Archive for January, 2012

Behind the Campaign: Creative Director, Vahap Avsar Discusses “Crash”

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Vahap Avsar, artist and BKI’s Creative Director talks about J.G. Ballard’s Crash, the inspiration behind the Spring 2012 Collection

What sparked your initial interest in Crash?

When most people think about Crash, they think of the (David Cronenberg) movie, which I haven’t even seen, or fetishism, or about J.G. Ballard as a science fiction or post-apocalyptic writer, but I see him more as a postmodern theoretician – and artist. Ballard was a huge influence on some of the great writers and artists of the late 20th century, from Bruce Sterling to Tracy Emin to Damien Hirst. I think his vision of a dystopian modernity deeply resonates with the age we live in, and our psychologies are clearly affected by the technological commodities we use. Crash isn’t about sex – it’s about using sex as a representation of our acceptance and fetishism of a technology that kills a large number of people every year.

Speaking of Damien Hirst, how do you see Ballard’s effect on the art world?

Well, Ballard’s ideas were a major influence on contemporary American and British artists, especially the Y.B.A. (Young British Artists) and their tactics of pushing psychological boundaries. Actually, before he wrote Crash, Ballard exhibited a piece at The New Arts Lab consisting of wrecked cars called Crashed Cars in the late 60’s that many critics at the time labeled ‘perverse’. Ballard often considered his books a literary version of the ideas expressed in his visual artwork.

How did you come about fusing Ballard’s ideas with a fashion collection?

Just as Crash is a conduit for his theories, I wanted to use the spring line as a conduit for Crash. To be frank, fashion can at times be a bit vapid, so I wanted to come up with a thought provoking theme expressed through clothing that the audience could hopefully catch on and get them talking about Ballard. As we design a wide variety of products, it can be difficult to tie all the items into one singular idea, but we encourage the designers to interpret the theme according to their perspectives and personalities. With just this one idea, we were able to come up with a number of different designs across a wide variety of disciplines. We made a seasonal collection, we designed and hand-painted a custom bag series, our window designer sculpted amazing installations for our stores, our multimedia designer created video collages that we  incorporated into the photoshoot for the campaign. In the end, we’re putting it all together in a fashion/art event at our Union Square store. To me, it’s amazing that our designers made so much great work out of a single idea.

Come see the Crash Into Spring event at our Union Square location on Friday, February 10th, 2012 from 7pm-9:30pm, featuring live art demonstrations by the BKI Design Team, music by DJ SoSuperSam, and food and drinks from Dough and Brooklyn Gin.

Zoe Strauss – Ten Years, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Monday, January 30th, 2012

I had the opportunity to check out the Zoe Stauss ten-year retrospective which opened two weeks ago at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Her photos, which aim to capture “an epic narrative about the beauty and struggle of everyday life,” was made all the more impressive considering Strauss only began her photography at the age of 30, exhibiting for the first time in 2001 on her own without any gallery representation.

Most of Strauss’ work documents her own neighborhood and surrounding areas, and there’s definitely a feeling that she isn’t far removed from her subjects, giving her portraits a real sense of intimacy. Between human subjects, unique architecture, consumer culture, and disarming snapshots of text, the volume of work is impressive, keen, and witty, capturing everyday scenes removed from its original context. Strauss’ work also included photographs addressing current events, and her pictures from her time spent volunteering and rebuilding in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina were poignant reminders of the event.

My personal favorite from the show was a series of images featuring mattresses. The image above simply doesn’t do it justice – the print itself is luminescent, transforming something normally vulgar into a visual that is quite captivating.

Strauss’ efforts to make her work as publicly accessible as possible are also a source of inspiration. Since 2001, Strauss has annually presented her “I-95” shows, displaying her photographs underneath elevated sections of the aforementioned highway for all to see, and offering printed works for only five dollars. For the show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Strauss even lobbied (unsuccessfully) to reduce the admission price. For those unable to make it to the exhibit, prints of her photographs are installed on 54 billboards around the city. You can plan your route around the city to see them all, and her entire catalog is available online. If you happen to be in the neighborhood at our store in Philly, you’ll find yourself triangulated by three billboards just a short bike ride away (one of them is pictured below). – Tommy, E-Commerce

Lately, we’ve really been enjoying printing photographs on T-shirts. Check out two of them below, Family Photo and Party Time.

