Thing Industries

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It all started with a chair. In 2008, Bridie Picot tried (unsuccessfully!) to buy one of Matt Smith’s sacrificial chair prototypes at a furniture fair. A few years later, when she decided to start her own furniture line, she looked him up, and the pair launched a collaboration that spans seven time zones and 9,000 miles: She’s based in NYC, and he’s in New Zealand—where she grew up. “We send a lot of emails,” Bridie laughs.

If a continental divide seems like a bit of a deterrent, you don’t know Bridie and her endearing—and enduring—sense of possibility. Heck, before launching Thing Industries in 2013, she’d never designed furniture before, but frustrated with the limited market for affordable, cool-looking finds, she got to sketching.

“I like simple pieces that solve a problem,” Bridie explains. “But just because it’s functional doesn’t mean it can’t have a sense of humor.” Take, for instance, that first chair…that actually isn’t a chair at all. It’s a place to toss clothes and bags—which is probably something you already do with some of your seating. There’s also a birdhouse-shaped shelf that bookmarks a paperback just so and a set of triangular tables that can be arranged this and that way. So what’s next? “More! I think I’ve got about twelve more collections just in my head,” Bridie adds. “So we’ve got to get those out.”—alex ronan

thingindustries.com

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Stanmore

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Does it sound out-there to say that Catherine Alexander had a date with destiny when she came up with the idea for her jewelry line? You be the judge: After graduating from NYU, Catherine parlayed an internship into a gig as a TV producer and then an indie movie producer, working on projects like design shows and period films. “After the stock market crashed in 2008, the funding for a movie I was working on was gone,” says Cat, who, rather than falling into woe-is-me mode, took the opportunity to really think about what she wanted to be doing. The answer: something that allowed her to feel a whole lot more creative.

“While I was visiting my parents in Washington, D.C., I bought some clay at Michaels and started sculpting. My mom took one look and said I needed to take art classes,” she explains. Back home in NYC, Cat enrolled in a course and quickly realized that she had a knack for jewelry in particular. “I had access to a studio and spent all day learning,” she says. “It was kismet—everything was leading up to this.”

She launched Stanmore in 2012, and she hasn’t looked back. “When I first started, I wanted to make things I hadn’t seen before. It’s not worth buying jewelry unless it really says something,” Cat says. “I like it when jewelry makes something basic like your T-shirt and jeans more personal.” —jane gauger

stanmorenyc.com

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Faris

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As a kid in Seattle, Faris Du Graf was surrounded by good design—her mom and dad, who she lovingly calls “silly, artful weirdos,” were Knoll furniture specialists totally entrenched in the city’s aesthetically minded scene. But Faris—as her parents say, “Paris with an F”—didn’t really get how much that world spoke to her until she stepped away from it in college at University of Washington.

Soon enough, she discovered—and dove into—architecture, eventually moving to the Bay Area for a job. But architecture—a creative field, yes, but one that doesn’t allow you to truly create until you’re at the top—felt wrong. Faris’s obsession with accessories and her urge to make something propelled her to take design classes in London at Central Saint Martins and to sign up for a bunch of metalsmithing and jewelry-making courses on the side.

In 2013, she bailed on architecture, and her line Faris (yup, Paris with an F!) was born. Her building training wasn’t a waste, though—her designs are incredibly influenced by the structures around her, and many of Faris’s first customers were her savvy friends from that realm.

Shortly after she launched her label, Faris really went back to her roots, returning to Seattle and setting up a studio nestled in the basement of her folks’ showroom. Since then, the city’s near-constant drizzle has become a key part of the process. As Faris explains, “The rain creates an energy. You just hunker down and start making things. This is the perfect place for me—it’s my creative oasis.” —carly pifer

farisfaris.com

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Kathryn Bentley

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Kathryn Bentley’s jewelry collections—she has two: a namesake line and the wallet-friendly spinoff, Dream Collective—grew out of that post-school bind that plenty of art students find themselves in: Well, what do I do now? Thankfully, Kathryn hooked up with some top-notch mentors in NYC, including name-to-know Philip Crangi. “When I worked with Philip, we worked in an elevator shaft in the basement of an antique store on Lafayette Street. He was still doing furniture restoration for the antique store upstairs in trade for rent,” she recalls. “I would do everything from using the torch to rewiring the lamp. If you worked there, you had to know how to do everything.” Kathryn brought this top-to-bottom approach to her own work as well: When she got the idea that she might want to start her own thing, she apprenticed for a model-maker, learning to carve wax so that she could produce all of her components from scratch—nothing would be borrowed from anywhere else.

