Furniture designer Roxy Te Owens, founder of Society Social, makes all of our style dreams come true. Building on her family's history in the furniture business, she has established a vibrant company that seeks to put the power of customization in the consumer's hands – something we can really get behind ;). Here, we chatted with her about starting her company, balancing work with family, and her decision to open a brick and mortar store in Charlotte, NC.
Tell us a little about yourself, Roxy!
Hi y’all! I’m Roxy Owens, the founder and designer at Society Social, a colorful furniture brand out of Hickory, North Carolina. We’re unique because we design and make all our own furniture out of our family-owned factories. Society Social was born in 2011. It was and still is inspired by the girl who loves high end design but can’t quite afford it. That was me!
I remember lusting after a tasseled sofa in one of Tory Burch’s apartments and thought, I bet I can bring that to the consumer at an accessible price point. From there I dreamt up a brand that is traditional at heart but playful and modern. My goal was, and still is, to offer all the custom options normally reserved for the trade at friendly prices - and to have some fun while doing it!
Congrats on your new flagship Society Social store in Charlotte, North Carolina! After having a direct-to-consumer online business for over ten years, what led you to decide to open a brick and mortar store?
Thank you! Retail has changed drastically over the past decade, but we still felt strongly that brick and mortar was important for our digitally native brand. We wanted to have a place where our customers could see our products in person (they’re even better in person!) and to experience our brand in real life. It’s basically our brand on steroids!
I knew we couldn't just open a store, fill it with furniture, and be successful. We had to push the creative envelope which meant taking the spirit of our brand: colorful, playful, fun, traditional but fresh, and translating it into over the top design elements. We have a 20 foot pagoda bar, 14 foot tall built-ins painted in a fresh french blue, a graphic hand painted floor in large scale pink gingham, a classic boxwood trellis wall, topped with our hot pink neon sign, and traditional cornice and drapery installations at a grand 10 foot scale.
The biggest challenge was managing the construction and the huge financial investment as we’ve been self-funded since day 1. The biggest reward is meeting our customers in real life!
"We had to push the creative envelope which meant taking the spirit of our brand: colorful, playful, fun, traditional but fresh and translating it into over the top design elements..."
The Society Social team is spread out across the country (something the Weezie team is very familiar with!), with employees from New York to North Carolina. How do you manage your team and all stay in touch without being in one location?
Two words: Facebook Portal! We each have one and it’s basically video calling but much more functional than face time. Our portals sit on our desks so we can see each other from New York to NC—it feels like we’re in the same room and truly helps us keep that team spirit even though we’re miles apart.
You have an adorable young daughter Austen Kelly. How do you carve out time from your busy days running Society Social to make time to be with her? Do you have any words of advice for other moms?
Thank you! She is my motivation! We’re all tired by the end of the day and dinner time and bath time can very easily feel like chores. I try to change the perspective and look at all these little mundane moments as acts of love and a privilege. I am honored to be her mother!
How do you make sure you are enjoying your stay on the daily?
Getting "ready" shouldn't only be reserved for a morning routine. If you prep yourself to feel good for the day, why not "prep" yourself to feel good before bedtime?! Instead of choosing an old tee and sweats (don't get me wrong! That's nice sometimes, too!) or mismatched PJs, I like to dress in pajamas that make me smile which means cute and comfy!
Her PJ recommendation? Lake Pajamas.
What's something most people don't know about you?
I started going to High Point Market with my family by the time I was 5! My siblings and I would always visit for a day as a tradition. Those early visits entailed what any child would do in a furniture showroom: naps, snacks, and playtime! We never saw any other kids our age during our visits, but looking back I think this was our parents' way of instilling our family’s story and legacy.
By middle school I was answering phones and filing away paperwork, and by college I was helping out with shopping fabric markets and designing the showrooms. After college graduation, I was determined to set out on my own to write my own story which means furniture was the last thing on my mind. I ended up at Parsons the New School for Design in New York City and directly after I landed a buying job in an Executive Training program at a large department store. I worked for 3 years buying Juniors for 300 some stores. It was excellent retail training but it didn’t take me long to realize furniture was always going to be part of my story.
Growing up around manufacturing and having the resources to bring my first designs to life were definitely driving forces in making the career change, which I did in my mid-twenties! Society Social was born in 2011.
"I try to change the perspective and look at all these little mundane moments as acts of love and a privilege."
Current brand crush?
Favorite interior designer Instagram right now?
Ariel Okin. We love her fresh take on traditional style. We’re doing a collection with her launching this April! It will include all our favorite materials: grasscloth, wicker, caning, and rattan!
What's one piece of advice you'd give your younger self?
Don’t worry so much. Life is in the journey.
Favorite place you've traveled and why?
My husband and I took a Mediterranean cruise a few months before Austen Kelly was born. We visited all the charming beach towns along the French and Italian coasts. We explored aimlessly, ate our way through, basked in the sun, slept early, slept in…it was such a special time for us and so full of expectant joy for what was to come.
Last show you binge-watched, last book you read, or last podcast episode you really loved?
The Morning Show, Permission to Feel, How I Built This.
What fun projects do you have coming up?
In 2020 I hope to complete our most special design project to date, our family’s first home! I’m no interior designer but I’m excited to take on the challenge.
Pick one of each, from each question.
- Bubble bath or shower?
- Wallpaper or paint?
- Towel bar or hook?
- Towel time sips: tea or tini?
Your towel time is:
- Quick no nonsense! / long and lingering
- With music / in peaceful silence
- With cell phone / with book
- Morning / evening
- Face mask / clean face
Roxy's Towel Pick: Light Blue Piped Starter Pack with River Embroidery in Light Blue. She embroidered her last name "Owens" on her towels. Shop her pick!
Want to get to know some other Weezie Hype Girls? We recently chatted with artist Dorothy Shain on the soapbox; you can read the interview here.