Saraghina Shares a Passion for Repurposed Furniture – and Delicous Pizza!

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Saraghina 435 Halsey St.

While most diners flock to Saraghina for its outstanding pizza, this quaint restaurant in Bed Stuy also provides a unique setting that our waiter gushed as both “charming and sexy”. Taking cues from the neighborhood it resides in, Saraghina’s décor is constructed from found and repurposed tables, cupboards, and chairs (on both the floors and the ceiling) that are often found lying around the streets of Bed Stuy. Designed by the previous owner Massimiliano Nanni and his wife, Paola Citterio, the restaurant and its furnishings are painted in a classic black and white palette to tie the aesthetic together. Throw in a wood-fed brick oven alongside the salvaged furniture, and not only will you get a stomach full of some of the most delicious pizza in New York, but a head full of DIY design ideas.

With an opportunity to design the spaces in our stores, we also get excited about the possibilities of incorporating upcycling, like in our Philly store where we constructed fixtures from shipping palettes and tables from thrift store finds. Find out more about some of our upcycling designs here.

BKI Philly 1525 Walnut Street

Neighborhood Spotlight: DUMBO

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Since relocating our headquarters to the old waterfront neighborhood of DUMBO – home to a large number of design studios and creative businesses, we’ve discovered numerous gems hidden in this often overlooked part of Brooklyn. Our team shares some of our favorite finds.

Jane’s Carousel , Brooklyn Bridge Park

Along the East River where the DUMBO and the Manhattan skyline almost kiss is the Brooklyn Bridge Park and Jane’s Carousel, a glass encased, refurbished carousel. This riverside stretch is a great spot for me and my fellow BK Industrialists to have impromptu open-air lunches and afternoon strolls. The scenic vista of the city seems within arm’s reach, framed by both the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. Having a ride on this historic landmark gives me a feeling of naïve whimsy, a feeling important to my personal creative process. A perfect day should ideally come to end with a spin around this magical merry-go-round. –Aaron

Zacca, 155 Plymouth Street

Be forewarned design nerds, this place will eat you up alive, and leave you with empty pockets. This Japanese-based boutique carries a wonderfully curated collection of graphic design, fashion, illustration, and architecture books and magazines, and an eclectic array of Japanese toys and art. The shop also doubles as an events space for art exhibitions and experimental showcases. It’s always a great space for me to visit when I need some added design inspiration. – Teddy

Modern Anthology, 68 Jay Street

Modern Anthology is a cleverly curated “man cave” that the owner describes as “less beer keg, more scotch”. Male or female, this is a great little shop catering to those with a creative sensibility. You can find everything from vintage Chesterfield couches, to taxidermy jackalopes, to old school umbrellas with wooden duck handles. It’s a perfect place for presents or a gift for yourself – or you might just want to move into this nicely decorated shop! – Nikki

Brooklyn Roasting Company, 25 Jay Street

Live, Work, Create is impossible for me without the fuel of coffee. It used to be hard to find a non Starbucks cup in the neighborhood, until Brooklyn Roasting Company moved across the street. HOORAY! They roast small batches from around the world, in house. The smell of roasting has greatly enhanced the neighborhood and my mood. If you’re on a budget just buy a ten dollar a pound bag and make it in the office. –Dale

St. Ann’s Warehouse, 38 Water Street

St Ann’s Warehouse is one of the most innovative venues in existence for live performance art and international theater, and their home has been right here in DUMBO for the past 30 years. My first St Ann’s experience was in 2006, when I saw Lou Reed perform his Berlin album on a set designed by Julian Schabel. The stunning visuals, combined with the nearly once in a lifetime opportunity to hear Berlin performed live, left a remarkable on me. I’ve since had many more memorable experiences, from a Polish production of Macbeth with crazy special effects in the open-air setting of the ruins of the DUMBO tobacco warehouse, to Karen O’s psycho opera Stop the Virgens, where each element, from costumes, to set design, to music, could have stood alone as its own individual and stunning work of art.  Up next is Daniel Kitson. Can’t wait! -Nancy

68 Jay Street Bar, 68 Jay Street

What’s work without after work happy hour! 68 Jay Street is our favorite end of the workday spot, where you can pull up a stool (or table to sit on when it’s busy during happy hour) and enjoy good conversation with coworkers, locals, or the friendly bartenders. Spend some dollars on the rotating art, or just three dollars for a happy hour Brooklyn Lager.

