When designers say they like to make things with their hands, they’re not usually talking about chocolate. But for Mary Matson, a former senior designer at Kate Spade who now works freelance from the Brooklyn home she shares with her husband and co-conspirator Matt Even — an art director at Wieden + Kennedy — food has always been part of the equation. “When you’re in art school, everything is critiqued, every moment, every mark,” Matson says. “I loved painting, but I wanted to do something physical where every nuance wasn’t commented on. I was in Boston for graduate school, I’d done some kitchen work — and somehow I bullshitted my way into a job as a pastry cook.”
And so a few years ago, when Matson and Even began toying with the idea of opening an online shop, they naturally kept coming back to the idea of sweets and chocolates, and in 2009 Chocolate Editions was born. Under the name Mary & Matt — as the two call their company and blog, which chronicles their collections and obsessions, from plastic New York deli bags to Yves Klein blue — they began producing candy bars from their Brooklyn kitchen. They started out with pop-inspired confections, like a slab of dark that resembles a block of Scrabble tiles, and soon moved on to 3-ounce solid bars and simple striped ones in nostalgic flavors like Neopolitan, a selection of which are now for sale at Partners & Spade. (It helps that while at Kate Spade, Matson did design work for the famed New York chocolatier Jacques Torres, who’s become a bit of a mentor in exchange for continuing package designs from Matson.) Artisanal, home-based production has become something of a trend lately, particularly in Brooklyn, but for Mary & Matt, it was never about locavorism or Slow Food or any other Sunday Styles sort of buzzword. “We’re totally on the other side of things,” says Matson. “We want to use good ingredients, too, but our take is a little more pop, a little sweeter — more what you remember as a child.”
Matson and Even met as skate-obsessed high-schoolers in the D.C. suburbs, and after so many years together, the two have developed a shared set of references that pop up in everything from their chocolates to their identicallydesigned websites to their home, which I had the pleasure of visiting last month. We’re calling their aesthetic “unsentimental nostalgia”; click through to see what we mean.
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.
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.
For a studio that crafts objects evocative of summer-camp bliss, Fredericks & Mae have an awfully dark creation story. For the last eight months, Gabriel Fredericks Cohen and Jolie Mae Signorile have been hard at work fletching, painting, and spinning bright polyester thread around their custom-made arrows, which sell for $95 apiece at boutiques like Maryam Nassir Zadeh and Partners & Spade. But when they met senior year at Oberlin, says Signorile, “Gabe was really into the apocalypse and I was obsessed with nostalgia. When we got into it, we realized they were kind of about the same thing: a fear of the future.”