Blog & Online Shop: Young & Able
Founder & Creative Director: Rosa Ng
Based in: Brooklyn, New York
Mission: To tell the story behind how and why a product is made, and create a community where both designers and consumers can interact at every level.
I love nothing more than stumbling across other Americans who are supporting emerging designers, whether they're sharing their stories, carrying them in their stores, or, in the case of Rosa Ng: both. The Brooklyn-based entrepreneur represents 34 designers on her new site Young & Able, the majority of whom are making their products by hand on a small scale with locally sourced materials. We recently spoke about what inspired her to launch Young & Able, her vision for the company, and who stands out the most.
I understand you studied knitwear at FIT. What made you transition from designing to blogging and running an online shop?
I still freelance for Calvin Klein Collection, but before I started Young & Able, I had the idea that maybe I could do my own capsule collection of knitwear. Only problem is, it's such a saturated market. Hopefully in the next few years, we'll really understand what goes into knitwear. I'm tired of going into Barneys and seeing all these contemporary brands selling a sweater in a basic stitch in 50% acrylic for $300 when there are emerging designers who are really playing around with the craft and no one's paying attention to them.
Sounds like educating consumers is what compelled you to start Young & Able.
That, and I felt like what was missing was another platform to support emerging designers who love what they do. They have a network of supporters within their tight-knit circles, but they're mostly a one-man show, so in order for them to go to the next level and reach a wider audience, they need help.
What are your requirements for featuring someone on the site?
I need elements that stop people in their tracks. When I select a product, it's important for me to keep the branding very strong. I have to turn down a lot of designers because they're either too avant-garde or too similar to someone I'm already featuring. Unfortunately, if I don't think I can sell it, I can't pick it up.
Who would you say is your most avant-garde designer?
Probably Kara Liu, an Australian designer. And I have to say, considering all the details in her work, her price points are amazing. I think Ann Yee has such a strong collection, too.
Whose stories inspire you the most?
Jessica Velez. Her collection is such a craft. She's from Colombia, so for her spring line, she actually went back to her hometown for two weeks and worked with artisans to create beautiful accessories. She didn't know what to expect and came home with this amazing collection. She has a great sense of color and attention to detail. She makes everything herself and her blends of yarns and the different textures that she uses are amazing. She really goes over the top to make her collection.
I'm also inspired by Susan Domelsmith of Dirty Librarian Chains. Her jewelry is all vintage from the 1950s-80s and re-purposed. She experiments with components rescued from old, shuttered jewelry factories and warehouses across the country. She also supports libraries and literacy through frequent charity work, plus, she's a musician and she does jewelry making workshops.
What are you hoping to accomplish with Young & Able?
I want to be influential as a blogger. I'd like people to walk away from reading a story and feel super inspired. One of the main goals for me this year is to bring it offline. I want to plan more events. I'm going to have a two month popup holiday shop somewhere in Manhattan, maybe in Nolita, where I feature about 30-40 designers. I want to create a more affordable space for them so they can take advantage of all the tourists. And I'll be hosting different events and workshops with designers so that people can take to learn to make something.
I'm impressed with all you've accomplished in just six months! You seem to have such a good business mind. Are you learning as you go?
Yes, definitely. When I launched in January, everyone was having 60% off sales, and to me, it felt so wrong to mark down a designer's handmade work. So I'm no longer trying to follow the normal retailer calender. I want to take this first year to make all the hard decisions and mistakes and learn everything I can.
Is anyone else helping you out or are you a one-woman show?
I have a writer, Jennifer, who helps me with content for the blog, so that's huge. I see her three days a week and I'm really grateful to her. It's nice having someone else around to bounce off all my crazy ideas.