While you’re in the neighborhood, stop by our DUMBO store and say hello.

Meet the Staff: Lorie

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Name: Lorie DelMundo

Current occupation at BKI: PR, Events Coordinator, and makeup and hair stylist for BKI photoshoots.

Hometown: Ewa Beach, Hawaii

Now living in: Kensington, Brooklyn

Favorite thing to do in NY during the winter: Still not used to NY winters, but I do love jumping in the snow in my PJs like a little kid!

If I had a super power it would be: to be as fast as Super (Wo)man. If I could go from one place to another in a split second, I could get more done in a day, and I could even go home to Hawaii and visit!

Favorite place to eat: I pretty much eat anything, anywhere, but I love to go to Nana in Park Slope, and recently discovered Negril Village, an amazing Caribbean spot in the West Village.

Favorite dive bar: This spot in Hawaii where all the locals go called Mai-Tais. Here in NY, I’ve been to many in the LES, particularly Living Room on Ludlow.

Favorite word: Feasible – I’ve been using that a lot lately. Always thinking “anything is feasible.”

Favorite Blog: InTheHive – of course I had to give my stylist brother some love. I’m also enjoying Sincerely Jules.

Favorite BKI Tee: My favorite graphic tee is Love Vectors, but I’m obsessed with my plain, industrial, white tee, the material is so soft!

Favorite BKI item (new or old): I absolutely love my Zina Double Tank Dress. I would wear it every day if the weather was nice!

When I was 16, I was wearing: stirrups, and loud, puffy, shoulder-padded sweaters. I loved Esprit & United Colors of Bennetton back then.

How I Live, Work, Create: Working for Brooklyn Industries has help open up my creative side. I also do hair and makeup styling, which lets me explore my creativity through our photoshoots. Hair and makeup have always been a hobby of mine, and I also freelance at fashion or magazine events, video shoots, bridal parties and more! See my work here. I truly enjoy my job(s), and am able to enjoy the day to day knowing that I’ve worked hard to get to where I am, and am thrilled that I can be a part of this innovative lifestyle.

Portlandia Storms NYC

Monday, January 16th, 2012


(Left: Season 2 Premiere of Portlandia. Right: Fred Armisen sporting BKI gear on the show)

References to the I.F.C. show Portlandia have been popping up around the office a lot lately, so we were thrilled to be able to attend the Season 2 premiere here in New York at the Natural History Museum two weeks ago.  Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein were in attendance to introduce the season to a packed theater that included Andy Samberg, Krisen Wiig, and Jeff Goldblum, all of which make cameos in the second season.  We’re happy to report that after the success of the first season, with more support and momentum, the second season is even funnier.

Season two resurrects some of the first season’s characters, including the über-sensitive clerks from the feminist bookstore who are indignant to any word with phallic connotations, and the neurotic, upper middle class, city dweller couple who are clearly out of place in nature. One of the best cameos of season two is Samberg’s suave, yet corny mixologist, whose signature cocktail (a ginger-based bourbon drink infused with honey lemon, charred ice, cherry tomato, lime zest, homemade bitters, egg whites, eggshell, egg yellow, a rotton banana, and a little bit of love) inspires Brownstein to make him a mix tape. The show also pokes fun at the artisanal craze, with Goldblum cast as an artisanal knot maker, and featuring another light bulb maker whose lightbulbs are so ridiculously expensive and laborious to make that it take weeks to make a single lightbulb, leaving his customers literally in the dark.  What makes Portlandia so great is its ability to poke fun at its core audience – particularly those that are encapsulated in hip/progressive enclaves – Portland, Williamsburg, Wicker Park, Austin, the Bay Area, and its ability to get the audience to laugh at themselves. One particularly revealing sketch at the end of the second episode involves a writer from Pitchfork, who after writing a perfect 10 review of a band that promotes its uniqueness by having a cat and a kidnapper in the band, drives the music site to completely shut down. That sequence drew a roar of applause from the theater audience, demonstrating Pitchfork readers disdain towards the oftentimes pretentious site, yet for the joke to work, Portlandias’ writers had to realize that as much as their audience is annoyed by Pitchfork’s reviews, they still loyally read them. Which they do. In a world where it’s more commonplace to laugh at others, Portlandia demonstrates that sometimes, it’s just as fulfilling to laugh at ourselves.

