A quick Q+A with Scarlett Alley for the 2014 DesignPhiladelphia Festival

FRI OCT 10 | 5PM


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Scarlett Alley was founded by the mother-daughter team Marykay and Liz Scarlett in 1993. The shop offers a selection of go-to gifts, and has grown into a lifestyle store – offering bamboo linens and yoga-inspired designs. We interviewed Liz Scarlett on how the shop has changed in the past twenty years, her musings on design, and what Old City has to offer.

Tell us about your event for the 2014 DesignPhiladelphia Festival:

Friday, October 10 will be an evening of yoga-centric design, from what you wear to how you design your surroundings. Guests will enjoy healthy cocktails, and craft their own balancing jewelry. The event features several new lines, adding functional active wear to our clothing selection. The new lines highlight graphic prints on locally made intelligent yarns, thermal balancing, and compression fabrics.

How did Scarlett Alley begin?

I opened Scarlett Alley twenty-one years ago in September 1993 with my mom, Marykay. I live next door: the back-alley was originally by my father’s workshop where he did his commercial work. He made the original fixtures and furniture for the store, and actually just started making pieces again from old wood from his farmhouse and barn. Together we thought of it as a gift gallery; we sold flowers and had a tea bar, which smelled (a little dusty, but) amazing mixed with the wood.

So last year you celebrated your 20 year anniversary, how has the store changed from the gift gallery and tea bar?

Well we don’t sell furniture or lamps, and there isn’t any time to sere tea. My father’s back alley workshop is now “brides, baby + bamboo”.

We’ve also expanded to offer more bridal accessories and wedding gifts, which led to our bridal registry, and we’ve set up an online shop.  Our go-to for local customers is the section for babies, kids, and pre-teens.

And, our bamboo line has a huge following, and that started largely as a fluke. I didn’t expect the bamboo nightshirt I ordered to gain popularity, or grow into a line of bamboo clothes, towels, and linens.

How has the neighborhood grown? A lot of people consider Old City the largest design community in the city. What has your experience of Old City been?

Old City is the best! Admittedly, we are no longer the hipsters, but very much a community with so many business owners living in the hood.

There are a lot more dogs and babies now, and a lot of empty-nesters, so we’ve been able to offer a more varied product line.

Of course the Art Galleries in the neighborhood have inspired more specialty shops to open, and the neighborhood boasts a lot of amazing new spaces – the Arden, the new Fringe building, and the Race Street Pier – and that does keep us hip.

You’ve seen a lot. What are your predictions for the next decade of design?

Even now we’re moving away from retro toward a more modern approach to design, we’re clearing away the clutter to make ourselves more comfortable, but ten years from now? Design has really become a way of life for a lot of people, it’s not trendy anymore, and individuality and personal style remain central. The artists will be more appreciated. And the idea of “age appropriate” is thrown out the window to offer more technology and products that are made to enhance the quality of life. 

Click here to visit Scarlett Alley's online shop and to read more about their story.

All images compliments of Liz Scarlett. Stay tuned for updates on the 2014 DesignPhiladelphia Festival, celebrating a #decadeofdesign

Click here to purchase early bird tickets to the 2014 DesignPhiladelphia PopUp Place kickoff benefit + party

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