Between the two of them, Julie Ho and Nicholas Andersen had designed clothing, jewelry, movie sets, music videos, and Martha Stewart shoots, plus dabbled in painting, drawing, pattern-making, sewing, and crocheting before teaming up creatively in 2008. Ho had even been a studio assistant for Tom Sachs, making foam Hello Kittys with a medical scalpel (and slicing open her hands almost weekly in the process). So it took a particular kind of alchemy for the pair to decide that — out of all their talents and interests — they would devote their days to making paper party decorations, the kind you’d expect to find in a dollar store if they weren’t so uniquely beautiful. “With our backgrounds in set design and prop styling, Nick and I always loved transforming spaces for our friends’ parties,” says Ho. “We saw how it changed people’s moods, and that’s when we had the idea. We started it as an art project, making party objects like a piñata, blindfold, and necklace.”
As Confetti System, the pair have since built a business around such festive accoutrements, constructing shimmering backdrops for United Bamboo fashion shows and decking the halls of Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O.’s birthday party. Last winter, their Mylar-fringed piñatas and party hats became an Urban Outfitters capsule collection, and later this month, the band Beach House will embark on a six-week tour with custom sets crafted by the duo. They make everything themselves, spending hours slicing 20 x 30-inch sheets of tissue paper into streamers with a rolling fabric knife, or distressing cardboard piñata bodies so they take just the right amount of time to burst open, spewing out handmade confetti in various shapes and colors.
It’s a labor of love for Ho and Andersen, who say they’re primarily motivated by a desire to sculpt things with their hands. Ho grew up in New York taking tons of extracurricular art classes and soaking up inspiration from all the shelter magazines her father brought home from his job as a color corrector. She studied fine art at MICA, where she met the friend who would eventually introduce her to Andersen; he had been raised in Hawaii, his grandmother in charge of the original Jams factory. “I grew up visiting her there, looking at all the fabrics and helping her sew and clip threads,” Andersen says. “My parents had a company that made sails and sailboat cushions. Everyone was always making everything all around me.” Among many other shared obsessions, the pair bonded early on about the fact that they had both kept curated, rotating collections of things on their bookshelves as kids. Now they keep a collection of inspirational objects at their Manhattan studio, which they share with graphic designer Alex Lin, and which they offered us a glimpse at on a recent March afternoon.
The story of Stefan Scholten and Carole Baijings began, like many Dutch stories do, in a church. In the late ’90s, Baijings was working for an agency whose headquarters were located inside one of the country’s many abandoned houses of worship. Scholten, a graduate of the Design Academy Eindhoven, had a burgeoning design practice nearby. Scholten was asked to design a small bar for the agency’s office, and “the rest is history,” says Baijings.
When you're a graphic designer and an aircraft engineer with zero fashion training, and yet you find yourself becoming the go-to clothing line of Melbourne — worn by the likes of Patti Smith, LCD Soundsystem, and Jamie Oliver — you learn to get really good at improvising. And trusting your instincts. So it goes for Alex and Georgie Cleary, the brother-and-sister duo behind Alpha60, who base its designs not on fashion trends but on whatever random pop-culture reference they happen to be into at any given moment.
Ah, the impotence of the urban dweller. Ever since the Best Made Company axe debuted this spring, you’d be hard-pressed to find a New Yorker who isn’t dying to snap open that wooden case and heave the Tennessee hickory–handled thing at… well, what, exactly? “At first I thought a lot of New Yorkers would buy them,” says Peter Buchanan-Smith, the New York–based graphic designer who founded the company along with his childhood pal Graeme Cameron. But it turns out the best audience for an axe — even one with a handle saturated in gorgeous shades of spray paint — is a person who actually might use an axe.