If you follow us on Instagram, you know we’ve been busy taking selfies and stocking our shelves with eggs, antlers, boob pots, and normal stuff… like clothes. But maybe it’s time for a more formal introduction, starting with our very own lady boss, Chelsea Moylan. You may recognize her from ringing you up in the store or our online product shots, so I sat down with the 27 year-old entrepreneur behind the store to get to know her and the brand a little better.
As told to Jennifer Bastien.
What is ANOMIE?
ANOMIE is a gathering spot for smaller, independent designers — handmade jewelry; handcrafted face, body, and homegoods; brands you may have never heard or; or your favorite brand you’ve never seen in a store before. The store’s name, the sociological term “anomie”, has many meanings but I really liked the idea of organic solidarity and the division of labor in relation to handmade goods — that society is held together because everyone relies on each other and serves a purpose. A society is in “a state of anomie” when this division of labor breaks down.
How do you pronounce ANOMIE? Asking for a friend.
I tried to design the logo (ANoMIE) to break up the syllable and help people figure out pronunciation, but it’s a tricky word. Most common mispronunciation: A-GNOME-IE. It’s actually a french term (kudos Durkheim) that was a huge part of my undergrad and grad studies.
So I take it you didn’t study fashion? What did you study?
Oddly, not a single fashion or business class under my belt. I have my MS in Criminology and pretty much spent six years studying crime, corrections, and social justice. Makes sense to open a boutique after all that, right? Loss prevention is the only related part of my job now!
I’m sure that comes in handy though! You must have at least worked in retail.
DO. NOT. GET. ME. STARTED. ON. SHOPLIFTERS. But yes, it does!
When it comes to retail experience, does playing “Pac Sun” and pretending to sell my cousins my Roxy t-shirts count? My only real experience was very minimal, when my friend Jill and I started a tie dye clothing company in high school and sold tanks to everyone at our school for $5. Wait, we went to high school together… do you remember those!? We were pissed we didn’t make the trend section of the yearbook because EVERYONE had them. Now I’m running ANOMIE and Jill is traveling the country in her Mobile Mill, so I guess we felt the entrepreneurship itch early.
Other than my high school hustle, I have spent my fair share of time in stores, but always as a customer. I worked in a restaurant for years though, so I learned customer service there. PSA: Everyone in the world should work a retail job and a food service job once in their life — it teaches you a lot.
Now that you mention it, I do remember those tanks. Explains a lot. I never got my hands on one, and my reputation suffered. Is that what gave you the courage to start your own business? What was the scariest part of that?
Tie dyed Hanes tank tops — my first “fashion” moment. I’m cringing.
So, the history of how I got here. Long story short, I finished grad school and found myself stuck in Philadelphia for another year waiting for my boyfriend to complete his Masters. I tried to get into social services, but I couldn’t land a job. I didn’t even know where certain neighborhoods or counties were, so it was laughable. I’ll admit that.
Being idealistic, “I’m going to change the world!” me; I had fully planned to move back to San Francisco, where I’m from, and start my career at a non-profit. I had previously volunteered in a maximum security prison tutoring inmates for the GED and helped low-income litigants prepare legal documents for family court; but working with offenders in prison or for the Innocence Project was my *dream* job at that point in my life. Annnnd then I ran the numbers. San Francisco rent versus what I could make working in social services was bleak. I changed my focus and started planning out the store and promised myself the shop would donate to charities (and we do!) to calm my conscious for choosing what teenage agnst me thought was such meaningless career. I started looking at simple retail jobs to learn the ropes and I applied everywhere — I couldn’t even get a job stuffing envelopes at [ big retail company based in Philadelphia that I won’t call out by name, *wink* ].
“In a fit of frustration, I decided that if no one was going to hire me; I would hire myself.”
And for the next year, I researched, planned, researched, filed legal documents, planned, did even more research, moved back to CA to live in my childhood bedroom to save money while I worked at a bar, moved to San Francisco and became a nanny to pay the bills, and then finally launched the site on January 1st, 2014! I quit my nanny gig after a year and devoted myself full-time to ANOMIE and after a year of working alone everyday and going a little stir crazy in my tiny Marin office, I started talks to open up on Union Street.
I lied when I said long story short. Okay, so the scariest part…
For better and for worse, I don’t usually think too far ahead. So I didn’t overthink it or psych myself out of jumping into self employment. But it’s actually really scary. It’s sales. There will never be a guarantee that if you show up and work hard that you have money coming in. It’s a constant hustle — I have bills and rent and payroll that all have to be met before I can think to pay myself! But thankfully, people have responded really well to the online and retail store and we’ve been able to grow into the space with confidence.
It’s been pretty amazing to watch, too. Is there a guiding principle behind the items you carry at ANOMIE?
Thank you! When buying for the store, I ask myself one question: Would I buy this? If the answer is yes and it fits the vibe and aesthetic I’ve tried to build for the brand — it’s in. I take that seriously that people trust my “stamp of approval” and am very conscious to not get lost in just what will sell and to make all decisions first from a place of aesthetics and design… and think about the business aspect later. I will carry items that might not sell well and have low margins because I believe in them and feel they lend themselves to the vibe I’m trying to create. It might not be the bestselling piece, but it might be something that every person looks at and comments on when they walk in and there is value in that for me.
Who do you see as the typical or ideal ANOMIE shopper?