Once her eponymous line got off the ground—filled with heart-breakingly beautiful watermelon tourmaline earrings and armor-inspired rings—she moved out to L.A. and added a second set of jewelry to the mix, focusing on relaxed, easy-to-layer pieces that suit the sunshine state of mind. “Moving to a new city as an adult and not knowing anybody, I had basically a year to work on design. It gave me more time to process,” she explains. And that cross-country transition is good news for us: It means more owning and less ogling.

dreamcollective.com

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Christine Alcalay

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It’s nearly impossible to have more experience in the apparel world than Christine Alcalay has. “I’ve been sewing since age three,” she explains. “When we emigrated from Vietnam, my mom found work in a garment factory in Flushing, Queens.” As her mother learned the tricks of the trade, little Christine picked up all sorts of skills in tailoring, pattern-making, and sampling, too.

When it came time to think about her own career, Christine totally embraced her roots, enrolling at Parsons to study Fine Arts and Fashion Design, interning at Christian Lacroix in Paris, and winning her school’s Golden Thimble award—a massive honor. In 2002, a year after graduating, Christine and Marlene Siegel—they met at a boutique on the Upper East Side—opened a shop in Park Slope in Brooklyn selling the sort of easy-to-wear stuff the locals were craving.

There, Christine put those apparel chops to use, launching a made-to-measure business out of the storefront. After nearly a decade making super-special, one-off coats and dresses, she launched a full-blown ready-to-wear line of structured jackets, standout silk tops, and skirts with loads of personality. “I enjoy helping women feel great about themselves and the ever-changing seasons in fashion,” Christine says. In other words: She makes stuff that’s destined to be in your closet forever. —nicole loher

christinealcalay.com

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Selin Kent

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Some of Selin Kent’s best ideas come to her when she’s in traveler’s limbo—waiting in an airport terminal or staring out the window of a train—so it’s a good thing she is always chasing the next stamp on her passport.

While inspiration may flow pretty effortlessly for Selin—who has lived in Istanbul, Vienna, and Paris and is now right at home in New York—getting her stunningly slick fine jewelry line off the ground took some serious work. After two years of squeezing in night-and-weekend bench classes while plugging away at a market-research gig, she decided to quit her day job and enroll in a two-year intensive jewelry program at F.I.T. Summer breaks meant studying under master jewelers in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, and she spent her semesters getting super-comfortable with CAD—a necessity for someone as obsessed with clean lines as Selin is.

“The things that I gravitate towards have always been a little more stripped-down, a little more geometric,” she says. “The simpler the pieces are, the harder it is to make them perfect.” But she’s come pretty close since her line’s 2013 launch, turning out sculptural silver rings, diamond-studded bangles, and delicate bar earrings in blackened gold—all of which are simple, yah, but far from basic. —caitlin petreycik

selinkent.com

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Marais USA

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Originally from Telluride, Colorado—a small town where spent her childhood ski racing—Haley Boyd always knew she would put her creativity to good use. During high school, she traded the slopes for sunny California and began experimenting, first putting on fashion shows for her peers, and then showing off her own handmade looks in the school auditorium.

But it wasn’t until a trip to Paris after her freshman year at Parsons that she got the idea to start Marais USA, her timeless, menswear-inspired shoe line. A year later, she left school and dedicated herself full-time to designing, launching collection numero uno in 2009. Inspired by (and named after) Le Marais—that Parisian hub of chic—Haley set out to create stylish, comfortable shoes that wouldn’t break the bank. “I’m a really practical designer,” Hayley explains. “I don’t believe that classic items should cost so much, and I would never design something that someone wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing.”

