Ali Car turned from personal tragedy to opportunity after the passing of her mother from heart disease in 2018. “My family was going through a very difficult time, after my mother suddenly passed away in my arms. Opening my shop became therapeutic in a way,” Car shared. “Instead of focusing on sadness and loss, I had orders that had to get out. My sleepless nights were quickly turned to channeling a creative outlet. I pour my heart and soul into this shop and it has been an amazing journey so far.”
Car is the mama maker behind Scars and Gems, the extremely popular distressed and embellished denim shop based in Northwest Washington. The shop is named after her two daughters Scarlett (“Scar”) and Emme (“Gem”). “Family is the most important thing in the world to me, so it should not come as a surprise that naming my shop would incorporate my children,” she said. Car’s daughter Scarlett actually inspired the first pair of Scars and Gems distressed jeans. “My oldest daughter wanted to make a pair of jeans, but she has a body type that didn’t work with standard denim,” recalled Car. “We found a denim brand that worked for her and we had so much fun distressing them together. It became our thing.”
These days, the shop rips and shreds denim of all varieties and styles, patches with colorful fabric designs (like Car’s recent dinosaur and galaxy print releases) and embellishes with stones, studs and chains. Many shoppers do not realize the process behind distressing denim. “Each specific brand distresses differently and acid wash is a process all on its own,” Car explained. “You are using chemicals and adhesives, recreating hundreds of the same item over and over, as identical as possible. While it’s not rocket science, sometimes I think we deserve a little more credit than we are given.” Car’s favorite style is her itty bitty jeans. “There is just something about a little babe in tiny threads that I love. A close second would have to be sibling sets. I’m a sucker for matchy matchy,” she exclaimed.
Car has worked hard to create her own branding through Scars and Gems. “Distressed denim shops are everywhere, but when you look closely, we are all a little different and have our own distinguishing marks,” she said. “I’m not in competition with anyone. I like to do my own thing, push myself to what awesome thing is next. My shop has grown very quickly in a short amount of time. It’s been very humbling to have so many people have faith in you. I still get giddy when a new order comes in.” And, as Scars and Gems expands, Car is reminded of her mother’s wise words: “My mom always said to ‘be the person that you needed on your worst day.’ I try to keep that with me everyday.” As part of that commitment, Car contributes to various charities monthly in connection with her SGT Cares Collection. In February, she honored her mother through the sale of the shop’s “Happy Heart Skinnies,” a nod to February and American Heart month. This month, check out Car’s charity package related to domestic violence awareness. “Rips and tears can turn into pure magic. Scars are beautiful and gems are like diamonds hidden in the rough,” she shared. “From tragedy, you can rebuild something better than before once you find yourself.” So well said, Ali.