Table of Contents is a concept shop that sells clothing and objects from a storefront just inside the gates of Portland’s Chinatown, opened in September by two local designers. So when one of them, Joseph Magliaro, told us that “the goal of TOC is to produce an expanded notion of what a publication can be,” well, you can’t blame us if we were a smidge confused. But it turns out that Magliaro and his other half, Shu Hung, prefer to look at their store as a kind of magazine come to life — a place where the things we’re all reading about now, or should be, are actually there to have and to hold, and where every fashion season brings a new “editorial” theme. Currently, the store’s offerings are based loosely around the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote “Action Is Character”; spring/summer’s “A Piece of Cloth,” a reference to Issey Miyake’s back-to-basics philosophy, will usher in not only a fresh batch of related acquisitions but a series of special commissions by designers responding to the directive. “Our interests are a bit too varied to stick to one thing,” Magliaro says. “The themes help us focus.”
They also represent the pair’s attempt to push Table of Contents beyond the standard shop experience into something more multi-faceted, an aspiration partly inspired by two other great retail experiments: Comme des Garçons and Opening Ceremony. When the latter first opened in New York, Hung was running an (actual) magazine called IN- out of its back office — one similarly dedicated to a new theme each issue, like INcandescent or INcognito — and she had a firsthand view of its influence. It wasn’t until a year or two later, though, that she and Magliaro found the final spark for the shop they’d eventually open themselves. “In 2004 we happened upon the first Comme des Garçons guerilla store in Berlin,” Magliaro says. “Before then we’d never realized retail could go beyond a transactional experience, creating an environment that appealed to all the senses.”
Granted there may not be anything to taste at TOC, but the spread is still pretty diverse — furniture by local newcomer Jason Rens, tactile objects by Carl Aübock, dresses by Zero + Maria Cornejo, vintage magazines and collectibles from Magliaro and Hung’s personal collections, book stands designed by the couple themselves. They also get a little help from friends to shake things up: “We feature a rotating reading list of 10 books selected for us by someone we admire; we often find new artists and topics to explore that way,” says Magliaro. As he talks you through some of the myriad items currently stocked at TOC, via the slideshow at right, hopefully you will too.
To a certain kind of customer, it makes sense to drop half a grand on a Proenza Schouler necklace made from climbing rope or a hundred bucks on a T-shirt by Comme des Garçons: You’re paying for the craftsmanship of a couture brand and you’re buying the cachet of a label that normally retails for several times those amounts. But what of a sweatshirt — created by someone with no design training, no seasonal runway presentation, and no global retail empire — that sells for $198? That’s the conundrum that faced former Ron Herman buyer Nina Garduno when she started Free City more than a decade ago. By this point, of course, the brand has achieved cult status in Los Angeles, fueled by years of tabloid photographs showing celebrities in Free City sweatpants filling up at the pump, but price remains a sticking point even as Garduno has traded her store in a Malibu strip mall for a 3,000-square-foot Hollywood emporium she calls the Supershop Supermät. “A lot of people complain,” she says. “And yeah, it’s expensive. It costs a lot and takes a lot longer to make things the way we do, with 20 artists in our workshop and everything made here. People say they don’t want to buy things in China, and yet they love the China prices. For me, it’s worth going the distance and trying to make things that are more meaningful.”
At Fair Folks & a Goat, a new retail gallery and tea salon hybrid on New York’s Upper East Side, everything inside the gracious late 19th-century studio apartment is for sale. Well, almost everything — a small candy dish that reads “When I count my blessings, I count you twice” was a gift from co-owner Anthony Mazzei’s mother and “it’s a million dollars,” he jokes, while the vintage paperbacks lining a wall of shelves constitute an actual lending library. Here, the props and merch blend into a seamless backdrop for a new kind of social gathering. “We wanted to create a space for young people to have a home away from home, where instead of alcohol and loud music it would be more like a physical incarnation of a magazine, with design, art, fashion, and culture,” says Mazzei.
It would be easy to assume a lot about The Tent Shop, a new online store run by the Vancouver-based artist Jacob Gleeson — namely, that it might be in the business of selling tents. Or, with its deadpan write-ups and roster of vintage ephemera, amateur art, and back-catalog pieces by artist friends, that the shop might be some Canadian version of Partners & Spade, and Gleeson a hyper-aware collector engaging in an art-world prank, à la Claes Oldenburg’s The Store (1961). In fact, neither is quite true. The shop’s name stems from its planned incarnation in the physical world: Gleeson intends to purchase a heavy-duty canvas tent in which he can randomly host events around Vancouver. And as for Gleeson, though he did a stint at Vancouver’s Emily Carr University of Art + Design, he tends to view his new venture through the lens of an anthropologist more so than an artist or even a shopkeeper. “I started with the intention of showing these things together as much as wanting to sell them,” he says. “I’m drawn to the individual objects but something about putting them next to each other makes them even more interesting to me, which is why I leave things up on the site even after they’ve sold. The record of an object’s existence has as much value to me as the object itself.”