You could say it all started with a simple donut sweatshirt. After we spotted the giant graphic-print top draped inconspicuously over NYLON Guys editor Josh Madden’s chair a few weeks ago, it was only a matter of time before we borrowed it for ourselves (ahem, see above).
Since then, the Shop Jeen goods have somehow planted themselves in almost every corner of the NYLON office–we’re talking keys, sweaters, and even cat print leggings–and while this is impressive enough as it is, the story behind the brand makes it even better.
Created by 21-year-old Erin Yogasundram from her college dorm room, the New York native’s hobby has now grown into a full-fledged, seriously successful company…and it’s only getting bigger. Yogasundram and creative director Amelia Muqbel now stock everything from awesomely random extras (pizza and hamburger tops, llama socks, and Captain America tights) to stuff from brands like Dimepiece and KTZ.
So how did all this happen in such a short amount of time? Yogasundram stopped by NYLON with Muqbel to fill us in. Get the lowdown below!
Start from the beginning. How did Shop Jeen come about?
Around March 2012, I was in college and had some money saved up, so I decided that I wanted to buy a Celine bag with the money. On my birthday I saw one at Barneys–it wasn’t the exact one that I had been wanting, but I decided to settle and get it anyway– and a week later, I was like, “Why did I buy this bag?” I didn’t even want it anymore. So I sold it on eBay and I knew I wanted to do something different with that money. I ended up making a basic website on Big Cartel just selling cool stuff I found online, and that was the real start of Shop Jeen. I kept selling and buying more and more since then; it’s all been organic from the $3,000 I started with.
You were still in school during this time?
Yeah, I didn’t take any of my finals, though! After Shop Jeen started taking off, I just packed up a U-Haul and took the first office I saw. We didn’t have any employees until November. It was just me and the interns. Since then, though, we’ve expanded into a couple of offices and now have a staff of eight or so people. I used to work with Amelia from way back when we interned at Alexander Wang, and eventually she came in as the creative and buying director.
Now it seems like you guys have literally everything…
We do! People ask us to compare ourselves to other brands, and it’s like, we’re part Best Buy, part Spencer’s Gifts, a little bit of everything.
How was it growing a business so fast?
It’s been really difficult! I’ve had a bunch of fashion internships in the past, but those don’t really prepare you for owning an actual business, so it’s been hard. The whole thing is a learning experience and just about having to learn quickly from any mistakes for next time.Have there been any items on the website that have blown up without you expecting them?
We had a feeling that our superhero gear would be popular, but we didn’t expect them to be as insane as they were. We first saw them at a Comic Con preview and literally stopped in our tracks and were like, “This is it.” They have a much higher price point than we normally carry, but it still worked. We have stuff ranging from $1 to $700. If it’s cool, it shouldn’t matter about the cost.
Now you’re stocking brands like KTZ, which is a celebrity go-to but you don’t really see online. How do you go about partnering with these companies?
We randomly reached out to KTZ and they were down. Then we later met them at a trade show and basically fell in love with each other [laughing]. That’s basically how it always works.
Also, we have to talk about your website, since it might be the craziest thing I’ve ever seen (in a good way).
That’s what we want! [Laughing] I feel like the website sort of sells itself–where else can you find a pizza cursor on the internet?! We have so much more in the works, so it’s gonna get a lot wilder.
What’s your dream for Shop Jeen in five years?
Well, right now we don’t have an investor for our business and honestly, we’ve been hesitant to get one. We just want to make sure the whole concept is organic and true to ourselves, so we’re not sure if we want to do it with other people’s money. People always look at us on the street, like, “What are these girls wearing?!” I’m sure we’d scare a dude in a suit if he worked with us [laughing]. We definitely want to go bigger, though, and do more stuff that still relates to the brand. We try to make goals sometimes, but it’s just hard to predict where we’ll be. If you had told me when I was in college that I’d be here now, I honestly would think you were insane.