Sisters Kate and Lizzy Escher grow their dream with ARTichoke boutiqueText and Photography By Catherine Malcynsky
Cape Cod sisters Kate and Lizzy Escher wear their hearts on their sleeves, literally. As co-owners of ARTichoke, an innovative silk-screen clothing business in Eastham, they put their heart and soul into everything they create.
Visible from Route 6, the shingled, blue-trimmed boutique is announced by a vibrant sign that matches the Kelly-green apparel bus parked out front. The sisters’ soft and colorful custom-printed tops are folded neatly on the shelves, and glass cases feature intricate handmade jewelry. Both the décor and clothing designs are a medley of nature and abstract artwork. Monthly art receptions held in the boutique encourage creative and independent minds.
Kate and Lizzy, however, are quick to admit that their most reliable resources for creativity are each other. “Sure, sometimes we bicker, but that’s the best part of being sisters—you bicker for a second and then you get over it,” says Kate. “We share everything, and we still want to hang out with each other. When I’m looking to hang out with someone, she’s still my number one preference.”
Lizzy designs most of the clothes, while Kate handles the marketing side of the business. “But we’re both always brainstorming together,” says Kate. “Plop us down on a beach, and we end up talking about work, even when we make a pact not to,” she says, with a laugh.
While the store is only in its second year, the seed was first planted in 2007. After four years of hypothetical scheming and daydreaming of working together, Kate had landed a “big girl job” at a marketing firm in Boston, while Lizzy was studying horticulture and floral design at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. One night, Lizzy stumbled upon the word “artichoke” in her herbal field guide. An epiphany and a phone conversation later, the name “ARTichoke” was born. “We realized that we were both unhappy living without art, and each other,” recalls Kate, “and it got harder and harder to resist this idea once it had a name.”
After Lizzy completed a silk-screening class at Cape Cod Community College, the two began printing their handmade designs on T-shirts in their shared Jamaica Plain apartment. An overwhelmingly positive reaction from friends and family led them to Wellfleet Harborfest in 2011, where they sold their clothing to the public for the first time.
Once ARTichoke had roots, the Escher sisters decided it needed wheels. They purchased an old school bus listed on Craigslist in Truro, and with the help of their parents, as well as good friends and local artists Ryan Gracia and Andrew Jacob (Kate’s fiancé), “the Castle” was up and running after two months of renovations. “Our first event in the Castle was Boston Fashion Week in 2012, when all the shelves fell down on the way there,” the girls reminisced, “but by the summer of 2013, the bus was fully functional, and was parked either next to Sunbird in Wellfleet or JoMama’s in Eastham. By February of 2014, the sisters had landed a permanent retail space in Town Center Plaza in Eastham.
The real money-makers, the sisters have discovered, are their nautical prints. Their top-selling items include the iconic “Salty” tanks (the “y” is the tail of the Cape) and their tank tops, which read: “Cape Cod girls/They have no combs/They comb their hair/With codfish bones.”
Kate and Lizzy are eager to take the next step in their business, which they hope will lead them in a more environmentally friendly direction, eventually using recycled materials, hemp and other organic products.
Kate and Lizzy are also aiming to move farther afield, seeking accounts in California as well as Puerto Rico. But for now the two are perfectly happy where they are, nestled in the dunes of the Cape. “It’s just such a beautiful, supportive, creative community here; you can’t find that just anywhere,” says Kate. The ARTichoke website proudly reads: “Printed with love on Cape Cod.” Despite the basic rules of horticulture, a lot can grow in the sandy soil.