Archive for March, 2012

The Spring Shoot at the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

To launch our Spring 2012 line, we wanted a shoot that would wrap up the narrative of our last campaign, which centered around the novel Crash by J.G. Ballard.  So what better place to shoot that story than at the Brooklyn Public Library? Unlike a book or a movie, it can be much more difficult to convey a story through photographs, so we crafted a loose narrative about a girl encountering a guy at the library, who eventually leads her on a journey of discovery, leaving room for the viewer to interpret the photographs individually or collectively.

We started the day in the Historical Room of the library, where old maps of Brooklyn across centuries were archived in flat drawers and oversized books. Those of us who remember the pre-computer days of furiously finger-flipping through the Dewey Decimal System were treated to dainty, wooden drawers of card catalog cabinets. The contrast of the academic, and sometimes nerdy environment with striking models provided a pleasant, prurient sensibility to the library.

Right outside the Historical Room is a hallway that overlooks the main atrium of the library. We immediately took a liking to the monolithic greens and oranges of the walls and the simplicity of the Fascist architecture, reminiscent of Marcello Piacentini or Albert Speer. Our photographer, Courtney Chavanell shot pictues of the models peering coyly across the vast expanses, furiously switching back and forth between regular and zoom lenses like a golfer exchanging out clubs. A studio shoot, this was not.

After photographing the two models in our BPL collaboration T-shirts in the rows of bookcases and stairwell by natural window lighting, we were allowed access to a normally off limits part of the library – the rooftop. The sunny day, dramatic vistas, and vast space looked like a huge, unfinished set in the middle of New Mexico. We had our best shots on the roof against industrial materials and textures like concrete, steel beams, and large metal and aluminum machinery, backdrops we’re very used to seeing in the Brooklyn landscape that also serve as an inspiration to our namesake. Being out in the sunny air was making us really excited about shooting outside again for our next shoot for the summer collection.

View more photos of the campaign on our Flickr page. Shop the Spring 2012 BPL campaign here.

Neighborhood Spotlight: Williamsburg

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

above: Cotton Candy Machine

While this mecca of hip is more well known for its restaurant, bar, and music scene, Williamsburg is also home to some of the greatest shops in NYC, featuring unique craftwork, heavily-curated oddities, and amazing works of art. And cheese – lots and lots of cheese.

Cotton Candy Machine, 235 South 1st St.

No, they don’t sell cotton candy machines, but they do fire one up for art openings. What they do offer is an amazing array of prints, illustrations, books, and various toys from some of the most cutting edge artists around, many of which live right in the neighborhood. Opened by Tara McPherson and Sean Leonard, the store showcases much of McPherson’s work in the space where her studio used to reside. A stuffy boutique, this is not – the owners are some of the most gregarious and enthusiastic people you’ll meet in your life, and will gladly guide you through all the work they have in their store. Not only is their enthusiasm genuine and inspiring, they also make sure that their wares are accessible, offering affordable prints of some of the pricier oil paintings. And who knows, if you ask nicely, they might even offer you up some cotton candy. -Teddy

Earwax Records, 218 Bedford Avenue

Considering what a hang out Williamsburg has become, you would think there would be more record stores… right? Earwax reminds me of the small indie stores I used to hang out at as a teen. They have a great eclectic selection especially considering the size of the store, with a little of everything, including jazz, blues, experimental, indie, and electronic. It’s not too big, but they have all the cool necessities to get you started on or to complete a collection. They also have a nice vinyl section too; I bought a Hawkwind reissue there – hooray! Where else are you gonna find that?! This record store is curated like a gallery. They give you a well-rounded presentation of the best music throughout the decades. They also have sale and a used section so check it out next time your in the hood! -Dale

Bedford Cheese Shop, 229 Bedford Avenue

Even though I’m lactose intolerant, I cannot avoid a trip to the Bedford Cheese Shop every once in awhile. I have won the hearts of many at a party, offering gifts of their über delectable cheeses and fine cured meats. Leaving empty handed is not easy when physically weakened by all of the edible displays of sorted international cheeses, each catalogued with amusing and playful descriptions.

