A gift from a customer gifted when our Rivington Street store opened. The collage contains photos she collected of the Clinton Street store.
It all began with a sidewalk stand. I was in my early twenties. I had just uprooted my life, moving from Hong Kong to New York City, after making the hardest decision I would ever have to make: to walk away from my dream career as a pop star in Hong Kong (a story for another time but feel free to ask me if you ever catch me in the store). Long story short, as much as I loved singing, the lifestyle really got to me after a while. I craved independence and freedom. I wanted to see what else the world had to offer. When I moved to New York I had the opportunity to start anew; to explore other passions and see where they would take me.
My husband signed me up for jewelry making classes to help me channel my energy into a creative outlet. I became obsessed. (I have been told I am a very type A person.) When I felt confident enough in my designs, I naively set up a sidewalk stand (as you do when you’re young and have nothing to lose) on the Lower East Side along Clinton Street beside the Clinton St Baking Company. I sold jewelry that I designed and handmade. While it may not have been as glamorous as being on stage, I wouldn’t have traded it for anything else in the world. I was making hard-earned money selling things that I crafted with my two hands. I was independent and I was free.
After a year, I was able to afford a small space along the same street. In 2008, I signed my first lease for 7115 - or Szeki as it was called at the time. Some of you may still remember that store. We had jewelry, accessories and a small amount of clothing. In all honesty, when I first opened, it was really just about survival. I needed to make a certain amount of money each day in order to pay for that month’s rent, food and bills. I worked every single day of the week so I got to know my customers well. I learned about their lifestyles, their careers, their families. I became invested in everyone and thought ‘How can I use my skill in a way that's relevant to their lives?’. I quickly outgrew the Clinton Street space and moved to a slightly bigger storefront on Rivington Street, where we still are to this day. That was when 7115 really began and when it shifted from being about survival to being about service.
Early days. Hand painting and assembling the signage for our stores.
I started designing capsule collections of versatile basics that were utilitarian minded, that our customers could wear across multiple occasions in their lives. Quality was the one thing I could never compromise on which is why I chose to start up our in-house production studio and have everything made by our team there. It was the only way we could produce in small batches and ensure the craftsmanship and durability of every piece. By now, not only was I running the shop, but I was running our Guangzhou City production studio remotely from New York. It was a lot more work/energy/money then I could have imagined, but now looking back, it would be crazy not to go down this path.
I started 7115 right around the time the Recession hit. Most people in our community were living on tight budgets. I remember customers were always excited to be able to afford anything on this level of quality and it made them feel good. Understanding this consolidated what my mission was.
Our customers have always been my motivation. I want to design garments that work hard for their hard-working lives and I like to be on the floor whenever the time allows so that I can get feedback and continue to refine and perfect my work. For the last ten years this has been how 7115 has operated.
I will not lie though running a small business is not easy. It is a labor of love. There have been days where I’ve been ready to throw in the towel. Tired. Overwhelmed. Stressed. You name it. But it is usually in those moments that something happens to remind me of why and how this all began. A customer who used to shop with me in the little Clinton Street store, who I haven’t seen in years, would walk through the door; or another customer sends me a photograph of herself wearing 7115 pieces in her new home in Europe. The photo means a lot to me because this customer doesn’t like to invest in nice things for herself but chose to invest in our pieces to mark a new phase in her life: getting married and moving to Europe. Little things like this remind me of the power that 7115 has to be of service to people. How our garments can be there to serve them well no matter what stage of life they’re at. This keeps me and our team going.
I want to thank everyone who has supported 7115 throughout the last ten years, who has helped to make our mission clearer and stronger everyday. This year there will be many ways that we want to celebrate our tenth with you. I am excited to continue finding ways to serve you better. I am excited to show you what else we have in store for 7115.
Here’s to another ten.