Caitlin Mociun may have been the author of a cult-hit fashion line for only a few years, but the lessons she learned from that stint — about the way she wants a customer to feel, or about the way a body moves in space — inform nearly everything she does today. That first becomes clear when she talks about her massively successful fine jewelry line, which she launched almost as a palliative to her days as a clothing designer. “I never really liked doing my clothing line, and when I switched to jewelry it was such a different response,” Mociun told me earlier this fall when I visited her year-old Williamsburg boutique. “It seemed to make people feel good about themselves as opposed to clothing, which often makes people feel bad.”
But it’s when she talks about her boutique that you realize that nothing in the shop could be the way it is if Mociun weren’t first a designer. On the layout of her shop, which is more gallery-like than not, with textiles on the walls or sculptures often on the floor, she says: “It’s about people coming in and saying, ‘Can I touch this?’ and seeing adults crouched down on the ground.” As for the way she curates her selection of goods: “For me, it’s first visual impact. Then, what’s it trying to do? Is it just trying to be an art object? If it’s functional, does it work? How does it feel when you’re holding it? If it’s a cup, does it get too hot if you put tea in it? Is it really fragile? I get equally upset when something is badly designed and beautiful, or super functional and really ugly.”
That may all sound a bit anal (which Mociun admits she is) but what it translates to when you visit the shop is a totally freeing experience where you do have permission to get down on the ground — which I indulged to take some of these pictures — and to a selection of wares that’s one of the best in New York, in part because it’s not the same things you see in every design store even if the names are familiar. Here’s a tour of some of our favorites.
Be sure to check out Mociun’s Triangle Pillows, covered in fabric remannts from her clothing line, for sale in the Sight Unseen Shop!
If you ever have the privilege of chatting up Jade Lai, who owns the bicoastal cult fashion emporium Creatures of Comfort, don't be surprised if she tells you that, after returning from a trip to Morocco last year with no less than 15 carpets in tow, she was struck by the notion that she could totally see herself in the rug business. And when this is followed by the revelation that she’s looking to expand the Creatures of Comfort brand to encompass food, or that she’s been taking pottery classes, or that she hopes to run a bed and breakfast sometime soon, resist the urge to raise an eyebrow — these may sound like the ramblings of a dilettante, but make no mistake, Lai is both hyper-creative and legitimately driven. Consider, for example, the year she spent working as a product developer for Esprit in her native Hong Kong: She took the job after having graduated with an architecture degree, freelanced as a graphic designer, and started her own stationery line in L.A., but proceeded to become so good at it that she could eventually identify a fabric’s contents by touch alone — a useful skill for someone who now designs Creatures of Comfort’s in-house fashion line, and one that would certainly come in handy for any aspiring carpet slinger.
Like a lot of American designers fresh out of school, Todd Bracher found himself, in the late ’90s, a newly minted graduate of the industrial design program at Pratt designing things like barbecue tools, remote-control caddies, and spice racks. “I remember scratching my head, thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is what design is?’” he recalls one morning from his studio in Brooklyn. Convinced there was something he was missing, Bracher applied for a Fulbright and ended up at age 24 heading to Copenhagen to pursue a master’s in interior and furniture design. What followed was a nine-year boot camp in the rigors of designing for the European market, studded with turns in Milan at Zanotta (where he was the legendary Italian company’s youngest ever designer), London at Tom Dixon (who poached Bracher to help build his London office) and Paris, where he taught part-time and eventually opened up a studio. But personal reasons brought him back to the States in 2007, and the director at Pratt — one of the only people Bracher knew at that point on this side of the ocean — hooked him up with the space he currently occupies in the no man’s land that is the Brooklyn Navy Yard. “My fear, in some ways, is having a place that doesn’t feel like me — which is hard because I don’t necessarily feel like myself in America,” says Bracher.
Is it every blogger's secret wish to go into retail? This year alone, we’ve seen Sight Unseen’s own Shape Shop, Rhiannon Gilmore's Dream Shop at the Walker, and as of this Saturday, Su Wu of I'm Revolting's pop-up at Creatures of Comfort LA, entitled We're Revolting. Perhaps it's inevitable that we would all want to touch and feel and hold the objects we covet from afar, and to make tangible the narrative we create every day. But maybe it’s just as simple as this: “It’s kind of lonely being a blogger,” Wu says. “And this was a reason to get to know people. It’s kind of a scary thing: You think, ok, I admire their work, but will I actually get along with them? But in fact, I’m still kind of basking in it.”