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Exploring Life & Business with Autumn Bowes of Wear With Black

Today we’d like to introduce you to Autumn Bowes.

Hi Autumn, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
This is a funny story. My business started as somewhat of an accident, a perfect collision of my background, hobbies and style. I’ve grown up attending antique shows and thrift stores with my father. He went to shows to find unique pieces that he could use in his mixed media artwork, but for me, I enjoyed learning how to remove the context of an item and reimagine its function. As an adult, this translated well into interior decorating. I furnished and decorated my home with upcycled items while still pulling off a West Elm/Boho vibe.

I liked my style, but I didn’t know that anyone else would. Soon I had friends and family asking me to decorate their homes. That was a lot of pressure, so instead, I taught them how to score treasures like mine. I quickly learned this wasn’t easy for people to do. It’s extremely hard for most people to walk into a Goodwill and identify the potential of an item. So, I started a blog and spun up an Etsy shop so I could do the hunting and reimagining for them. Then I decided to go to grad school to get my MBA. Working full-time as a business analyst, I didn’t have time for my full-time job, school, and my Etsy shop. The shop had to go. Two years later, COVID hit, and I was just graduating from grad school. I had more free time than I was comfortable with, so I decided to get creative and DIY something. I decided to DIY a few necklaces for myself that looked like something from a designer I love but can’t afford. So I spent the entire day sourcing materials on the internet, maybe had a glass or two of wine while shopping. The next thing I know, I total all of my purchases, and I realize I spent $500. Yep, instant panic. I just spent $500 trying to be cheap. My first thought was, my husband is going to kill me. I needed a justification. That’s when the first text went out, “I’m starting a jewelry business. I’m calling it Wear With Black.” Once I went live, things started flying off the shelves.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Of course not. When it comes to creating, it’s easy to get in your head about what people want. There were several times I’ve stopped to think, “What are you even doing?” or “Why do you think people will like this, Autumn?”. Or when a week goes by without a sale. The occasional self-doubt, that’s probably the hardest part. Equally challenging is the learning curve. I knew nothing about jewelry before I started. I didn’t know anything about various types of gold, chain types, jewel types, what glue to use for specific materials, the name of that thingy that connects this to that, gauging, wire size, among so so so much more. I learn something new every single day.

We’ve been impressed with Wear With Black, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Wear With Black is vintage jewelry reimagined for the modern woman. Wear With Black is about contrast. Bringing new energy to things left behind, creating a new context for things overlooked, shining a light on the extra in the ordinary. Whether it’s era, texture, color, shape, size, you’ll find contrast in every piece. I also do Custom Heirloom pieces, which is an incredibly special way of breathing new life into family pieces just sitting in your jewelry box. The great thing about Wear With Black is that it’s designed to be worn for any occasion. 75% of my closet is black. The others are neutrals. I’m a pretty casual person in terms of clothing, but I rely on my details to make the statement. Throw on a black v-neck, a mauve lip, and WWB sparkles and you’re set.

The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
People are surprisingly thoughtful. I launched my business in the middle of a pandemic while people are down on their luck, and so many of my orders were people buying gifts for others. It’s so heartwarming to see the distribution of love through sending gifts. It’s not something I expected to experience as a business owner. It’s hands down my favorite thing about my role as a designer.

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