Visit: 2324 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704
Story by Rachel Schwartzmann – Shop DYLAN WYLDE – Photos by Katie Jameson for The Style Line
“The desert, I realized, is a big upside down beach!”
Jessica Conaway expressed in our interview below, “I have fallen in love with the desert for that reason and so many more, and it is a truly magical landscape.” Speaking of magic, we found ourselves swooning over Jessica’s approach to life and style upon being introduced to her boutique DYLAN WYLDE, which prides itself on filling a gap in the market – one that Jessica contends is something the city needed in terms of a fresh sartorial perspective. The name itself even blends Jessica’s affinity for the ocean and the allure of a wild and free spirited lifestyle to one thoughtfully curated space.
The Virginia transplant’s penchant for the creative and spirited community laid the groundwork for opening her shop in this particular city. As Jessica put it, “Austinites are really conscious of supporting local shops because it is a small business kind of town. They understand and respect the effort that goes into it and they are really responsive to it.” So having already familiarized ourselves with Austin’s small business community and growing fashion industry we were interested to learn more from Jessica, who kindly opened her doors to chat further about her experiences in maintaining a small business and what she’s individually contributing to Austin’s small shop scene. From launching DYLAN WYLDE, to maintaining a unique curatorial point of view, discover our afternoon with her below featuring exclusive snapshots captured by Katie Jameson for The Style Line.
Hi, My name is Jessica Conaway.
I’m a Virginia Beach kid in Texas! I enjoy being in nature and soaking in all the inspiration it has to offer, and just sort of zoning out. Aside from that, some of my favorite things are just sitting around with friends (often in my garage, just sipping beers), joking, and talking about random things. I love laughing, and am grateful to have so many friends who just totally crack me up! I also love the simple act of living and all the beautiful little moments that are woven into a single day. Life is so crazy and amazing in and of itself!
We love that the store bridges the gap between your coastal upbringing with Austin’s unique spirit. With that in mind what do you love most about these two lifestyles and based on your experience in both what do you think they can learn from one another?
What I love most about the beach is the total sensory experience it provides! The sights, the sounds, the smells, everything! I really value the ability to look out and see nothing on the horizon… your mind can just wander and the vast space is really comforting to me. I think finding ways to create that sort of space, or seeking out that space, when you live in an urban environment can be slightly more challenging, but equally as healing. Fortunately, Austin has lots of hidden natural treasures right within the city and so many super cool, beautiful open spaces just outside the the city!
Austin has such a positive energy! People here are so open to new things and so all-embracing, you really feel at home instantly. Much like beach kids, everyone here is super laid back and just wants to have a good time!
As a side note, I had a huge epiphany when I went out to the desert (Marfa) for the first time (being from the east coast, I had never been anywhere close to one). In the desert, the last place I would have expected, I found that same feeling I had been missing so badly of looking out over the water into the vastness! The desert, I realized, is a big upside down beach! The ratio of the “water”/sky to the sand is even the same! I have fallen in love with the desert for that reason and so many more, and it is a truly magical landscape.
A lot of designers create eponymous lines/collections – with this in mind and for shops in general do you think it’s important to have your name or “presence” known
in the space/curation? How have you managed to find a balance between who you are and your style and the needs of your shoppers?
I think it’s important from a creative standpoint insofar as it presents opportunities for collaboration and experimentation. One of the main reasons I wanted to have my own business is to do just that! I have so many fun ideas of things to make and people I would like to work with, I know I will definitely do it at some point! I also think that the things one chooses to create in that context can be really valuable for driving the brand. For example, if DYLAN WYLDE had a scent, what would it be? The ability to show people that with a signature candle or oil fragrance would bring a deeper understanding and a new connection to the brand and vision.
I created the concept of the shop out of a need for something I didn’t think quite existed yet in Austin. I knew there were people here who had a similar aesthetic as me, and if I was feeling there was a certain type of store missing, surely there were others! It has been wonderful hearing all the feedback that has assured me I am on the right track! There are so many different types of shops because there are so many types of people, and everyone is into different vibes.
I don’t think it’s about pleasing everyone, just about creating something with a fresh perspective and the people who are into it finding you. In retail, it is especially important to listen and learn what your customers are into, and respond quickly while maintaining the integrity of your brand.
How do you think Austin’s fashion-focused community has responded to the product assortment and with this in mind, who is the DW woman? How do you hope to see her evolve?
