The Unbuttoned Shop
by Natalie Bencivenga
April 28, 2021
Looking for something unique and handmade that will help you stand out on your future work Zoom calls — or better yet — outdoor dinners with friends? Stefanie Hertz and Sela Spencer, are a mother and daughter team who found that their backgrounds in retail mixed with their creative sides could fuel a passion for business together. They have created a perfect blend to share upcycled, one-of-a-kind pieces found only at Unbuttoned Shop.
“We used this past year that was filled with fear, sadness and struggle and looked for the meaning behind all of it,” said Stephanie Hertz. “We went down this path to do what makes us happy, to act from a place of gratitude and to express ourselves creatively. In looking back over the past year, our first sale was just as important as the sale this morning,” she added.
How did the idea for Unbuttoned Shop come to you?
SELA: I worked in retail for 11 years. Six of those years were in luxury retail management in Los Angeles. While working for companies such as Burberry, Ted Baker and Joe’s Jeans, I expanded into management, customer service and styling. Starting Unbuttoned with my mom has been fulfilling because not only do I get to spend time with her, but I also use my retail experience along with my natural creativity in making these one-of-a-kind pieces. My mom also has a retail and business background. She has always been the crafty/creative one since I was young. We’ve always worked on projects together, so this endeavor comes naturally.
When did you open Unbuttoned Shop?
STEFANIE: We were in the final planning stage at the end of 2019 and had planned to launch in March 2020, but when COVID hit, we paused for a bit. We realized this was a great opportunity to focus on an online platform and build awareness through social media, so we adjusted our business plan to reflect what was happening at retail. We design, inspire each other with our findings, sew, create content for our social media and interact directly with our customers.
Is it online only or do you have plans to open a brick-and-mortar shop?
SELA: We currently have merchandise on our website as well as on Etsy, Poshmark and Depop. As things open back up, we’ll be participating in several craft fairs/open markets this summer and fall, while continuing with our online presence. Since selling platforms have changed due to the pandemic, we’re re-thinking opening a brick and mortar and looking at other options, perhaps renting space in a market format.
Why is handmade and one-of-a-kind important to you? Do you create the clothing yourselves or work with seamstresses and designers?
STEFANIE: We wanted a point of difference, to create something unique with a sustainability effort to reduce waste by finding new uses for items. Upcycling existing materials makes it special, not only for us, but our customers tell us it’s important to them, too.
SELA: We didn’t want to put more product out into the universe and decided that however we proceed, sustainability would lead the creative execution.
Why is it important for vendors to be eco-conscious with their products?
STEFANIE: Our world produces too many “things” when it’s so easy to create a new use or end-product from something else. It just takes some creativity and effort. People want to buy from vendors who share their same values.
How does this shop help you to embrace your creativity?
SELA: Creating a unique, one-of-a-kind item is critical to our business model and to our customers. It allows our customers to express their unique, individual style, along with their concern for the environment.
SELA: One of our favorite collections is our Graphic-Back Collection which evolved from our launch collection. It’s created from two items to make a one-of-a-kind shirt. It’s a statement piece.
STEFANIE: We also love our button-down shirts. We altered the colors, patterns and overall look. It was the first collection we launched when starting Unbuttoned.
STEFANIE: Right now, we design clothing, but we’re planning to expand into home items and furniture soon.