Their informative staff are genuinely helpful and are more than willing to tempt you with freshly sliced samples. But wait there’s more! They also carry a variety of sweets – marzipan candy bars, fresh caramels, jams and tart curds, bottled olive oils, vinegars, and pickled vegetables shelved like apothecary tonics (fitting since the store was once a pharmacy).  During the summertime, they carry one of my favorite childhood treats, a chocolate-covered, oatmeal cream sandwich called “IT’S-IT” from my hometown San Francisco. It’s the care and thought that goes into the product that makes this one of my favorite Williamsburg destinations. -Aaron

Baked In Brooklyn, 242 Wythe Ave

Embrace your inner five year old at Baked In Brooklyn, a ceramic painting studio that’s also conveniently BYOB in the evenings. At this marvelous addition to the hood, you get to pick out your own plain ceramic piece, decorate it to your heart’s content and get your creative juices flowing with a bottle of wine. Pieces to paint start from $5, and on average, most plates, mugs, or cups cost about $15-$20, so you can find whatever suits you and make something cool for your apartment, boyfriend, mother, or cat. They fire and glaze it there and you can pick it up a week later. Do something different next weekend and come home with an experience to remember. -Nikki

Junk, 197 North 9th St.

If you ever find yourself wandering around Williamsburg thinking, “I sure could use a vintage clown lamp,” then head to Junk. Unlike the plethora of vintage clothing stores in the area, Junk sells exactly what its name suggests. Reminiscent of a hoarder’s basement meets flea market, you are bound to find a number of unique items –albeit covered in dirt and dust.
While their offerings can range from a vintage place settings, furniture, plastic toys, buttons, old magazines and knick-knacks, I often find myself getting lost sifting through their bins of old photographs. After one particularly lengthy dig, I came across several photos of the same house taken over the course of the last century by different owners – creepy, yet fascinating. Next time you need a chair, a matchbook cover, or salt and pepper shakers, skip the Swedish-made fiberboard products and opt for something more sturdily built with a 30 year old patina at Junk. -Meagan

The City Reliquary, 370 Metropolitan Avenue

One of New York’s most endearing and unique qualities is its constantly changing landscape.  It is the reason why many of us live here and yet, at the same time, it imposes upon us a curious fascination to understand and experience New York’s past.  For anyone who has spent time watching old movies that were filmed in New York just to see a snapshot of the city’s past, or who relishes a spontaneous and momentary glimpse of an old subway or store sign that has somehow escaped banishment into complete obscurity, the City Reliquary is the perfect way to indulge in the rediscovery of old New York. The small space makes maximum use of its walls with displays of old photos and objects of New York’s past, from old souvenirs of the World’s Fair, to leftover pieces from old subway cars, to an entertaining story about Little Egypt, New York’s most famous belly dancer at the turn of the century.  The City Reliquary is quite small and perfect for taking a short break from shopping or as follow-up to a weekend brunch. -Nancy

While you’re in Williamsburg, stop by our original store at Bedford and N.8th, and our Outlet store at Broadway and Driggs.

Get Your Design Out In The World

Monday, March 26th, 2012

T-Shirt weather means it’s time again for our annual T-Shirt Design Contest. Enter for a chance to win a gift card, see your design on T-shirts all over town, and invite friends to a party thown in your honor! Check out the winners from last year’s contest below - BK Neon and the runner up design, Tape Pop.

Spring Meets DIY with The Sunspot Tee

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

For spring, I channeled my teenage years in Colorado, where I often customized old band t-shirts purchased at thrift stores. Utilizing home dying techniques and a pair of scissors, I would take crusty old rock and country tees and give them new life.