I have been so humbled and thrilled by the awesome feedback I have received regarding our merchandise! The DYLAN WYLDE woman is laid back, a little bit of a tomboy, fun, and into design! She also has a little bit of an edge and wild streak too! I hope that she and I can evolve together and continue to experiment and push boundaries. Discovering one’s personal style is a fun part of discovering oneself, and I love being a part of that.
How would you characterize the maker/designer community in Austin?
Where do most of DYLAN WYLDE’s designers come from and what do you think they have contributed to Austin’s collective approach to style?
I would say the maker/designer community in Austin is ever growing. The city naturally attracts creative people because it’s a place where they can hone their crafts and where there are a lot of opportunities to share their work and where their work will be valued.
Many of DYLAN WYLDE’s goods come from all over the US including right here in Texas! In that way, I feel it is a true reflection of the regional diversity of Austin. We have lots of people moving from NY, LA, and everywhere in between!
What is one thing you always find yourself discussing amongst Austin-based fellow shop/small business owners?
Mostly the challenge of keeping the small business culture alive among the proliferation of larger retailers, especially now that many of them are tapping into the handmade aesthetic. It is really valuable when people support their local businesses because those are the places that bring something special to the mix and provide variety.
Variety keeps things interesting, and without it the scene would just be blah! Small businesses also have so much heart behind them, you can totally feel it!
As a small business owner what tools would you advise aspiring entrepreneurs to utilize in their own endeavors?
I would suggest using the back door! In other words, often times the process of starting your own business is not as straight forward as we would like. You have to be creative in reaching your goals, and being open to all the different approaches gives you more options! With funding, for example, I reached out to a local non-profit called People Fund which turned out to be a much better fit than many of the banks I had been looking into. Also, it really is true, the people in your personal circles, can be a tremendous resource. Being comfortable asking for help, and asking for feedback is something that can take practice, but the more you do it, the more comfortable you will become. I would also advise aspiring entrepreneurs to be patient. While you are always having to drive onwards, things can and do take time. Trust the universe and timing, and know that if your heart is truly in it, it will happen!
What role do you think creativity plays in some of the world’s bigger conversations and how do you think Austin is contributing to this shift in thinking?
I think in the context of bigger conversations, the role of creativity is something we need to continue to value and emphasize. Everything is becoming so automated and instant that we are at risk for becoming lazy. There are so many serious issues we are facing as a global community that we really need to apply creativity to problem solving, which I believe will lead to longer term, more positive solutions.
I also believe creativity needs to be emphasized in education. Not only teaching critical thinking, but also rewarding new thoughts (not just what The System wants you to know for the test). Recess, art class, music class, and all that good stuff should always be a priority too! They are so important to creativity on so many levels.
Austin attracts a lot of creative, open minded people so I feel creativity is naturally espoused here. It is also a more progressive city, so in terms of pushing those things out into the world, and creating a sanctuary for them, we are on the right track!
How do you celebrate personal style? How has Austin impacted your approach?
I celebrate personal style everyday when I get dressed! As a shop owner, obviously I love to shop and going to other boutiques to see their personal style. I also love going to locally owned food spots because even the spaces they create and they way they put food together is a form of personal style.
Why do you think Austin in particular is suited to foster this kind of business/shop?
Austinites are really conscious of supporting local shops because it is a small business kind of town. They understand and respect the effort that goes into it and they are really responsive to it. The whole “Keep Austin Weird” motto also rings true insofar as they appreciate unique finds and things that you can’t find just anywhere!
What is one question you wish people asked you more often?
“Wanna go to the beach?”
The Style Line was built on the premise of discovery, exploration and transit. With this in mind, if what is your “the style line” in your wardrobe?
I just love a classic black biker jacket! It can go and do and be anything you want. With it you are prepared for any type of weather and you always look badass. You’re ready for whatever the day may float your way…
When it comes to launching a business, why fashion? What role has it played in your personal and professional life and why is it your go-to vehicle for self expression?
For me, fashion is such an accessible form of creativity. Getting dressed everyday is something we all have to do which makes it the perfect medium for expression! Fashion is also a vehicle for self exploration, which I have always found to be exciting. Fashion is constantly changing as are we, and I love the process of figuring out what we like, what we don’t like, how we feel about new trends, how we see ourselves in relation to those trends, etc.
From a business/ professional standpoint, fashion is a perfect fit for me because I am very visual and I love treasure hunting. Shop curation is a beach comber’s paradise! You search, decide what you want to pick up, what you want to throw back, and ultimately you end up with a beautiful assortment of treasures!