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  1. 05.13.14
    What They Bought
    The I’m Revolting Ceramics Shop

    This week, we’re featuring a series of designers, brands, and exhibitors participating in Sight Unseen OFFSITE, our brand new design fair taking place in New York City this weekend, May 16-20. Click here for more information.

    Ceramicists know how to deal with heartbreak — these are artists, after all, who make something they love and then willingly throw it into a fire. So while the I’m Revolting Ceramics Shop that I’ve curated for Sight Unseen OFFSITE — opening at noon this Friday at 200 Lafayette in Soho — is in many ways a survey of talented young people working today in clay, it’s also a small tribute to the beauty in unpredictability and letting go. Unlike painting or weaving or most other mediums, potters don’t get to see the thing complete in front of them as they work. They shape a piece of clay with their hands and then give it over to the heat of the universe. And though this sounds totally cheeseball, that might be why I love it so much — that every piece carries in it some accident. The range of work in the I’m Revolting Ceramics Shop is a reminder of this possibility in imperfection: our perpetual struggle to take the same stuff there has ever been – mud and fire, failure and ambition – and create of it something distinctly personal.

  2. 03.28.14
    What They Bought
    Local Made at Space Ninety 8

    When The Future Perfect abandoned its original Brooklyn location last summer, we thought we might never feel the need to shop on that particular block of Williamsburg again. The Future Perfect’s gorgeous digs got turned into a Gant, and for years we’ve felt we were a little too old for American Apparel. But come next Thursday, we’ll be making that trek on the L train again: Urban Outfitters is opening a concept shop on North Sixth Street called Space Ninety 8, complete with rotating gallery spaces, a restaurant, a rooftop bar, and, of course, clothing. But the draw for us will be located smack in the front window. That’s where a showcase called Local Made will take place, curated by Urban’s director of brand relations and special projects Marissa Maximo, who scoured the borough, commissioning exclusives from some of our favorite designers.

  3. 03.18.14
    What They Bought
    Sam Baron on Fabrica’s Extra-Ordinary Gallery Collection

    When we found out that Fabrica, the Italian design studio and research center, had just launched its striking new Extra-Ordinary Gallery collection in its online shop earlier this month, the pieces were so intriguing and beautiful that we thought we’d struck editorial gold — turns out we weren’t the only ones! The collection has been all over the design blogs in the past two weeks, and deservedly so. Yet we couldn’t pass up the chance to share it with our readers anyway, so we got in touch with our old friend Sam Baron, creative director of Fabrica’s design department, and asked him for some special insight into the collection, which he curated. The result is a fun little personal diary, featuring five of the line’s standouts as they relate to Baron’s daily routine.

  4. 09.26.13
    What They Bought
    Zoe Alexander Fisher’s Handjob Gallery//Store

    In 2007, San Francisco native Zoe Alexander Fisher was 16 and designing an eponymous line of girly cocktail dresses that sold in local boutiques and landed her in the pages of Nylon and Teen Vogue. A mere six years later, the entrepreneurial 22-year-old has today unveiled her latest project, the so-called Handjob Gallery//Store, and it couldn’t possibly be more disparate: It’s an online shop stocked with the kinds of weird and wacky handmade curios infinitely more likely to baffle the general public than to send it stampeding towards Saks. What happened in between? A coming of age, of sorts. After realizing she loved making clothes but hated everything else involved in the fashion business, Fisher went to school to study sculpture and art history, where she found a calling examining the complicated relationship between fine art and function. “There were all these debates in my art classes saying that if you could use it, it’s not art, and I felt such a strong divide was unnecessary,” she says. One 60-page research paper later, she had the idea for Handjob Gallery//Store — officially launching this evening at Sight Unseen’s Back2Cool pop-up shop — which invites practicing artists who don’t normally work in design to create limited-edition objects that do more than just sit there and look pretty.

  5. 09.17.13
    What They Bought
    LDF 2013: So Sottsass at Darkroom London

    Had we thought of it ourselves, “That’s so Sottsass” is a phrase we might have used hundreds of times over the past five years to describe all the designs spawned by the recent mega-Memphis revival. Crazy colors, clashing patterns, geometric shapes on shapes — it all came rushing back in homage to Ettore and his crew, a fact which the intrepid duo behind our fave London store Darkroom chose to acknowledge this week with the debut of their So Sottsass collection. Launching last night — day one of this year’s London Design Festival — the installation includes both Memphis-like objects by outside designers and new pillows and wrapping papers conceived by Darkroom owners Rhonda Drakeford and Lulu Roper-Caldbeck as part of their ongoing in-house collection. There’s also an amazing window display by up-and-coming Italian stylists StudioPepe. Drakeford took time out of her crazy LDF schedule to not only share photos of So Sottsass with us, but to tell us the inspiration behind the collection: “At Darkroom, we’ve always had a penchant for maximalist modernism — bold colour palettes, big patterns, and brave combinations,” she says. “In a decade of ‘greige,’ we love exploring how being bold and playful with design can fit into modern life.”

  6. 08.01.13
    What They Bought
    Keren Richter and Gabriel Kuo’s RATS Pop-Up Shop in Berlin

    Talk about the right place at the wrong time: I left Berlin to come back to New York two weeks ago, and thus managed to miss what may end up being the coolest event of the summer, tonight’s opening of Keren Richter and Gabriel Kuo’s RATS pop-up shop in Mitte. Kuo, who’s an art director and graphic designer, and Richter, an illustrator and artist, are both longtime New Yorkers who (like me) consider Berlin as something of a second home; for RATS, they joined forces to bring the German capital a strange sampling of some of their favorite objects and oddities from New York and beyond, everything from Fort Standard bottle openers to Knicks hats to strange souvenirs they’ve acquired on their travels. If you’re in Berlin or headed there, don’t miss the chance to visit the shop at Torstrasse 68 before it closes at the end of August. Otherwise, get a virtual sneak peek at it here, alongside an interview with Richter and Kuo about how and why they put the RATS project together.

