The Accessory Junkie’s Ursula Lyon reveals how she turned her love for shopping overseas into a thriving retail business
“I’m someone who likes my plate very full,” says Ursula Lyon, cofounder of The Accessory Junkie, with a laugh. “I’ve found that I’m not so happy when I’m not really busy.”
That mentality helps explain why the busy mother of three kids (all under the age of 8) would start a retail business that requires her to crisscross the planet with profound regularity.
But delivering jewelry and accessories handcrafted by artisans all over the world—rare treasures you can’t order on a laptop or an iPhone—is the concept behind The Accessory Junkie, the 2-year-old e-commerce site based in Westport, Conn. The retailer releases four collections a year online, and in between hosts innovative live shopping events. This past summer, for example, the company erected a chic “clubhouse” in Malibu, Calif., that featured a nonstop schedule of out-of-the-box events (think yoga, manicures, and a “cookie dough adventure”).
Lyon came up with the idea for The Accessory Junkie after years of telling tales about her own unique extras, which she’s picked up throughout her many years of traveling. “I’m the ultimate accessory junkie,” says the 35-year-old, who’s also the company’s buyer and house model. “I once went wine tasting in Tuscany and walked away with a bunch of Lucite handbags. I’m always doing things like that!”
What made you want to start The Accessory Junkie?
I love nothing more than traveling the world, and I’ve always found things in unexpected places. I started buying jewelry and reaching out to designers about pieces. In the process of building the business, I kept calling [Accessory Junkie cofounder] Michelle Reeves for advice and we had the most beautiful rapport. I was talking to her on the phone one day and I was asking her who she thinks I should partner with on the business, and she said, “Me!” We’ve been working together for two years now and we have a group of five in the company, including a photographer.
How does The Accessory Junkie work from the vantage point of the consumer?
We create collections of jewelry and accessories for fall, winter, spring, and summer. All our pieces are one of a kind—there’s no mass production. We want women to know they’re getting things not everyone else can get. As a shopper, the day before the next collection goes up you get an email alert that says something like “The collection goes up live tomorrow at 2 p.m.” Then you get the alert that the collection is up, and our shoppers know when they see that, they need to run to the website and grab what they want right then. Our collections always sell out, usually within four to five weeks. The last collection we put up sold through 30 percent by the end of day one. And when the collection sells out, we close down the site.
How do you engage your shoppers in between the collection releases?
We send a series of emails after every collection that really [pivot] around storytelling. We tell the stories of where the pieces came from and who made them. Some emails will include styling tips. We’ve found that women really connect to the stories of where pieces are from and who made them. I was telling a shopper at the pop-up in Malibu about the two Brazilian women who made the earrings she was buying, and minutes later I heard her tell that story to someone else. The story became hers.
What led you to debut the pop-up in Malibu this past summer?
We’d been doing this tour between collections, the Secret Suitcase Tour, where we showed up and let people shop. We realized that between collections people need their little shopping fix. Last year we came out to L.A. with five suitcases of accessories for an event and came home with one tiny bag. So we essentially landed the Secret Suitcase Tour in Malibu.
Jewelry and accessories are so huge right now—why do you think that is?
Jewelry and accessories trigger memories. Also, buying an earring or a necklace is such an easy and affordable way to get involved in a trend. Accessories have always been my style secret. The power of accessories is real.
Rainey resin cuff with agate, CZ, and 18k gold vermeil; Althea resin cuff with peach aventurine and black rhodium–plated brass; $380–$400
(Photos: Heidi Curran)