Inventive Providence accessories company House of Cach makes wearable art from cicadas, starfish, and bullet casings.
A stone’s throw from the trendy bars and restaurants of Providence’s west side, on an unassuming block dominated by body shops, parking lots, and mill condos, sits a retail showroom. Barbed wire surrounds the building—a relic from previous owners—but eagle-eyed shoppers will spot the House of Cach logo on the building’s tufted front door. Beneath it, a description: “A Concept-Driven Jewelry/Accessory Retail Studio.”
Inside, buddhas, butterflies, and bullet casings cohabitate with preserved flowers, starfish, and cicadas.
The accessories company creates wild designs—which they describe as “wearable art”—for daring customers. Bold photos line the walls; a studded jockstrap/fur vest combo hangs only a few feet away from delicate pearl wedding headbands and large editorial pieces from a collection inspired by beetles and other bugs.
Company cofounder Alexa Cach (pronounced “cash”) was born and educated in Switzerland, but has called Providence home since 2002. Though she has always been compelled to create, she began her career in business, launching several production companies that showcased the work of other creative people: GWAND, a fashion week in Switzerland that lured the likes of Vivienne Westwood and Raf Simons; and later Pet Fashion Week, a New York trade show and runway event targeting high-end pet owners. (It sounds strange now, but this was peak Paris Hilton era.)
“It finally got to a point that my desire to build things outweighed the fear,” Cach says about her current venture, which she and cofounder Molly Northern launched seven years ago. Both knew immediately that they wanted House of Cach to exist outside the fast-paced fashion world. “As a small company, we can’t pump out several brand-new collections each year,” she admits. “By doing what we do, we’re not creating throwaway pieces that lose value as soon as next season comes along.”
House of Cach is conceptual, not trend driven. Cach thinks of each line as a large art installation, one that inspires pieces that incorporate the wearer into the project’s larger whole. #projectbug, for instance, was a multi-artist effort with pieces made from preserved insects. Large masks and headpieces were designed and showcased in elaborate photo shoots, and, eventually, smaller brooches and necklaces were made from real cicadas and beetles. It remains their most popular line.
But bugs? “I’m interested in the duality of emotion that insects provide,” she explains. “A single bug seems delicate and fragile, until it lands on you.”
Cach and Northern base a lot of designs on vintage metal components, many of which they’ve collected together over the years. “I can usually find just about anything,” says Northern, who designs individual pieces and sources all raw materials for the company. She’s secretive about her sourcing, but says that the company currently houses a large inventory of materials that are employed for custom pieces.
HoC has begun courting the bridal market, a seemingly incongruous creative jump. But brides had already been seeking out their designs, and the company enjoys the challenge of custom work, particularly for adventurous clients. (They once made a pair of bullet cartridge earrings for a three-year-old flower girl.)
To that end, the company launched a ready-to-wear bridal line in July, with headpieces and neck-pieces that incorporate freshwater pearls, real starfish, and orchids preserved in full bloom. Each element is part of a small capsule collection, one that can be modified and customized to fit the desires of each bride. Select New England stylists will carry each capsule—from tiaras and combs to necklaces and earrings—offering an unusual opportunity to mix and match.
As the bridal line expands, the artsier projects will also continue. “To offset the sweetness of the bridal line,” Cach says, “I want to do a body of work dealing with animal bones.”
A winking disclaimer on the company’s website perhaps best explains their philosophy: “Wearing House of Cach expresses an inner rebel and is not for everyone.”
Need more cach? Here’s a subscriber-only gallery of outtakes from our House of Cach fashion shoot.