You can spot Vada jewelry around the neck of Texan Leon Bridges, on the Instagram of Outdoor Voices founder Ty Haney and inside the local luxury boutique ByGeorge.
Katie Caplener, 31, founded the Austin-based company "kind of by accident" in 2013, she told Austonia. Since then, Vada has become her full-time job, grown its team to four full-time employees and expanded into eyewear. "Austin is such a good place to grow because the quality of life is great," she said.
Caplener moved to Austin in 2012 after graduating from the University of Arkansas. "It was the closest big, fun city that I could escape to post-college," she said. Once in town, she began working at the ByGeorge store on North Lamar Boulevard, starting as a sales associate before moving up to stylist and then building the company's website and breaking into digital marketing, events and branding.
While there, Caplener started selling vintage jewelry from her personal collection and designing her own heirloom pieces, which became Vada's first collection. A local goldsmith made them, and she sold them at ByGeorge. "They did really well," she said.
Caplener's love of vintage jewelry runs deep, like in a generational sense. Vada is named for her maternal grandmother, Vada Joy, and its sensibility is influenced by her paternal grandmother, Dot, whose vintage jewelry she inherited. Dot collected pawn shop gold and would melt it down to create new pieces. "She would probably not call herself a jewelry designer, but I think anyone else would say she was," Caplener said. "Just not for profit."
Caplener's style continues to reflect Dot's influence. "I would dress in really crappy clothes and then put on my grandma's costume jewelry," she said. "That's still my style. I'm pretty casual other than all the gold I like to put on every day."
Now Vada is producing small batch, made-to-order jewelry inspired by vintage pieces. "I like the artisanal side of jewelry," Caplener said. "I don't want it to look like it was printed out of a machine."
Since launching at ByGeorge, Vada has outgrown its initial garage apartment studio as well as a small duplex space on South First Street. Its pieces are designed and produced in an East Austin studio that backs onto the Colorado River. "I try to keep my studios located in places that make it fun to take little breaks and stuff," Caplener said, citing Barton Springs Pool, Lake Travis and McKinney Falls as regular escapes.
Vada's pieces are heirlooms like the ones that inspired them. (Katie Caplener)
Last March, Vada launched an eyewear collection that was designed in Austin and hand-crafted in Japan. At first the timing seemed bad because of the pandemic, which shut down most retailers, but it turned out to be fortuitous, with so many people seeking solace outside. "That part luckily worked out for us," she said.
Nearing a decade in business, Caplener splits her time between Los Angeles and Austin. But her loyalty is undivided. "People from Austin are very loyal to local Austin brands, and they're constantly seeking out brands made here," she said. "I'm pretty loyal to Austin."
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East Austin restaurant la Barbecue has been robbed a third time in less than three months, according to a post on the restaurant's Instagram.
In the post, the restaurant included photos of what appeared to be a man exiting a minivan from surveillance footage.
"This guy pulled up in a car full of stuff… he ripped our gate open and stole a couple empty kegs," the post said. "The ring system scared him off so he did not venture back into the area. PLEASE EVERYONE ON THE EAST SIDE BE CAREFUL!!! This guy goes back into his car to grab something before he goes in. I am hoping he won’t be back!!"
The robbery comes as many restaurant and food truck owners have been on guard from recent break-ins. East Austin cheesesteak truck R&B's Steak and Fries has also been robbed three times in around three months, according to owner Kris Elliott. Elliot said the truck was last robbed around a month and a half ago.
"When the weather gets cold, it seems like these things start to happen more often," Elliott said. "We're just happy no one got hurt."
Additionally, he said all 5 of the food trucks in their lot have experienced burglaries. The landlord of the space is taking action by investing in alarm and camera systems. "Been very tough dealing with this problem as us small business owners are just trying to survive during the pandemic," Elliott said.
And it's not just in East Austin. North Austin restaurants Eldorado Cafe and Chez Zee Bistro were both broken into and robbed on the weekend of Jan. 8, while over a dozen food truck robberies and break-ins were reported in the latter half of 2021.
Some, like Chez Zee's Deborah Velasco, wonder if the understaffed Austin Police Department's decision to no longer respond to non-emergency calls is part of the problem. Xose Velasco, owner of East Austin's Discada, said owners are keeping their guard up in the wake of the robberies as he was robbed twice within a month of reopening in November 2021.
"We try to keep the lights on," Velasco said. "We're a little bit more careful."
After 12 months, the long-anticipated massive Tesla factory in Southeast Travis County is up and operating and everyone wants a look inside.
Phase 1 of Giga Texas appears to be tied up as production of the Model Y Tesla is underway, the electric car company revealed on Wednesday in its fourth-quarter earnings call. The factory, located on the former Harold Green-turned Tesla Road, sits on more than 2,000 acres of land in southeast Travis County.
Here's a glimpse inside the factory.
Model Ys will be the first Teslas to come out of Giga Texas with an estimated delivery of August. The wait estimate comes after Tesla noted supply chain issues have affected their factories, which have been running below capacity for several quarters. A deep blue metallic like this goes for $1,000 more than a white or silver Model Y, totaling $61,990.
Model Ys began being produced at Giga Texas at the end of 2020. In general assembly at the factory, the Teslas get their major interior components to finish the vehicle.
Workers at Austin's Gigafactory are attaching seats to a structural battery pack. It's been described by some as the biggest difference between Texas-made Model Y's and the current version at the Fremont, California factory. It shouldn't have a major impact on the owner's experience, but Tesla has updated instructions for the jacking procedure, as the lift points are different.
With a sleek, open office setup, workers can take in a view of the factory from their seats. It's a component CEO Elon Musk wanted for what is now the headquarters of Tesla.
On the Austin, Texas public location Snapchat, a photo of inside Giga Texas has appeared. On the left you can see a sneak peek of a Model Y body.pic.twitter.com/N7zliZ5vkL— Sawyer Merritt (@Sawyer Merritt) 1643081462
With Snapchat's maps, anyone can look at everyday activity happening at the factory. To view these geographically-linked stories, click the bottom left "map" icon and search "Tesla Giga Texas." Once you've found it, you can view the Snapchat story of those in and around the facility. While most stories stay up for only 24 hours, Giga Texas is a designated place on Snapchat, allowing users to view a collection of photos and videos from the inside.
Following Model Ys, Texas-made Teslas will include the Cybertruck, Semi and Model 3. But it might be a while before those other models arrive. EV makers have been hit hard by the chip shortage, and it's thought that changing features are contributing to Cybertruck delays as Tesla works to compete in the electric pickup market.
Joe Rogan paid a visit to buddy Elon Musk this week. The two have been seen around town since both moving to Texas. Naturally, Rogan was impressed with the prototype.
If you're dying to get a closer look at this factory, you just might get to. In December, Musk said the factory would have tours available to the community early this year.
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