In tribute to our love for the show, enter here for a chance to win two “I Like PDX” T-shirts from our Portland store, and a DVD of  Season 1 of Portlandia.

Artist Interview: Jay Roeder

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Jay Roeder, 2010 BKI tee contest runner up and designer of BK Glasses talks about his influences, music obsessions and Brooklyn love. Check out his daily drawings and follow him on Twitter – @TheRoeder. Keep and eye out for more Jay Roeder tees hitting BKI shelves soon!

What influences your design? I think the better question is what doesn’t influence my design. I pull my inspiration from everywhere, which a lot of times has to do with music, art, and culture. I have a list on my iPhone of never ending thoughts, phrases, and inspirations that I plan to draw – all inspired by my everyday life. It’s always cool to look back on my daily drawings, because it tells a story, almost like a visual diary.

We know you love music, what’s on your iPod right now? My iPod is constantly evolving, but Biggie is always a necessity. I am also listening to Au Revoir Simone (Williamsburg based), Hooray For Earth, Tokyo Police Club, and A Tribe Called Quest.

You are drawing the entire Biggie song Juicy. How did that begin? As funny as it seems, Brooklyn Industries gave me the idea to illustrate the entire song – I bet you didn’t see that coming! Last year I was in the Philly BKI and I discovered the “T-bone steak, cheese, eggs and Welch’s grape” T-shirt. That shirt told me that almost any Biggie lyric could be taken out of context and still be recognized. Feeling inspired, I decided to focus on what I felt was Biggie’s most iconic song, and my personal favorite, Juicy.

You are currently living in CT. Can you tell us why you are drawn to Brooklyn? I have always been drawn to Brooklyn, whether it’s for the style, art, bars, music, or people. Overall, I have just always been drawn to the culture. No matter what I do, Brooklyn always seems to come up; I’ll listen to music and discover the band is from Brooklyn, or I’ll find an artist appealing and find out they’re from Brooklyn. Now that I think about it, even though I was born in Minnesota, I grew up in Brooklyn Park – are you noticing a theme yet? Maybe Brooklyn always seems to find me?

You’re clearly obsessed with typography. How did you start with stylizing typefaces? I have always had an interest in typography, and more specifically, hand-drawn type. Having worked in the design industry for a while, I’ve always had to sketch my ideas to sell them. Drawing type lockups and different fonts really honed my skills throughout the years, without me even knowing it. On a side note, I’ve always found the imperfection of hand lettering to be extremely appealing which is why I try to always embrace the imperfections – erasing is overrated!

Favorite Font: Call me boring, but Helvetica is probably my favorite. It has been proven over time and is both classic and contemporary at the same time. I always go back to this font and it never gets old!

Favorite BKI item: I go through phases with a lot of my BKI T-shirts, but I’d have to say that the BKI Phones T-shirt is by far my favorite (I always secretly wished that I had designed it). I also like the fact that an eco-friendly material was used – GO EARTH!

How do you Live, Work, Create? I’ve always identified with BKI’s “Live Work Create” mantra, which is to find a sustainable way to live without sacrificing creative drive. Last year I left a full time agency position in order to focus on my hand lettering and drawing. It’s been the best decision I’ve ever made, because it has allowed me to spend more time focusing on what I have always had a passion for: creating art. The line between work and hobby has since blurred and I couldn’t be happier! Using the word “grateful” is an understatement.