Using our Brooklyn Industries garment dye T-Shirts, I was inspired to create something for the warmer months. I employed the same tie-dying techniques I learned as a teenager – but with a more textured, tougher, and lived in look. Made right here on the deck of our Brooklyn studio, The Sunspot T-Shirts are limited edition creations that celebrate the DIY aesthetic of the borough I now call home.  –Dale, Senior Designer

Guest Bloggers Frontier Psychiatrist Guide Us Through the SXSW Mayhem

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Taco truck in Austin

My first full day of music at South by Southwest began in a bike shop and ended in a church. From noon until three in the morning, three friends and I saw nearly 20 bands: indie rock and punk, blues and folk, glam and R&B, and a bit of hip-hop courtesy of A$AP Rocky. As I learned during my first time at the festival, SXSW is organized chaos, with thousands of people thronged in the streets all day and all night, lined up outside and packed inside bars and clubs to see some 2,000 bands play countless “official” and “unofficial” shows, categories that are somewhat fluid since most bands play both kinds of shows. It’s hard to imagine a place with more music per square inch or square mile, all within walking distance or a short bike ride. For any music maniac – especially one who loves tacos — SXSW is paradise.

The day began at  Mellow Johnny’s, a.k.a. Lance Armstrong’s massive warehouse of a bike shop, where we caught the last four songs of a set by Howler, part of a live broadcast by stellar Seattle station KEXP. Beneath a tricked out Bianchi Pista that hung over the stage, the skinny boys from Minneapolis plays good rowdy retro power-pop in the vein of The Strokes, Tokyo Police Club, and Surfer Blood.

Next we migrated to Waterloo Records, Austin’s iconic indie record shop slash tourist destination, where we caught a couple of bands and had free energy drinks which according to the can were a mixture of iced tea, lemonade, and bad ass. We were underwhelmed by the generic rock of London four-piece Tribes, then energized by the satirical glam rock and raucous energy of Foxy Shazam , who sound and act like a hybrid of Queen, The Darkness, and Spinal Tap, insofar as those three are different. Stage antics included keyboard surfing and smoking five cigarettes at once.

Energized by the neo-Freddy Mercury, we crossed town to the Red River District, one of the main drags of SXSW, where thousands of people were roaming the streets and enjoying free shows. The spacy R&B of Polica (pronounced POH-LISA) was the first and perhaps best show of the afternoon, led by the hypnotic voice and stage presence of Channy Moon Cassell, formely of Roma di Luna and now the lead female singer in Gayngs. Backed by bass, and two drummers who inexplicably often played the same beat simultaneously. Afterward, as walked around Red River we heard what we thought was a band covering Titus Andronicus. It turned out to be Titus Andronicus, though we caught only their last song (“No Future Part 3”).

At a Paste Magazine showcase, we  caught a pair of female-fronted bands who performed beneath a gigantic mural of the country music pantheon: Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Reba McInytre, Kenny Rogers, etc. Led by vocalist Amber Papin, Brooklyn indie pop trio Hospitality brought some pleasant jangly songs from their debut album Friends of Friends, which came out in January. We were more impressed with husband and wife duo Tennis, whose first album Cape Dory was inspired by their seven month adventure on a sailboat, and last month released their second record, Young and Old, inspired by a W.B. Yeats poem. The live show–especially Alaina Moore’s vocals–makes their records seem tame by comparison.


After a brief break to bathe and refuel, we returned and made our first mistake of the night. We thought we were going to see Javelin. Instead, we went into the club next door by mistake, where we caught Fidlar who sounded like Warped Tour refugees, as confirmed later by their song “Wake Bake Skate.” We then entertained the delusion that we could get into the Fiona Apple, Sharon Van Etten and Andrew Bird showcase at Stubbs, Austin’s legendary BBQ joint. Then we saw the line. (Fortunately we have already seen Sharon Van Etten in Chicago and twice in New York).

