Local Nomad is a trendy shop located in Downtown Phoenix, known for its unique apparel artisanal gifts. I had the incredible opportunity to talk with the founder and owner, Lauren Danuser, about how her journey to opening Local Nomad and what she envisions for the future.
1. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you came up with the concept of Local Nomad.
I had always been into fashion since a young age. My parents took us on a trip to San Francisco and LA when I was 13 and I remember walking into Fred Segal like it was Disneyworld, ha! Growing up in St. Louis, I always felt like I was a bit of an outsider being so interested in the fashion world. I guess I was kind of a weird teenager! I went to college at Indiana University with the intent on majoring in Marketing but after a few mind-numbing accounting and finance courses and having a guest speaker from the Fashion Merchandising program in class one day, I decided to take a different route. That was a tough and memorable conversation with my father, who justified paying out-of-state tuition only because of the stellar business degree I was going to earn.
I moved to San Francisco right after college after landing a job at the Gap corporate headquarters where I worked as an inventory analyst and a buyer for 6 years. I had dreamed on and off about opening a boutique for as long as I can remember and started thinking seriously about taking on this career a few years ago when I started to get really burnt out with my corporate retail life. So I quit my job and went on to manage a boutique in San Francisco for two years before moving to Phoenix and opening Local Nomad. I was equal parts terrified and excited to start a business, but I now realize it’s good to be scared as long as you can channel that energy into excitement. A passion of mine has always been discovering unique handmade goods and I knew I wanted my shop to revolve around that idea. The true inspiration for the concept came about when my husband and I were traveling in Europe during the summer of 2015. I popped into so many locally-owned boutiques in Paris, Berlin and Copenhagen and it hit me – I wanted to carry handmade goods from different cities around the world. The name Local Nomad is an oxymoron but it stuck because it aligned perfectly with my concept – locally made goods from different cities around the world. There are so many talented makers and it’s been so amazing connecting with these people and supporting fellow entrepreneurs through the process.
2. You’ve lived in California and visited many “fashion capitals” in the U.S. What drew you to Phoenix? Why did you decide to open your store here?
I ended up in Phoenix because my husband is from here and he changed careers, which brought us from San Francisco back to his hometown. When we decided to move here I immediately started stalking all things Phoenix on Instagram to get a feel for the community. I had visited several times in the past 7 years but didn’t really “get” Phoenix until I started trying to really connect with it. There’s a lot happening in Phoenix right now and I realized there is such an appreciation of locally owned businesses which is so rad. It’s definitely a crazy thing to move to a new city and open a new business all in a few months’ time. In retail, every decision you make is focused on your customer and I needed to figure out to the best of my ability who this person was before I opened up shop! So I tried to start understanding who my potential customers would be by going to local coffee shops, restaurants and other boutiques around Local Nomad.
3. You have merchandise from around the world. With so many options, how do you decide what you’re going to sell?
Ha, I get this question a lot! I find products in many different ways. Instagram is such a powerful tool these days and I can definitely find myself in a black hole and discover some amazing vendors that way. I also love to travel and explore new places, and I always make a point to stop in local shops wherever I go and see what they are carrying. I also go to trade shows in New York and LA to find new vendors, but I don’t prefer this method as every other boutique buyer in the world is at the shows, too! I like the idea of people walking into the shop and not recognizing 90% of the brands I carry, so it’s a delicate balance of buying things I know will sell and taking risks on things that are a little more out there.
4. How does Local Nomad provide a truly unique shopping experience?
I think what makes Local Nomad special is that we pride ourselves on supporting makers and artists from around the world. I want my customers to have a sense of discovery when they walk through the door and feel connected to different people in different cities. We have little place cards next to most of our items informing our customers about by whom and where the product was made. I really want people to form a connection with our products and one of the best parts of my job is talking with customers about our makers. We are also unique in that we focus on sustainability. When I’m searching for goods, the process in which something is made and the materials of which it is made are both very important to me. I always research my products before I buy them, which usually just means having a conversation with the maker. For instance, all of our skincare is made of 100% natural ingredients, most being organic. Our candles are all 100% soy or coconut wax and scented with essential oils, not artificial fragrances. Our baby clothing is made sustainably in the US, with natural dyes and organic cotton.
5. What do you envision the future of Local Nomad looking like?
I think my customer will dictate the future of Local Nomad. I’ve already learned so much in the first 4 months of business and I continue to learn more and more each day about which products are resonating or not. I’m taking things day by day and currently trying to focus on growing our online business, which feels very challenging so far. The online world provides so much opportunity but you are one in a million shops lost in the sea of the internet! I also want to get more involved with the Phoenix community and do workshops, pop-up events and collaborations with other brands.
6. Tell us about your personal style and who influences it!
My personal style is in a word: effortless. I first and foremost dress to be comfortable, which is why you’ll typically see me in elastic waistband pants and a flowy top (read: grandma chic). Black is my go-to color, but my wardrobe consists mostly of pieces that are interesting silhouettes and/or have bold patterns. Fashion is truly art to me and I am drawn to beautiful pieces that I typically wear for many years. That said, I don’t purchase a ton of clothing and when I buy something it has to feel really special. I am definitely influenced by French girl style – the simple idea that less is more.
All Photos Courtesy of Lauren Danuser
Want to see more of the best fashion, beauty & culture in Phoenix?
Sign up for our newsletter below.