Customers wandering into the newly opened Edge of Urge shop off Person Street in downtown Raleigh are warmly greeted by owner Jessie Williams and her long-legged terrier rescue, Linwood. The shop has the feel of being inside a friend’s home, with handwritten notes placed alongside Williams’ childhood horse collection, a comfy plaid sofa and a painting by Williams’ grandfather embellished with googly eyes.
“We have a sense of humor,” says Williams, who wants the store and the items she carries in it to be welcoming.
Williams, a self-taught designer, opened her first Edge of Urge store in Wilmington in 2002 after she found it hard to get her work into other shops. Williams says she never studied business and didn’t even know how to use a sewing machine when she opened the shop.
“I didn’t know the ropes so I just decided I was going to do it myself and there were several other designers I knew who had the same issue and they trusted me to take their work,” she says. “So I started selling it and one thing led to another. Now we have two stores.”
Williams’ independent business style carries over to her work as a designer. Her Edge of Urge label is made up of a line of leggings called “junkies,” swimwear and reversible dresses that go beyond trend pieces and are driven by her need to fulfill what she considers an undervalued market. “My weight has gone up and down over the years and I am very sensitive to the needs of clothing that fits a variety of shapes,” Williams ways. “I guess I’ve developed a bit of a reputation for someone who can custom-make garments that fit real women.”
Williams designs everything, including custom wedding gowns, in stretchy knit materials.
In addition to her work as a designer and the job of operating two stores, Williams runs the Mama Bear Project, which she describes as “an entrepreneurship center for designers and artists where we can help them through all the different facets of having a business.”
Williams and her team serve as mentors to help designers with everything from brand development to thinking up creative ways to hold trunk shows. She also provides a space with commercial sewing machines that the designers can use. Her eyes light up when she talks about the success stories; she’s carried the work of many of those designers in her store over the years.
Creating a meaningful connection between designer, seller and shopper is important to Williams. For her two stores, she and her team curate many items from small production designers and artists locally and throughout the U.S.
“We have built a nest of our favorite things,” she says. If you ask about an item, Williams and her staff know the back story. “Most things have a wonderful story that goes along with them, so you can really connect with the designer and the piece.”
Edge of Urge
Williams’ clothing line is available at her stores in Raleigh (215-110 E. Franklin St.) and Wilmington (18 Market St.) and online at edgeofurge.com.
Edge of Urge hosts a variety of community events. Upcoming events include an April 11 trunk show with Raleigh Vintage, and a May 1 yoga event with Happy + Hale for which Williams will bring her Shasta vintage trailer stocked with Edge of Urge yoga leggings and apothecary. For more details, call 919-827-4000.