Inside Kristin Dickson’s store Iko Iko in L.A.’s Echo Park neighborhood, there are polka-dot shirts and wooden knitting needles, zig-zag coathooks and Mexican moccasins, ceramic urns and jars of jam. There are selections from Dickson’s crystal and vintage-book collections — the latter with titles like “On Weaving” or “On Fiberworks” — plus pieces from her boyfriend Shin Okuda’s furniture line Waka Waka. And as of this month, these items were joined by a haul of objects from a three-week trip the couple took to Okuda’s native Japan, where the fare spanned vintage textiles to traditional trivets to novelties like toothpaste and black Q-tips. It’s a credit to the pair’s curating talents that the shop nevertheless feels like the product of a coherent vision. “I focus on work that balances high design with craft and traditional processes,” says Dickson. “I want it to be an exploration of textures, cultural artifacts, utilitarian objects, and beautiful curiosities.”
When she opened Iko Iko a year and a half ago, in the front of the studio from which she designs the clothing line Rowena Sartin, the concept was to keep the focus tight, swapping out the goods every six weeks to make way for a new store-wide theme: still lives, scientific ordering systems, weaving. Dickson would invite friends and local artists like jewelry maker Hanna Keefe and ceramicist Kelly Breslin to contribute works, and she and Okuda would make items, too. But by way of evolution, the themes have since been demoted to smaller assemblages that exist amidst the larger collection, with fall/winter 2010 being devoted to the spoils the couple brought back from Japan.
Dickson left for the trip knowing she wanted to explore her existing interests in Japanese culture. She’d long been a fan of the country’s textiles and ceramics, and having taken ikebana flower-arranging classes, she was partial to objects that had to do with plants — which had always figured heavily among the selection at Iko Iko. “Being there gave me a full frame of reference for the kind of Japanese aesthetic I feel inspired by: simplicity, beauty through imperfection, and nature,” she says. “We wanted to bring back pieces that reflected those ideals and also represented specific traditions or artistic practices, since each city in Japan is known for something different.”
After starting in Tokyo, the pair made their way south through the region where Okuda’s parents live, ending in Fukuoka. They visited artisans’ studios, galleries, and antique stores, asking people along the way for advice on where to find the best examples of the town crafts. “We were at this woman’s weaving studio and asked where we could find indigo-dyed textiles,” recalls Dickson. “She said there was an old lady selling her whole collection over by the museum right now — nice, random things like that would happen to us.” Wherever possible she bought 10 or 15 of each object to bring back to the shop, paying particular mind to how well they’d fit in with its existing aesthetic, as with a series of vintage triangle plates that echo Iko Iko’s logo and the triangular grate on its façade. But she also deviated in small ways, as with the Q-tips and a series of Japanese teen magazines from the ’90s, purchased for their style references.
For this story, Dickson offered us a glimpse into her perspective as a curator by photographing pieces from the new collection alongside existing store offerings. Inspiration shots from the buying trip itself are interspersed, so you can see what she saw.
When Hamburg-based artist and textile designer Katharina Trudzinski decided to take a second residence in Berlin this spring, she found an inexpensive live-work space on the fringes of the up-and-coming Neuköln neighborhood — the city’s equivalent of Bushwick, Brooklyn — and saved two months’ rent by promising the landlord she’d renovate. But it was imagination, not thrift, that inspired her next move: After stripping the wood paneling from the walls and ceilings and tearing down a few ill-conceived door frames, she began painting the detritus and incorporating it into her sculptural installations and high-relief paintings. Made from constellations of scraps, street finds, and everyday junk cloaked in perfectly calibrated hues, her work — some of which becomes inspiration for the pieces in her clothing line — is meant to dialogue with its surroundings. “It’s not my intent that the materials should be cheap, I just like to use things that are around me,” she says. “I like to start with what I’ve got.”
It takes the Zürich-based fashion duo Ikou Tschüss a full week to hand-knit the blankets from their winter collection — each ringed with dangling sleeves to appear as though it’s hugging the bed — and maybe a day to knit one of their bulky sweater dresses. Even silk shifts are hand-printed and edged with rows of crochet, the pair's signature trope. Add to all that labor the fact that Carmen D'Apollonio spends the majority of her time in New York, where she’s been the right-hand-woman to Swiss artist Urs Fischer for the past eight years, and it’s a good thing she and partner Guya Marini have help. “Most of our knitting is done by Swiss grandmothers now,” says Marini.
One recent March morning, I found myself in the Mexican town of Ojinaga sipping micheladas with Michelle Teague, owner of Marfa’s effortlessly cool ranchwear and housewares shop JM Dry Goods, and her business partner, glass- and soap-maker Ginger Griffice. Every six weeks or so, Teague and Griffice travel to OJ on buying trips. Teague scouts the small array of stores, filled with both the everyday and the bizarre, for items to boost JM Dry Goods’s border-town flavor. Griffice buys empty bottles of Topo Chico, a popular Mexican sparkling mineral water, at OJ’s Coca-Cola bottling plant, and they become the bases for the drinking glasses she sells at the store. By now, their trips follow an established pattern. Morning micheladas are an important part of the ritual.