Entrepreneur Ensures Luxurious Scarves Zoom Ahead
By Adrienne Fawcett
DESEDA is out to do to silk scarves what Ralph Lauren did to the polo shirt, what Levi’s did to denim and what Swiss Army did to the pocketknife.
“We are on a journey to become the scarf brand,” says DESEDA owner Sarah Somers. The journey is progressing at a healthy clip, as DESEDA was featured in Vogue this past July.
"I created an opportunity to indulge in more of my creative side and my love for art and design," says Sarah Somers about starting DESEDA.
Just what is DESEDA? You may have noticed bright flashes of color at 266 Market Square. This is the headquarters of DESEDA, pronounced day-say-da, which is a mash-up of the Spanish words “silk” and “wish” and whose scarves are designed by artists from around the world. The designs are printed in Italy on premium-grade 100% silk twill and then finished in the United States, where the edges are hand-rolled and stitched. The scarves are luxurious works of art.
Somers found her way to the entrepreneurial world by way of a childhood in Dubuque, Iowa, an undergraduate degree in Milwaukee at Marquette University and a 16-year career in finance in New York City. After moving to Chicago in 2013, she worked with a small group to invest in early-stage technology start-ups in the Chicago area.
“I had a wonderful career in finance,” says Somers. “However, I had always dreamed of being an entrepreneur. “After spending four years working with a series of early-stage companies and their leadership teams, I couldn't hold back any longer. In starting DESEDA, I also created an opportunity to indulge in more of my creative side and my love for art and design.”
Somers was drawn to the scarf category for several reasons, including:
1. Scarves have always been her personal statement, capable of adding personality to a corporate suit as well as to jeans and a leather jacket.
2. There’s a dearth of beautiful, high-quality scarves in the middle market. “It’s hard to find cool scarves,” she says.
3. Entrepreneurial fashion is in Somers’ blood. Her maternal great-grandparents were milliners who ran their own hat store.
Lately the fashion industry has endured a lot, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and a massive shift to a work-from-home culture. Somers and her team opened DESEDA’s Market Square store in the fall of 2019 as a pop-up shop, deciding to remain in place after the calendar flipped to 2020.
You know what happened next: Shelter in place. Work from home. Hybrid school. Curb-side pickup. DESEDA had a few things going for it during the pandemic that continue to work:
1. Loyal customers. “We were fortunate to have built a core group of loyal DESEDA customers during our first year in business, and they really kept us going during the pandemic,” she says.
2. Online gifting. People wanted to send special gifts to their family and friends to bring color to those dark days.
3. Zoom. Guess what clothing item really makes you stand out on a Zoom meeting while also dressing up your comfy sweats? Scarves!
When things started to open up in 2021, DESEDA continued its march forward, thanks to shoppers who came back to the store and online sales that found new audiences through artist events and great publicity like the Vogue story. DESEDA also gained its first retail partners, including the Museum Shops at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Which is fitting -- because DESEDA scarves literally are works of art.