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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President Joe Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act into law on Tuesday, a move that the White House says will unlock hundreds of billions more in semiconductor investment across the country.
Part of that investment could make waves in Central Texas, where semiconductor companies have laid the groundwork for more plants and jobs as a global shortage of semiconductors continues.
For example, Samsung already had a $17 billion semiconductor factory in Taylor on the way. Then in July, documents filed with the state showed that the tech giant is considering 11 chipmaking facilities in the Austin area that it’d build over the next two decades. The proposed $192.1 billion investment would bring more than 10,000 jobs.
\u201cThe CHIPS Act will supercharge our efforts to make semiconductors here in America. It will make cars, appliances, and computers cheaper and lower the costs of everyday goods. And, it will create high-paying manufacturing jobs across the country.\u201d— Joe Biden (@Joe Biden) 1659828240
Micron Technology is another giant that could make a multi-billion regional investment.
At the start of the year, Micron Technology was reportedly considering a new plant in neighboring Caldwell and Williamson counties, though California, North Carolina and Arizona were also being reviewed as potential sites for the plant.
On Tuesday, Micron announced plans to invest $40 billion between now and 2030 for chip manufacturing in the U.S.
In a public video statement, CEO Sanjay Mehrotra noted how semiconductors are essential to many tools that are a part of everyday life such as computers, smartphones and cars.
“Today is a proud moment for the global Micron team and a strong step forward for American high tech manufacturing leadership,” Mehrotra said. The company said specific plans for the investment will be made available in the coming weeks.
\u201cToday, we announced plans to invest $40 billion in the U.S. through the end of the decade to build leading-edge memory #manufacturing. Our investment will create 40k American jobs and strengthen U.S. supply chains. Watch this space! #jobs #innovation https://t.co/WPePuDVJs6\u201d— Micron Technology (@Micron Technology) 1660050842
Recently, the city has made efforts to train Austin residents for the kind of roles companies like Micron and Samsung would try to fill. A couple of months ago, the city announced a “hire local” plan with Workforce Solutions to help people in fields like manufacturing and information technology get training to move up in their careers.
The bipartisan bill includes $52 billion in semiconductor subsidies. Nationwide, these incentives could create thousands of jobs and multiple fabs, the Semiconductor Industry Association estimates. Some of that could happen in the Austin area from companies looking to expand.
NXP Semiconductors is weighing a $2.6 billion expansion and Infineon Technologies is looking at a $700 million expansion. Respectively, those two could add 800 and 100 jobs.
Central Texas has a reputation as a major hub for semiconductors, and the competition with other areas could ramp up in the coming years as others like Qualcomm and Intel consider new facilities. Dallas-based Texas Instruments also celebrated the passing of the CHIPS Act.
“TI has an exciting manufacturing investment roadmap and these provisions will be meaningful to the development of our 300-mm water fabs in Texas and Utah,” the company said in a Tuesday Twitter post.
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It’s slowly but surely becoming easier to buy a house in Austin.
According to the Austin Board of Realtors, the median house price in the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan area is $537,475 as of July. Take a look at what that price range can get you.
This two-story brick home is the biggest on the list, with four bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms across 2,156 square feet in Round Rock. Characterized by its sky-high ceilings, large windows and newly updated fixtures, the home has a spacious backyard with mature trees, a wooden deck, a lounge area and close proximity to a nearby greenbelt.
This listing is held by Drew Griffin with Compass.
This recently updated three-bedroom, two-bathroom home was built in 1983 but fits in perfectly with the design standards of today. On top of newly-updated floors, roof and windows, this home comes complete with a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace, a spacious open floor plan and plenty of natural light. The biggest gem of this house is its vaulted and covered back patio, which gives way to a large backyard on a corner lot. At 1,280 square feet, the home is just a few minutes away from The Domain and Q2 Stadium.
This listing is held by Jennifer Buterick and Nicole Marburger with Compass.
Another retro find, this 2,098-square foot home has character to go around and is looking for a caretaker who will love it as much as the last. With four bedrooms and two bathrooms, the house has plenty of room for a home office and is colorfully painted throughout, including bright blue kitchen cabinets. On a third of an acre, this home comes with 12 fruiting trees in the backyard, solar panels, rain-catching barrels and a converted garage with living space.
This listing is held by Niki Duncan with Compass.
This three-bedroom, two-bathroom South Austin home has a wide-open floor plan and sparkling white interiors. The vaulted ceiling in the living room gives height to the room while the fireplace will keep you warm. An airy master suite comes with double pedestal sinks and two walk-in closets, so you don’t have to worry about sharing space with your partner. Enjoy the Texas weather with a private yard, screened-in porch, and fire pit.
This listing is held by Michelle Hendrix and Khani Zulu with Compass.
A retro-on-the-outside, single-story home was built in 1973 but has been given a full modern update on the inside. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,676-square foot home is situated on a half acre of land, complete with an above-ground pool and covered porch to keep you shady during the oppressive heat. Inside, you’ll walk directly into an open living and dining area, which features a floor-to-ceiling tiled fireplace, that leads to the breakfast nook, and kitchen with mosaic-tiled backsplash and a built-in wine rack.
This listing is held by Derek Peterson with Compass.