Mega Band Night Recap

Monday, January 9th, 2012

(Right: Tayisha Busay)

Last Friday night, our SoHo location packed in a full house for a night of music, merriment, dancing… and leotards. Hostess Zoe Wilder kicked off the evening, with the crowd already animated thanks to the free-flowing libations from our friends over at Sixpoint Craft Ales. By the time Tayisha Busay took the stage decked in eclectic garb, playing their unique brand of synth dance pop, the after work crowd were well into their weekend, dancing and singing along with the band.

(Left: Twitter contest winner Lisa Marie Phoenix with Zoe Wilder. Right: Jonathon Antoshka, Lauren Thomas, Lakesh Abreu)

Book Review: Just Kids, Patti Smith

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Before I first listened to Patti Smith, I saw this album cover for the first time when I was 16, and was immediately enamored with her. I was amazed at how such a simple pose could evoke both power and elegance. It still remains one of the most anti-establishment images I’ve seen – unconventional beauty expressed in a graceful and defiant pose. Punk rock, through a patchwork of cuticles. Years later, after so many bands and fads get popular, then fade into obscurity, Patti Smith’s music still resonates, and sounds equally as urgent now as it did in the 70’s. And while I may be the last person on the L train to pick up a copy of Just Kids, reading her memoir is a great reminder that the passionate pursuit of art is a timeless endeavor.

Just Kids primarily chronicles the period of struggle before Patti Smith managed to achieve stardom. After just moving to Brooklyn, Smith has a couple of chance encounters with another struggling artist, Robert Mapplethorpe, and the two end up devoting their lives to creative pursuits and pushing each other to produce work. On a number of occasions, the starving artists are forced to choose between marshmallow cookies or buying art supplies. Despite bouts of hunger and at times, homelessness, Smith and Mapplethorpe are driven by a passionate devotion to the arts, the discipline to constantly produce, and studious examinations of contemporary and historical art/music/literature figures from Rimbaud to Warhol to Bob Dylan. Their struggles dispel the myth of the artist as inherent, creative geniuses, but instead presents the successful artist as a culmination of rigorous study and practice. Eventually, the two bohemians move from their humble apartment in Brooklyn at 45 Hall St. (one block over from Brooklyn Industries’ former offices), to the Chelsea Hotel, to a residency at CBGB’s on the Bowery, an area that was at the time littered with flaming trashcans, and a colorful cast of users, transvestites, and musicians, among others. But despite the uncertainty of success amongst the impoverished and societal castoffs decorating downtown, it’s difficult to ignore Smith and Mapplethorp’s palpable excitement from being on the cusp of a movement. It’s that feeling that still compels young people all around the world to move to New York City to this day. – Teddy, Multimedia and Graphic Designer

The Cozy Bar Hop

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

With an abudance of small, intimate restaurants and bars an arms length away from each other, we take you to our favorite North Brooklyn spots to get all cozy in while it’s cold outside.

Brooklyn Winery 213 N. 8th St.

As soon as you enter, a huge gust of heat greets you at the door and immediately you want to shed your heavy coat and grab a glass of house-bottled Shiraz.  Our secret spot is the upstairs couch, where warm mood lighting, a vintage jukebox, and scattered old photographs will guarantee a warm evening with loved ones.

Le Barricou 553 Grand St.

Come for the French country food and finish your evening in the backroom by the wood-burning fireplace. Wood floors and ceilings, warm hot toddys, and a beautiful chandelier give us city dwellers an opportunity to channel our inner ski bunnies.

Maison Premiere 298 Bedford Ave.

Rarely a week goes by without someone in the studio demanding post-work happy hour oysters at Maison Premier. While the place gets packed during their $1 oyster happy hours, off times give you a chance to transport yourself to warm and sultry New Orleans days, where you can laze around with friends and a Sazerac.

El Almacén 557 Driggs

Dressed in all wood, candles, and flowers, El Alamacén is the perfect place for brunch and dinner, where communal plates encourage cozying up with your dining partners.

Milk and Roses Wine Bar 1110 Manhattan Ave

This wine bar moonlights as a library/bistro/café/performance stage depending on the time of day. Grab a wine, some cheese, and cured meats, and curl up on a leather couch or intimate booth. The beautiful garden in the back makes this place cozy all year round.

Shop BKI’s cozy wear>