  7. 01.22.13
    What They Bought
    Mociun, Brooklyn

    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.

  8. 12.12.12
    What They Bought
    Table of Contents, Portland

    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.

  9. 10.25.12
    What They Bought
    We’re Revolting at Creatures of Comfort LA

    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.”

  10. 03.21.12
    What They Bought
    Jacob Gleeson of The Tent Shop

    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.”

  11. 11.17.11
    What They Bought
    Miranda July’s Resale Shop at Partners & Spade

    Miranda July’s art has always been almost obsessively participatory. In one of her most famous works, “Learning to Love You More,” July dispatched open calls from a website of the same name — exceptionally prosaic assignments like “Record the sound that is keeping you awake” or “Document your bald spot” — and watched as the drawings, videos, photos, and lists poured in from fans around the world, creating an addictive online archive of the mundane. In another, installed at the Venice Biennale in 2009, July created 11 outdoor sculptures on which visitors were meant to pose for pictures they could send to their loved ones. So it makes a certain kind of sense that July would eventually end up in the most transactional business of all — retail — recasting capitalism as a newfangled way in which to engage her audience. For It Chooses You, a resale shop popping up tonight through December 11 at Partners & Spade in New York, July scoured the New York classifieds, buying up other people’s discards — like a collection of stolen oil paints or a pair of taxidermied deer hooves — and interviewing the sellers to discern the original meaning of those once-cherished objects.

  12. 07.21.11
    What They Bought
    Nina Garduno of Free City

    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.”

  13. 03.03.11
    What They Bought
    Brooks Hudson Thomas of Specific Merchandise

    I’d known about the Los Angeles design shop Specific Merchandise for nearly a year before I figured out that its name was a play on the idea of the general store. “I wanted to have a huge range of things, but when I started thinking about it, I liked the idea of flipping that and being specific rather than general,” says Brooks Hudson Thomas, the former Blackman Cruz manager who set out his own shingle at the beginning of last year on a stretch of Beverly Boulevard that includes Lawson-Fenning, L.A. Eyeworks, and the former digs of TenOverSix. “One model I had in mind was a museum shop, but sort of trying to kick its ass. The other was stores like Moss, Matter, and The Future Perfect, which also have that blurry store/gallery vibe.” It’s a shop model that’s only recently begun to take hold in Los Angeles with stores like TenOverSix and Iko Iko, and Thomas isn’t totally sure if people are catching on. “I think the context I show things in can be confusing to people,” he says. “I change over the stock a lot, and it goes from being quilts to chairs to paintings. A lot of times people will say, ‘Hey, what happened to that little shop?’”

  14. 10.07.10
    What They Bought
    Kristin Dickson of L.A.’s Iko Iko

    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 a fun exploration of textures, cultural artifacts, utilitarian objects, and beautiful curiosities.”

  15. 08.18.10
    What They Bought
    Art in the Age

    When Philadelphia adman Steven Grasse talks about his 20 years at the helm of Gyro Worldwide, the successful agency he shuttered in 2008, his assessment is as blunt as you might expect from the man who invented Bikini Bandits, a video series about strippers, guns, and hot rods: “I was the asshole who did the Camel ads,” he says. “At Gyro, we had this ‘I’ll fuck anything that moves’ philosophy.” That all changed in 2008, when he sold Sailor Jerry — the rum brand he created before going on to help develop Hendrick’s Gin — to William Grant & Sons for “more money than I ever made in advertising,” he says. Grasse quickly changed the name of his agency to Quaker City Mercantile, and transformed its mission completely. “Now we only work on brands that we create and own or with clients I truly like personally,” he says. The most personal of those projects is Art in the Age, the Old City store and liquor brand Grasse began working on the day he sold Sailor Jerry.

  16. 05.28.10
    What They Bought
    JM Dry Goods in Marfa, Texas

    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.

  17. 03.05.10
    What They Bought
    Fair Folks & a Goat

    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.

  18. 01.04.10
    What They Bought
    Kiosk's Portugal collection

    It’s hard to put a finger on just how the New York store Kiosk — which peddles quirky housewares from around the world, one country at a time — vaulted from cherished destination of a few to the kind of place Jasper Morrison, London’s best-known everyday-object apologist, feels obliged to check out when he’s rolling through town. But while the 4-year-old Soho shop has begun to shed its air of secrecy, it has never lost its charm. Climbing a set of graffiti-covered stairs to its second-floor entrance, you never know what you’re going to find at the top.

  19. 11.16.09
    What They Bought
    Russell Whitmore, Owner of Erie Basin

    Certain areas in the Northeast are generally regarded as nirvana for antique collectors: Hudson, New York; Lambertville, New Jersey; Adamstown, Pennsylvania; Brimfield, Massachusetts. Red Hook, Brooklyn, isn’t one of them. But that’s where 29-year-old Russell Whitmore decided to set up shop three years ago, on a corner just a few blocks from the East River wharfs. His much-loved store, Erie Basin, specializes in Victorian- and Georgian-era jewelry, furniture, and curiosities, with a dash of 20th century thrown in.

  20. 11.04.09
    What They Bought
    Paul Loebach at the Brimfield Antique Fair

    Once or twice a year, Brooklyn furniture designer Paul Loebach gets out his straw hat and bandana, ties on a pair of crappy old sneakers, drags out his huge canvas tote, and drives up to Massachussetts, where dealers from all over the Northeast gather every spring, summer, and fall for the Brimfield Antique Show.