For the rest of the night, we split into two groups. Assistant Editor Pete Lillis caught Zola Jesus, a.k.a Nika Rosa Danilova, the slow burn of Psychic Ills, and The Men about whom he will have much more to say later this week on Frontier Psychiatrist. The rest of us took a more mellow turn and headed to St. David’s Episcopal Church for three more mellow acts, each with a somewhat spiritual, if not exactly religious dimension. The star was Anais Mitchell, whose haunting baby voice of a drawl bounced through the pews as she sang songs from her new album Young Man in America and her 2010 breakout record Hadestown, a folk rock opera about the myth of Orpheus and Euridice. While Hadestown guest vocalist Justin Vernon did not make the show, Mitchell has more than enough talent on her own and her backing band – electric piano, bass, and a drummer who doubled on banjo—was perhaps the best musicianship of the day. Finally, we caught the bluesy set of alt-country singer songwriter Todd Snider. Perhaps only in Austin does a guy whose last album was called Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables play a gig in a church.

Amen. Bring on Day 2.

Frontier Psychiatrist is a Brooklyn-based blog about music, books, film, and food. For more coverage, check out their blog. Photos courtesy of Peter Lillis.

SXSW Music Festival Day One

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Spotted at SXSW, BKI’s 3D Robot graphic tee

Visitors to Austin’s annual music, film, and technology bender, otherwise known as South by Southwest were welcomed with a relatively rare occurance over the weekend – rain. But despite soggy badges, the Interactive Festival continued to build on its newfound reputation as the premier gathering event for unveiling new products, app launches, and for friendly and communal exchanges of ideas and technology trends. Al Gore, Sean Parker, Jimmy Fallon, Emily Shuman, and Adobe lent star power to this year’s panels that leaned heavily on cloud computing, social media, and blogging. This year also brought another new element to the festival – protest, with Stratfor CEO, George Friedman bearing the brunt of Occupy influenced demonstrations during his panel.

The film portion of the festival also continues to grow, trailing only Sundance now as the place to premier new movies in the states. This year’s crop of films showcased a number of great music related screenings, including Tchoupitoulas, a movie about a night in New Orleans, Soul of America, a great documentary about the late discovery of Brooklyn-based soul singer, Charles Bradley, and Shut Up and Play the Hits, which chronicles the final NYC stand of LCD Soundsystem, where the audience was reportedly dancing in the aisles and screaming when songs came on as if it were a live set.

Last night, we were fortunate to be able to attend a taping for an Austin City Limits episode featuring Alabama Shakes. The venue moved locations last year, from its original studio from 1976, to a more polished and larger venue downtown. Despite its larger seating capacity, the new theater retained the same intimate charm that has made the show a national treasure. On the previous night, the same stage was graced by a surprise free performance by Jay-Z, who seemed to enjoy the intimacy of a relatively small venue. Perhaps becoming a dad has changed Mr. Carter.

While everyone inevitably gets all aflutter over big celebrity showcases and the Instagram pics of Anthony Bourdain eating all over town, there are thousands of other artists and bands working hard all week to get their music out. En route to Austin, we met Adibisi Agoro, a young hip-hop artist under the stage name ‘Blax’, making his first trip to SXSW for a showcase via Bed-Stuy with just a few dollars to spare. Stories like his are what excites us the most about SXSW. And perhaps in a few years when Blax is onstage at Austin City Limits, we can say we once rode a Greyhound with him to SXSW back in the day.

How They Styled It – Pi Day Edition

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

In celebration of 3.14, we treated ourselves to Four and Twenty Blackbirds in Gowanus, Brooklyn for some delicious salted caramel apple pie. For this sunny, spring day, I chose a statement plaid, which called for simple, slim cargos to balance the look. Add on a cardigan with a lightweight cotton jacket, and no one will notice if you go back for a second helping.

