Meet Rachael Koenig, a designer from Lakewood whose Shore Society T-shirts, prints, coffee mugs and other cool stuff aims to capture Cleveland’s “Rust Belt nautical aesthetic.”
The Kent State University graduate, who also works full-time at American Greetings, grew up in Bay Village, taking picnics to the beach with her family. In 2011, she designed her trademark Lake Erie Love motif, which has grown into a business you can find at shoresociety.com, local boutiques and on lots of lake lovers around town (including at my house).
This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
Why did you start designing Lake Erie stuff?
I started my Etsy shop right after I graduated from college, in 2008 when the market crashed. I had to find a way to make money and be creative while I was on my job hunt. I do a lot of hand lettering, and I was kind of sketching and expressing myself in the summertime, when my husband and I spend a lot of time by the lake. As people started to pick up on it, I thought there might be something there.
Lake Erie Love was kind of a slogan. There was kind of a gap in the market. I could tell it was something people were really looking for.
What do you mean by Rust Belt nautical?
It describes the coast in Cleveland. You drive along the coast and you see bridges and salt mines, the combination of industry and leisure. There’s still that bit of Rust Belt industrial influence which I think is really unique to places like Cleveland, and Buffalo. I think it’s a very specific aesthetic that’s different than “nautical,” the shabby chic or preppy, in other places.
How would you describe your clothing?
I’m trying to make clothing you can wear with an outfit, that doesn’t feel like you’re wearing a graphic tee. You could go out and get drinks, do something more social and have something on that feels stylish.
What’s your favorite activity and spot on Lake Erie?
That’s a tough question.
I’m from Bay Village, and that’s kind of where my love of the lake comes from. The lake was always like a big part of our summertime. It’s kind of deeply rooted.
I love everything they’ve done with Edgewater Park. Edgewater, when I grew up, wasn’t a place you didn’t really want to hang out at. Now people are just flocking there. I love Lakewood Park. I also like going out on a boat, and enjoy being on the water.