The ideal ANOMIE woman is a good-humored and socially conscious shopper who likes to support small artists and designers. She doesn’t take fashion too serious, though. She has a critical eye, cares about quality, and loves a good mirror selfie. And now I feel lame because I essentially described myself, but the goal was to built a store that I WANTED to shop at. I am my own ideal customer!
What’s the biggest difference between being online and being in a brick and mortar shop?
There are SO many differences, but I think the most obvious one is actually being able to see and interact with customers in the store setting. I love seeing people getting really excited about something they love. As an online store, I would just see a name and an address and build a whole fantasy in my head about who this person was and why she bought what she did. In case you can’t tell, running an online store with no employees or interns is lonely.
And shoplifters. Again, don’t get me started on my feelings about shoplifters.
And lastly, I can’t sleep in and go to the shop in my pajamas at 2PM like I could my solo office. That was a huge change.
That would be scary on a few levels. What’s the biggest misconception about ANOMIE?
That we are a big company — and it’s actually quite flattering. People come in all the time and ask if this is our only location, if we are a chain, do we have locations in LA or New York, etc. I guess I made it look too polished that it doesn’t look like a little small business?! This really sounds like a douchey humblebrag, but it’s something I’m trying to navigate. I’m a design-obsessed perfectionist who doesn’t want to have that typical “small business boutique” look; but I don’t want people thinking we’re some giant company. We’re small, REALLY SMALL! We have 3 part-time employees who have anywhere from 1-5 retail shifts a week and me doing everything else. No investors, no backers, just me and very helpful friends.
My brain can’t even process how you fit it all in. Easier to process: what are your top three favorite things at the shop right now?
Gahhh, as much as I hate to pick favorites — I’m currently obsessed with…
The Best Wishes Key by The Goodworth. My friend Haley gave me this for Christmas because of my love for all things middle finger (please see: our constantly sold out F U tees and sweatshirt by This Repair Shop) and I was instantly obsessed and needed to carry it in the shop. It’s really the highest compliment I could give when receiving a gift 🙂
The Super Soft Highwaisted Brief by Land of Women. I don’t know how to describe these because the title says it all: they are SUPER SOFT! I love, love, love wearing these. This whole line is such quality luxe and I live in it.
The BOSS Necklace by Winden x ANOMIE. When I reached out to Becca to make her infamous pet name necklace with the word “BOSS”, I didn’t realize we would be creating the favorite piece of jewelry I’ve ever owned. Besides being beautiful 14k gold, which makes me feel fancy, it represents just being your own boss and owning your life. I have not taken it off once since I got it.
What is your day-to-day role at ANOMIE?
I work a shift almost every day of the week. Lately, I’ve started trying to give myself a little more time outside the shop to focus on the online; but I’m still there during the day and after hours all the time. Besides going to New York and LA for market, I haven’t taken a vacation in seven months. So basically, I NEED A VACATION!
And thanks to you, I have less on my plate now. Cross managing the blog off this list! My responsibilities include, but are not limited to, the following: shopgirl, janitor, accountant, box packer, customer service, bookkeeper, security, graphic designer, photographer, reluctant model, web designer, social media, manager, buyer, garbage woman, and more. I wear many hats, including our amazing Yellow 108 ones *wink*.
We get a pretty hilarious sense of this on your Instagram…but when there is no one in the store, what are you doing?
You’ve opened Pandora’s Box — I do all sorts of weird stuff. But mainly, sneaking salami from the fridge in the back, trying on new arrivals, filming slo-mo catwalks in our amazing mirror, and dancing in the dressing room so no one sees me. I have been caught a few too many times taking mirror selfies for our Instagrams (@shopanomie and @shopgirlsofanomie) by customers… totally not embarrassing at all….
I also bring my computer down with me everyday to keep up with emails, bookkeeping, online order packing, creating product listings for new arrivals on our back end, placing orders for more inventory, and all the other behind the scenes tasks. But that’s not as fun as dancing to Bieber’s “What Do You Mean” with a full sleeve of Saltines after you’ve made some good sales. Simple pleasures.
What do you do when you aren’t working on the store?
Right now, free time kind of stresses me out. There is too much to be done that when I ignore something, for even just a week, it looms over me and I’ll get out of bed at 2AM and start doing it. I don’t sleep as much as I should and boyfriend probably wishes I didn’t need to always be connected to my phone 11-7PM in case someone in the shop needs to ask me something immediately, but that’s life right now. In reality, when I’m not working I’m probably watching Netflix, listening to a true crime podcast, and/or eating entirely too much Delfina’s pizza.
What are the next steps for ANOMIE?
I’m so amazed and proud of how much the store has grown since we launched. I never thought having a brick and mortar shop would be a tangible goal, let alone one in San Francisco AND on Union St! It was always the *dream*. However, I still love having an online store and hope to beef that up. I plan to devote more of myself to developing the quality of the online ANOMIE experience over this next year and finally achieve the perfect online/brick and mortar balance. I was working on a full site redesign before the Union Street store came to fruition, so I need to get back to that at some point. Someday, I’d love to design and produce a line of clothing and/or jewelry. Keyword: SOMEDAY. Not any time soon! I say that in the same way I talk about having kids: SOMEDAY VERY, VERY FAR AWAY. For now, I’m focusing on perfecting online and bringing events/building up the community through our physical store. Baby steps.