Simpson-Scupelli arrived in Pittsburgh to attend Carnegie Mellon for her master’s degree. There she met her husband, Peter, who would later gift her with her first sewing machine (which took some time for her to figure out).
Early on and using silk screening, Simpson-Scupelli made a few skirts that she named “city skirts” based on her travels. Then came the day that Jamie Rivers, who at the time owned Sugar Boutique in Lawrenceville, suggested that she bring in some of her creations to the store. A trunk show followed, and Simpson-Scupelli created 30 pieces, selling 28 in the first weekend. “Jamie started showing me the line sheets that she would get from designers and allowing me to accompany her to trade shows. After that, I put together my first line sheet, my first collection.”
Things moved quickly after that. Simpson-Scupelli launched her first line, and soon was traveling to trade shows in New York, Atlanta and Las Vegas. In 2011, she did her first show in Paris, which resulted in wholesale orders for shops in France, Italy, Switzerland and Japan.
“It was going well, but it was also getting to the point where we either needed to grow a lot or scale back. We were in that weird in-between space,” she explains.
After stepping away from the business to care for her son, Simpson-Scupelli found herself sewing him clothes. In the spring of 2015 she launched a children’s clothing line on Etsy, where she has 100 sales to date. In addition to children’s clothing, Simpson-Scupelli has also used Etsy to reintroduce her women’s line, where her dresses continue to be top sellers.
Now, instead of working frantically to launch clothing lines in advance for wholesale orders, she makes items to order and creates in-season fashion. Etsy also allows her to connect with a whole new community of customers and create “slow fashion,” a less frantic model and one that suits her life right now.
“I was trying to create this sustainable picture for my own family and life and still do something that I love,” she says. “Etsy has become an incredible platform for me.”
This season, Simpson-Scupelli is commemorating the 10-year anniversary of her business with the relaunch of her collection for women and a new clothing line for men. The theme for this season’s line? Rivers and Bridges, a dedication to Pittsburgh and the founding place of her business. The theme will show up in her custom prints, color palette and silhouettes. In addition to preparing a new line, she is also finalizing her own website, due to launch in April. In addition, she will be hosting an open studio on Saturday, May 7.
From her home studio in the city’s Friendship neighborhood, Allison Glancey and her husband and creative partner Craig Seder, run their design and printmaking studio strawberryluna. Glancey creates the silk screen prints and oversees the day-to-day operations of the business, while Seder, creative director at the advertising agency Smith Brothers, creates designs and illustrations.
Like other designers profiled here, Glancey initially studied in another field—women’s studies, psychology and child development at the University of Pittsburgh. Then she attended an open studio night at Artists Image Resource (most Pittsburghers know it as AIR) on the North Side.
“I started going to the open studio and finished my first super, super rough print and was completely in love,” explained Glancey, who said that after that first time she frequented AIR “pretty obsessively.”
Glancey joined Etsy in late 2004 and opened strawberryluna in 2005. While she travels to festivals, 75 percent of her sales continue to come through Etsy. Although volume varies throughout the year, the store averages about 20-to-25 sales per week spiking to twice that during the holiday season. In December, strawberryluna’s Etsy site surpassed 5,000 sales. One of their best sellers is a set of two prints, Pittsburgh City of Bridges.
“When people buy those they always want to talk about how much they love the city,” Glancey explains, adding that she would like to focus on growing a couple of aspects of the business, wholesale and licensing in particular.
One of the many challenges faced by Etsy artisans is time spent laboring in solitude. Glancey counteracts this with regular coffee klatches with a group of fellow Pittsburgh artisans who call themselves “super friends.” Members of this group include Lisa Krowinski of Sapling Press, Shannon and Dan Rugh of Commonwealth Press, and Matt Buchholz of Alternate Histories.
“It is almost like a brain trust,” says Glancey, adding that the experience for many artisans is that when you first start a business there is a ton of help and resources available. Having achieved a measure of success, she and many other artists find themselves at a “weird mid-level” point in their businesses where future growth is challenging.
Born in Philadelphia, Glancey comes from a family of artists—her mom is the creator of Mamoucha Soaps. When Glancey first left Philadelphia, she thought that she would just move around until she found a city that she liked. Then she arrived in Pittsburgh.
“I just immediately fell in love,” said Glancey, who said a quote about the city that she heard from a friend says it best. “You can live in Pittsburgh, own a record shop and a house.”