If you’re not already familiar with Emerging Thoughts, you’re going to want to bookmark it now. Since the online retailer arrived in 2006, its founder Lauren Jade Katz has changed the indie e-commerce game, sourcing hard-to-find designers and pop culture-referencing accessories and trinkets with a distinctly DIY point of view. Her merchandise is topical—see the Kanye and Beyonce pencil sets—but not at the risk of sacrificing its voice and masterfully curated identity. It’s feminist (look to the “My thighs touch because they love each other” postcard). And, often, hilarious. In more ways than one, it’s the “Broad City” of webstores.
Not only does Emerging Thoughts stock nail decals that are modeled after Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson’s generation-typifying show—along with kits that cleverly pay homage to Nicki Minaj, HAIM, Stevie Nicks, Britney Spears, Dolly Parton, the 90s, and everything else in the world that’s great—chances are Lauren dreamed them up with artist Sara M. Lyons during one of their—erm—enhanced brainstorm phone calls (you'll see what I mean in the interview). Like Ilana and Abby, Lauren and Sara all about not taking yourself too seriously and making cool stuff that people will relate to (and love).
When I ring Lauren up, she’s in Miami, where Emerging Thoughts started eight years ago. We talked about her site’s humble LiveJournal beginnings, the lessons she’s picked up over the years, and how Emerging Thoughts is a labor of love. And Ilana and Abby, if you’re listening, you should give Lauren a shout.
MTV: What were the first designers you brought to your site?
Lauren Jade Katz: The first was Keiko, who’s a pretty big blogger now. She started out with a Livejournal page and a little shop and there was a community on Livejournal that she’d sell her shit to. Every time I wore something, she’d be like, “That’s so good.” I started as a hobby, putting things on my blog.
MTV: When you emerged in 2006, did you feel like you were doing something different?
Katz: Yeah, it was nothing like it is now. Now, it’s so easy to find anything and everyone is like, “Oh I have an online shop.” Back then, it was hard to do and, for a lot of the stuff I was carrying, the only place you could buy it online was in my shop. At the beginning, a lot of it was one of the kind—people would hand make it. It was 20-year-olds that were creating clothes in their kitchen and I was doing one-off pieces. Now I can’t do a one-off piece because it would sell in 10 minutes. I need to have something that I can get a lot of.
MTV: What was the aesthetic when you started out? Did you know what you wanted from the get go or did it build over time?
Katz: It built over time. Now there’s so much that I can choose from, I don’t have the money to buy everything so I have to be really specific. A lot of sites come out and try to replicate someone else and it’s so boring. I’m trying to do my own thing.
MTV: Were there any existing models you looked to when building your store?
Katz: No, my first web designer was actually Keiko’s ex-boyfriend. We did everything in my kitchen from color scheme to design. We didn’t even have anything to compare it to.
MTV: So you must have been learning a lot as you went along.
Katz: For sure, the second week I was in business I got my first scam which was a $600 order in India. Now I just laugh at it—like how did I not know?—but back then I thought it was so exciting to have an order come from India. He bought a lot of stuff and received it but said it was credit card fraud, which happens now but it’s pretty rare. I know another person who said she didn’t get an order but she wore the dress on her blog.
MTV: That’s straight out of “Orange Is the New Black,” which is a show you have merch for on your site. What’s the story behind all of the nail decals? Did you get them made or was there someone already making them who you brought to your store?
Katz: Sara Lyons was solely on Etsy last winter and I noticed her decals and placed a fairly large order. She was so easy so then we started talking more and I started giving her my ideas like, “OK, I really want to do a Beyonce nail pack.” So, that was the first one we did and it was super popular. We had so much fun with it where we were like, “Let’s do seasonal packs.” We have super long phone calls where she’s really stoned and I’m just exhausted and we talk for hours and hours, come up with crazy shit, and narrow it down.
MTV: So, are all of the nail decals you have now products of those stoned, tired conversations?
Katz: Yeah. We both come up with our own list and text each other once a night. We’re good together because we’re both kind of weird and we complement each other well.
Katz: We debate between if we want to be super mainstream. We want to stick to what we like. We don’t like Taylor Swift, even though we know it’s going to sell like crazy, so we wouldn’t do her. Stevie Nicks wouldn’t sell nearly as much as Taylor Swift but we like Stevie Nicks, so we’re like “F--k it.” “Broad City” is one of the few shows that we’re able to relate to.
MTV: Have you run into any issues with copyright?
Katz: No, Beyonce is the one I was super scared about. We did the Beyonce pencils right when the album was released and shortly after you could get SURFBOARD anything. We were petrified that Beyonce’s people would contact me and they never did.
MTV: There are so many music pieces on your site. What do you think the relationship between music and fashion is?
Katz: It feels like we’re in a weird pop culture boom right now. I don’t want to be the website that’s solely making a quick buck off pop culture—I think we try to narrow it down. Sarah was the first to do pop culture nail decals which is a really big thing because now everyone does—they trace and copy over an illustration of them, whereas she hand draws them.
MTV: Have you gotten acknowledged by anyone on the decal sets?
Katz: We sent them to someone from “Girls” last week who really loves our decals and I sent them to two people from “Orange Is the New Black.” I feel like people will. We’re not trying to make money off of them; we’re celebrating them.