By Nadine Matthews, Special to the AFRO
Schuanne Cappel has come a long way from her days as a Wall Street techie. Owner and founder of upscale clothing and accessory destination Uncoverd, Cappel began her business the way a lot of modern Black women business owners do; she became a fashion blogger in her leisure hours.
The fashion acquisitions that make up the Uncoverd collection are imbued with Cappel’s extensive interest in travel and exploring different cultures. Having a global sophisticate imprint, there are hints of Asian, Central America and Africa in much of the clothing and accessories on offer from her luxe online boutique and exclusive trunk shows. Cappel is not a designer herself, but serves as a fashion curator, the expert eye behind the overall look and feel of Uncoverd.
A graduate of Boston College, where she earned an Economics degree, the money that Cappel saved while she, “Worked in Business Development and Client Services” building proprietary financial software, financed the launch of Uncoverd. She’s proud to admit, “I’m a bootstrap business. I totally funded it on my own.”
The highlight of Cappel’s business are her periodic pop-up affairs that serve as part cocktail party, part shopping spree for Uncoverd fans. Thrown in different locations, they are warm and intimate yet urbane events. Many of the designers and Cappel herself are present; eager to discuss their sartorial creations and inspirations with attendees.
As the lone owner of her venture, she admits that like anyone else in her position, there have been ups and downs. “It’s been a massive learning experience,” she opens up. “It has forced me to grow mentally and emotionally.” She has also had to learn to hone her target market. “I’m learning I can’t go as far out on a limb as I’d like to always. I have to be more mindful of price point. Even women who literally have boyfriends who are billionaires, they’re not going to spend over a thousand dollars on something just like that.”
The concept of brand recognition as part of the success of her business, has loomed larger than she originally perceived. “I Initially thought I could educate people about quality because I mean design and quality, what more could you want?” she asks. “But there’s that need for cache. So that is a challenge at this point but I am finding successes so as I add new brands I’m more mindful.”
Not long after starting her blog, Cappel recognized that she wanted to be running her own business sooner than later and ventured into styling as a means to that end. “I had a friend who was Miss Massachusetts,” she shares. “She had a lot of public appearances with celebrities especially with charitable organizations and I offered to style her.”
Then came her trip around the world. Searching for inspiration and wanting to infuse a global consciousness in her business, Cappel visited India, Vietnam and a number of other countries where she began to discover talented designers.
“I found most of my designers through travel. I’d want to shoot something and someone said ‘I know a photographer and someone else knew a designer and that’s how it kind of worked out for me. I’m very specific about my tastes so it was really like I saw something and I looked into the designer and went from there.”
Cappel finds herself most drawn to designers who she says, “Hearken back to tradition but are playful and modern at the same time. Their creations are like statements and that’s what I like about clothing.”
She has also continued cultivating her own business fashion philosophies as she goes along. “I’ve realized two of my own values are sustainability and economic empowerment. I choose designers whose focus is of course first rate design, but right behind that are sustainable and ethical practices.” All of Uncoverd’s designers employ artisans who get a living wage. “Some of the designers work with an international organization that ensures that everything is fair trade.”
Running her business has also made her mindful that clothing acquisitions shouldn’t create waste, something that a “being on trend” mindset can encourage. “If you’re wearing something just to wear it, it doesn’t add value to your wardrobe. You’re not wearing something that showcases who you are and you’re probably not going to keep it. It becomes a waste for the space that was used to grow the crop that went into making that garment and a waste for the space in the landfill when you throw it out.”
Find Uncoverd at www.uncoverd.world.