Former magazine editor and freelance stylist Samantha Potenciano has always had a knack of putting pieces together to tell an interesting style story. So launching a store doesn’t come exactly as a surprise. We caught up with the newly-married content editor to ask about her online store, Souvenir.
Souvenir came about when Sam wanted to channel the idea of taking home jewelry as personal keepsakes from her trips. She says, “Whenever I travel, I bring back little pieces of jewelry as my own personal souvenirs. It’s a different experience than say, bringing back a traditional souvenir because you develop a more personal connection with jewelry. It becomes a wearable reminder of the places you’ve been and the experiences you've had—months and even years after a trip is over.”
As for opening a store, it was only inevitable after years of working as a stylist that she would explore the possibility of creating something completely on her own. “I’ve always admired people who created things purely from their own vision,” she muses. “Working previously as a stylist, you have to work with a lot of outside input—a publication or brand’s audience, its advertisers…your work is part of someone else’s story.” And with Souvenir, she begins to tell her own story.
The choice of vintage jewelry is rooted in mindful consumption and supporting the idea of sustainability even in something like accessories. She tells us, “The older I get, the more conscious I’ve become of ideas like sustainability. A thought that would cross my mind a lot over the years when I thought about creating something was ‘What is the impact of this going to be down the line? Am I just going to produce something that will end up as junk in a landfill?’ And I realized that one way to work around that was to find existing, beautiful objects and give them a second life.” Jewelry was the obvious choice for her because she’s naturally drawn to it.
Currently, Souvenir has released two collections and are selling out fast. “A lot of the pieces were sourced on my honeymoon in the US last April,” she shares. The one-of-a-kind pieces are sourced from different cities all over the world. “I researched and went to lots of antique stores and flea markets all over (from Austin to New Orleans) and handpicked everything.” The brand was born after she had traveled with her husband, photographer Ralph Mendoza, who naturally captured the vintage jewelry through his lens. “I even shot the first collection with my husband at the LACMA in LA. So it was interesting to explore these states and discover pieces that way,” Sam says.
As a frequent traveler, Sam would find herself looking for jewelry of her own. She narrates, “I realized that I’d find stuff that wasn’t necessarily my personal style, but was so cool that I could see another girl wearing them. Eventually, I realized I should just bring a bunch home and if no one bought them then I’d just have my own giant, personal collection, anyway.”
Some of her favorite cities to travel to for vintage finds are those that surprise her. “It’s always the ones where you’re surprised at how good their vintage selection is. Like Bangkok or Salt Lake City in Utah,” she admits. “It makes it more fun because you don’t expect it. I’ve also had great luck at flea markets around LA and Taipei.”
Though Souvenir isn’t the only accessory store online, what makes it special is that each piece you see on their feed is the only one available. Sam also emphasizes that a lot of the pieces they carry were made before the 2000s. She says, “Aside from the fact that you won’t see anyone else with the same piece as you (we only carry one of each), a lot of the jewelry was made in a time before fast fashion—most of the pieces are from the '70s, '80s, '90s and have survived that long.” This brings us back to her point about sustainability. “There’s a longevity to these pieces, which means that with the proper care, they can last for years and years to come.”
Barely a month after launching the store, Sam gets a thrill from seeing the pieces in the wild. She shares, “I think it’s really cool to see girls I know wear them and to see how they use them to complement their own personal style, because they’re all so different.” Currently, they offer clip-on earrings and costume jewelry from the ‘70s and ‘80s sourced from cities across the world but we just might see necklaces and rings in the future. According to Sam, “I’ve got a small, growing collection of vintage necklaces. Some guys have also asked me about rings, so that would be cool, too, to cater to both guys and girls.”
And if you’re still not convinced that vintage jewelry is for you, Sam has this to say, “The thing about vintage jewelry is that each piece has had its own journey, its own history before making its way to you.” The pieces come with a note that tells its story, the way the marks, natural wear, and patina do. “The nicks and wear of each piece add to its character and I think that those are what make it so unique and worth investing in.”
To view their first two collections and pieces on-hand, follow them on Instagram.