We’re also offering 14% off up to 3 items when you use the code PIDAY at checkout (the code works on sale items too) – for today only!

-Tommy, E-commerce

Prepare for the Crash Bag

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

Following on the heels of the well-received Sunnyside Bag, we’re excited to announce the release of our newest item in our Made In Brooklyn line, the Crash Bag. The design of the signature handbag drew inspiration from J.G. Ballard’s 1973 novel, Crash, which was designed to directly reflect the themes present in Ballard’s novel, and at its most basic level, resembles the twisted metal remnants of a highway accident. The collision of humanity and technology, and the effects of modernity are represented by the combination of high-end materials and heavy duty industrial fabric used to create the bag. The artistic craftsmanship of the Vachetta Italian leather handles and trims are layered on top of the hand painted industrial canvas that has been hand cut and sewn one piece at a time to create a limited edition bag rooted in a Pop concept.

Shop the Crash Bag instores or online here.

Meet the Artist: Adam Aleksander

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

photo by Sumner Dilworth

Event and party designer Adam Aleksander talks about the creative process, the business side of art, and creating fantasy environments for you to play in.

I met Aleksander in the kitchen of his two story, beautifully worn in Lower East side tenement at one of his regular artists salon/dinner parties, known as Les Salonnieres. Downstairs, guests sipped on Sazeracs in anticipation of a four-course dinner prepared by Aleksander himself, followed by performances by artists representing various disciplines. For most people, bringing their work home on a weekend night would be unthinkable, but when your day-to-day job consists of throwing elaborate and interesting parties, Aleksander’s fete appeared effortless, natural, and consummately stylish.

Les Salonnieres Supper Club and Artist Salon

For almost every accomplished artist in New York however, there is usually an accompanying arc that begins with pursuit, struggle, and self-doubt. After arriving in New York City 11 years ago, Aleksander saw a performance of De La Guarda, and was inspired to create fine art experiences himself, enrolling at the School of Visual Arts and learning drawing, painting, and theory. Frustrated by the institution’s lack of tutelage for real world applications, Aleksander dropped out and decided to blaze his own path, beginning with an internship at a costume shop that sent him on bike errands around the city where he familiarized himself with fabric and millinery districts, learned where to hunt for props, and the intricacies of intensely multimedia costumes. His next internship afforded him the opportunity to fly down to Atlanta to work on a mural for the Coca Cola museum with the renowned artist, Takashi Murakami. Paid gigs with Macy’s and Lord & Taylor soon followed, where he found himself in prop shops working with 3D modelers, carpenters, and animatronics designers to design holiday windows. While he acquired invaluable construction skills, one key element was still missing. “I grew up addicted to T.V. and the props department was just rigging thing for viewers,” Aleksander recalled. Instead of creating environments for passive viewing, his true desire was to be able “to live in it.”

Carnival of Ascension

Aleksander’s first foray into designing events started at the Macao Trading Company, where he threw the Drunken Dragon Party, but when the economy crashed and funding dried, he was forced to throw his own parties, beginning with the Carnival of Ascension, a high concept theme party that recreated the progression of life to death. Participants came dressed as either the living or the dead, and dined off the raspberry and spongecake covered flesh of each other’s bodies. Other parties followed, including the Epic Prom, where he ended up losing $3,500, nearly putting an end to his short career. But Aleksander persevered, eventually landing a high profile gig for Hendricks Gin, designing an immaculate enchanted forest, where woodland sprites served cocktails in a woodsy landscape complete with moss laden floors. “I really knocked it out of the park,” Aleksander beamed.

Hendrick’s Gin Enchanted Forest of Curiosities

These days, Aleksander recognizes the importance of establishing strict business principles to his endeavors, even hiring an agent to manage and attract bigger clients… and to play hardball. “I’m too nice to people,” Aleksander admitted. “I talk too much and I turn into the grandmother that holds peoples hands.” He also explained the importance of starting off client relationships with the right expectations. “I always take the initiative over the art director. First, I send out an introductory package detailing exactly what I do, I set a price for each service, and I outline payment schedules. I can’t get excited about projects if the client is underpaying or being cheap.”

