The sun is pouring through Olive’s two full walls of windows on a particularly warm January afternoon. Solange’s latest album is pulsing through the space, which is not unusual, as the singer is a customer and even hosted her brand Saint Heron’s relaunch party in Olive’s old space down the block last SXSW. Owner, Laura Uhlir smiles out from behind the cashwrap, with her signature bleach blonde bob and clear acetate glasses.
The new space is gorgeous– textural and bright. A light pink wall sporting a blue neon sign (‘Olive,’ of course) greets you as you walk through the door. An adjoining wall is floor-to-ceiling rust-colored carpet. This visual is capped by a sky blue ceiling and punctuated by a metallic silver orb-like light fixture. Olive moved into this space back in October, and it’s truly stunning. Laura walks me through the new layout like an understandably proud mother.
“We have custom fixtures that were done by Travis Duke and Ben Kaplan. Ben actually just moved to Los Angeles, but he’s a great retail design guy. He helped us with all of our fixture design, and then Travis, whose company is called Duke Custom Builds, did all the formica, all the crazy stairs. Then we worked with Duffy Stone on concept, color, layout… so she and I worked on putting that together. We were really trying to embrace color and texture. Minimalism has become so prevalent that it feels almost like a rule, so I was pretty hellbent on breaking that rule. I had just come back from Mexico City and everything there is just juicy and gorgeous, so I wanted to bring some of that color back here.”
“It’s Olive and Catchtilly under one roof now, which is awesome. Olive being our clothing, design, independent & emerging designers, with a little bit of vintage worked in, and Catchtilly is our boutique headshop.”
A cobalt fringe curtain hanging from the ceiling separates the two concepts, a tongue-in-cheek nod to the “adult” sections of video rental stores of years gone by. Laura’s décor and assortment are a testament to her status as a true tastemaker, and I was lucky enough to pick her brain for an afternoon.
So tell us about Olive’s journey. This is your third space, right?
Technically fourth! Well, Olive A, B, C, and D. The first version of Olive started inside Domy Books, which was the predecessor to Farewell Books, which is open [closed shortly after this interview was conducted] here on the East Side in Austin. We had a set-up kind of similar to Las Cruxes and Farewell. I was in there with Domy as a little pop-up, testing the waters, and that went well. About six months into that endeavor, Domy decided to close their doors. That kind of pushed me out of the nest. So I went out and found another space on Rosewood in a little old house. I shared that with two other shops, neither of which are around any longer. It was a really nice incubator. That lasted a year and a half or two years. Then we moved into our space on East 11th– our first space on East 11th [laughs], which was about half the size of our current space. It was great; we loved it. We still love that space, but then this bigger one opened up in our same building, and I decided to take a leap of faith. So far, so good.[Olive’s previous space on East 11th is now home to HELM Boot’s new flagship store]
So the expansion obviously included the absorption of Catchtilly. What is Catchtilly?
Catchtilly is my fave. Catchtilly is… our tagline is ‘a progressive general store.’ Essentially, it’s a boutique headshop geared toward women. Of course, we have lots of male customers and we love them too, but we just found that going to headshops, and pot culture in general, wasn’t welcoming to women. So we opened this space so it would feel like a pleasant, comfortable shopping experience, rather than a questionable, shady, maybe-I’m-not-supposed-to-be-in-here shopping experience– just trying to bring the light of day to it. Moving it into Olive has made a huge difference too, for both shops. It just makes it that much more comfortable, that much more normalized. You can come in and get a cute dress for Friday night and a little one-hitter for when you get home after going out. It seems to be a good combo!
Where do you draw your inspiration from, day-to-day?
I get a lot of inspiration from all the women who work here, all of my amazing employees. They’re all great and creative and have their own endeavors, so they’re constantly turning me onto new things and keeping me excited. But I also always feel really recharged after a good road trip or good thrifting outing. It kind of clears my head, so I like to run to the thrift store anytime I’m feeling blasée.
Describe your ideal day in your home town.
Well, it certainly involves thrifting. We’ve covered that I enjoy that. I grew up in a small town in West Texas, so the thrift stores are actually decent still. I’d probably go get pizza at this awesome pizza place called Pizza King that I worked at in high school. Then I’d hang out at my parent’s house which is out in the country, and chill. They have a hot tub and a pool, so some swimming would happen. They have cows and donkeys and all that kind of stuff, so I’d probably feed the donkeys. And then my dad would probably make some kind of boss dinner.
What is your favorite piece in your wardrobe right now?
It’s more ‘pieces’ right now… but it’s my collection of vintage jeans. I’m a jeans girl. It’s all I wear. I actually just counted the other day because I cleaned out my closet. I have 24 pairs of jeans, which is way too many. They’re all a little bit different. I do have one particularly special pair of vintage Levis that I thrifted in the little boys’ department. They make me look like a million bucks, and I love them.
And your favorite piece in the store?
Ooh lord, that’s tough! My favorite thing in the store right now is probably the [sold out] D.efect coat. It’s chartreuse green… it’s super gorgeous. It would really pop on a grey day. It’s just a classic boyfriend overcoat, but I love the color. It makes me happy!
Describe your personal style in three words.
Only three words? Let’s see… T-shirt and jeans.
What’s your morning routine?
I usually get up like 8 or 8:30, and I’ll read in bed for about 45 minutes with my dogs. On the weekends, it’s a book, and I’ll stay in bed a little longer and treat myself. On the weekdays, it’s usually my phone… Scrolling through Instagram, the Times, Facebook– all that stuff. Then, if I’m doing really good, I’ll make it out the door to the gym. If I’m not, that happens later in the day. Usually, I’m bad and I go out for coffee everyday, because I’m that kind of person. I like the ritual of going out and seeing the same people every morning and doing the ‘hello.’ It feels nice. So I buy coffee. Then a taco is usually involved and I head to the shop around 10:45.
What was your last vacation and why was it great?
The last place I went on a vacation-vacation was Tulum, back in August. It’s heaven on earth. I’ve been several times, and everytime I try to plan a vacation, my husband and I are like ‘Where should we go?’ ‘Uhhh let’s just go to Tulum again!’ It’s so easy, it’s so close to Austin, and it’s really affordable. Favorite thing about it? I love a vacation that is a true vacation in every sense of the word. Like, you don’t try and sight see. You don’t try to find the best restaurants. You literally just lay around, read a book, and maybe get a massage.
Where are you going next?
Basically Tulum. Ha! I’m going to Isla Mujeres in April with my husband and [some friends]. It’s a little island off the coast of Cancun, so it’s not far from Tulum, maybe an hour and a half. There’s this insane house on AirBnB called ‘The Seashell House.’ It looks like a giant seashell, all the furniture is custom, the faucets are like big seashells– it’s hilarious and amazing! It’s pink! It’s heaven, basically. It has a pool too and it’s on the beach. So that’s where I’m headed and I cannot wait.
Finally, what’s next for Olive?
Let’s see… we’re working on a couple of fun things for South by, but I don’t know if I can… none of them are in stone yet! So keep your eyes on our Instagram!
Images by Laura Logan Photography