. Packaging is really important because that’s what the consumer sees and people buy things because of the packaging in all products and categories. So everything had to fit the aesthetic of the shop, I like buying things that are colorful and I like complementing them with more neutral items. I have a price point in mind for each category that we carry so I try not to stray to much from that and see what customers like and how much they’re willing to pay for different things. Mostly everything we carry is either made sustainably or ethically or the company is a bigger company and uses factories but they’re vetted a lot better than normal factories.
WWFF: How did you come up with the name ‘The Local Nomad’?
Lauren: I actually came up with it in the shower one day, where I do my thinking(laughs). It just stuck, it felt weird at first, it’s kind of an oxymoron but its because most everything we carry is locally made but from somewhere around the world. I wanted people to have a sense of discovery when they walked in the store and just have different connections with things.
WWFF: You carry products for not just women, but for men, children and you also sell home good products. Why was it important for you to sell a variety of merchandise?
Lauren: I always wanted to carry a bunch of different stuff. I actually knew I didn’t want to do just clothing because I’ve personally always spent more money on home goods or different gifts. I love clothes but it’s not my number one passion. Clothing is a supplement to everything else we have. I worked at a little shop in San Francisco the last two years I was there and the owner carried all kinds of things for women and men and kids and I thought this was fun because no one’s excluded. It gives a reason for the whole family to come in and this is a very family centric plaza here and the vast majority of my customers are still women buying for their kids or their friend’s kids and buying for the men too. So yeah I have something for everyone, it is primarily a gifting store.
WWFF: What need in the community do you feel you have fulfilled with your shop?
Lauren: It’s great because we are located in a spot with other great local shops. I felt there was a need for truly handmade goods but a lot of the shops around here carry hand made goods from local Arizona makers, I try to do something different from that. Our stuff is still hand-made but made but from people all over so that was the void I wanted to fill and also the space, I just wanted to create an open, calm, relaxing and modern yet organic environment.
WWFF: What has been the hardest thing about owning your own business?
Lauren: Being responsible for everything. It’s such a big responsibility. You have to really adjust to it. First I worked in the corporate role and I had a corporate boss so I never had to be fully accountable for myself in the work environment and here I’m 100% fully accountable, everything’s on you. I think that was the hardest thing at first. There are so many different things to figure out and so many things on your plate all at once. There are so many different things to do but yet you still have to be creative. There’s this push and pull of, I have to do all of these not so fun things like desk work but then I need to be creative and create this community on Instagram and social media too to get people in the store.
WWFF: What advice would you give somebody how has entrepreneurial aspirations?
Lauren: I think you have to be 100% into it and passionate about it. You have to know how to market your business because I think the biggest part of it is marketing and how you create your brand. I’ve tried to create a brand that feels pretty consistent and I learned a lot of this in school too and working for The Gap right out of college. We got super trained on retail management and those things so I feel all of that experience was so helpful to me. I think whatever you’re going into you should have some kind of apprenticeship instead of just saying oh I like clothes; I’m going to open a shop. It’s not that easy, it doesn’t work like that. I think a lot of people have that dream and so did I but I built my career on it. You have to get experience and learn from someone else.
WWFF: Any last words?
Lauren: For anyone who reads this interview, if anyone wants to reach out to me at all I’m like an open book about these things because I’ve been through it and I always like to help people and answer any questions that I can. I always loved talking to different shop owners because there’s nothing on the internet that says ‘this how to start a business’ so it’s always nice to talk to people.
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About the Author
My name is Erika Parra and I am the creator and writer behind Will Write For Food. I created this blog because of my love for the arts and the desire to promote the amazing artists in my local communities. I graduated from the University of Arizona with a Degree in English. Writing is a great passion of mine and these artists that I have interviewed inspire me everyday and I hope they do the same for you!
About Will Write For Food
Will Write For Food is an arts blog that promotes up and coming creatives in, but not limited to, the local communities of Tucson and Phoenix. This is a platform for these artists to promote their work and share their journeys and aspirations