Though Haley’s vision for Marais USA definitely expands beyond footwear—streamlined bags, anyone?—she also loves being able to reinvent the classics. And we will never tire of her just-left-of-center interpretations of Chelsea boots, ballet flats, and oxfords, that’s for certain. —olivia seely

Maraisusa.com

 

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Otaat / Myers Collective

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Otaat’s Albert Chu and Myers Collective’s Jenny Myers first met at a party in a kitchen decorated fully in duct tape. Thankfully, this ode to adhesive had little impact on either of their design aesthetics. They were both attending Harvard School of Design and bonded over Los Angeles—Albert’s idea of it and Jenny’s experience living there. A few years passed, and they found themselves meeting again at another get-together, this time in the City of Angels. “We never expected to run into each other in L.A.—I didn’t even know he had moved here—so it was a really fun coincidence. We left talking about our passions and our work,” says Jenny.

“It’s an amazing thing to hang out with somebody who is an awesome person and have it be fresh, twice. Like, how cool is that?” asks Albert. By the time of their L.A. encounter, Albert had already ditched the architecture world and was deep into his line of beautifully functional pouches and bags, but Jenny had yet to take the plunge from making jewelry to selling it. In fact! Jenny credits Albert with being the one to inspire and encourage her to get Myers Collective off the ground.

The two have so much freaking love for each other it was basically a no-brainer that they would eventually collaborate. “I think we wanted to do something that was both super-functional and really fun,” explains Albert of the duo’s first wristlet creation. They are very much on the same page. “We were able to synthesize each other’s designs and pull them together into something that speaks for both of us,” Jenny adds. —jackie varriano

otaat.commyerscollective.com

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Etten Eller

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Tini Bloom is all about slowing things down, and this mission came into play very literally when she took on her first project as a designer: deconstructing antique pocket watches. “They have such beautiful details, like etchings or gems, but they’re hidden from view,” she says. Now, she has a full line of ultra-sophisticated, just-industrial jewelry called Etten Eller that really benefits from her studied approach. “I’ll sit for hours with a simple thing, adjusting it over and over again. It works because it is so truly considered,” she says.

After learning the ropes of the fashion industry in New York, Tini enrolled at the Art Institute of Chicago, and while working in a shop part-time, she began making and selling her jewelry anonymously. She was floored by the wide appeal of her designs: “A quirky 16-year-old would indulge in a piece and so would a serious, 68-year-old professor woman. And sometimes men shopped for themselves.”

Despite Etten Eller’s success since Tini went official in 2008, keeping it intimate and personal is a non-negotiable. “I like to connect with what I do. Getting bigger and making more money would get too far away from me,” Tini explains. “I don’t put a piece out there that I don’t love.” We happen to love it all, too.

etteneller.com

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Happy French Gang

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Before Sandra Dejanovic became a mom and maker of blankets—dreamy, dreamy blankets—she did a ten-year stint in the realm of engineering and transportation. “I used to work around old men, but now I’m with babies, mostly, and fabrics,” she laughs.

But this new state is actually a return to form: As a wee one herself, she had been surrounded by materials and sewing supplies. Her mother, a lingerie designer, kept a home studio that became Sandra’s playground. “It was always full of people and very comfortable silks. Friends and clients were always dropping by the studio for business—but also to say hello,” she says. When Sandra moved from Paris to San Francisco with her husband and son in 2010, she thought she’d be content staying at home with her kiddo. “Everybody is so happy in San Francisco—everyday feels like a holiday,” she explains. “I felt so inspired by the colors and the spirit here, and I knew I wanted to make things with my hand.” So, she created her own fabric land, using the fresh and vibrant hues of her new surroundings to develop her palette and dying fabrics while her son slept.

Today, fabric land is really more of a kingdom—pillows, blankets, bedspreads, and napkins, all in washed-out hues with pops of neon. “I just always had it in my mind, the way these colors and patterns would work together. I like to find fabric at the store, touch it a lot, test the dyes,” Sandra says. “It’s the process of thinking, trying, and testing that I love.” —eleanor hooker

happyfrenchgang.com

 

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