As for his approach to developing compelling creative deliverables, Aleksander is strategic and methodical, employing a four-part progression that consists of information gathering, which involves learning as much as possible from the people who are in charge, incubation where he gathers inspiration and passively thinks about ideas, illumination, where ideas are molded into concepts, and elaboration when budgets and marketing decks are built. And one more thing, Aleksander added, “a lot of espresso.”

“My favorite class I ever took was a creativity course I took in high school, where the teacher taught principles of creativity and how famous creative people work. He taught us that the fear of failure is the single greatest inhibitor of creativity. People who don’t want to try something new and unchartered are the most dangerous to work with. Every person on my team needs to be intrepid.”

Putting the finishing touches on his four-course meal, Aleksander appears neither intrepid nor anxious. Cooking, he admits, brings him a sense of balance and calm to his life. Downstairs, guests dressed in ostentatious outfits are cavorting and sipping their cocktails, awash in the moody glow from the candelabras, and unaware of the long journey their host has undertaken to create the world they get to play in.

Hidden Gems In & Around Union Square

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

While more commonly known as a thoroughfare rather than a destination, there are a few great spots in and around Union Square that definitely warrant a peek up from the subway station. Here are a few of some of our staff’s favorite places to stop and smell the chorizo, tea, produce, comics, and more…

Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon, 56 Irving Place
For those who have caught the Downton Abbey bug, get some early 20th Century R&R inside the Inn at Irving Place where you will find Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon. At $35 for a 5-course “meal”, you and your friends can take turns playing Lady Grantham while sipping tea and eating tiny sandwiches and pastries. Be sure to look the part, otherwise you may feel out of place in this Victorian-furnished salon in your skinny jeans. -Helena

Partners & Spade, 40 Great Jones Street
Since I’ve always liked places on the fringe, my favorite spot to wander lies just south of Union Square. Tucked away on the small side street Great Jones, is Partners & Spade, a small shop that acts as a design studio, art gallery, and a space for collections of curios. Last time I went, I saw a cabinet labeled “pistachio shells” and was delighted when I opened it to find it full of pistachio shells. I always love taking out of town design-o-philes here because it seems like places like this only exist in NYC. Check out their website for their great branding work, including J.Crew’s Liquor Store, or pick up some of their whimsical, self-published books with titles like Medical Professionals Smoking, a picture book of – you guessed it, medical professionals smoking. -Teddy

Union Square Greenmarket, Union Square Park
I can only make it there on Saturdays but it’s soooo worth it. It’s best to go early. Once the weather is nice the place gets mobbed with shoppers and tourists who are only interested in taking pictures of the food that I’m trying to buy. I go with a game plan – go early, and buy all the bulky, heavy stuff first to put on the bottom of the bag so that the lighter, squishier stuff can sit on top – ingenious I know! One of these days, I’m going to invest in a high tech “old lady” cart as they make the most sense but you really have to be secure with your self-image to rock one.  My favorite stands are the mushroom lady and the apple cider doughnut people (word!)  -Dale

Boqueria Tapas Bar, 53 W.19th
Feeling friendly and chatty? A few blocks away from the Union Square market sits Boqueria Tapas Bar, named after the famous market in Barcelona. Whether sitting at a hightop table in the front of the restaurant or squeezing up to the bar for a bite of the Rosemary Manchego cheese plate, it’s the perfect place to get chatty. The cozy seating and ample pitchers of sangria ease you into conversation with complete strangers. I love taking my out-of-town friends here, as the friendly clientele quickly dispel the “Rude New Yorker” stereotype our home can often have. The must order is their Coles de Bruselas y Chorizo, which are caramalized brussel sprouts that would change any mini-cabbage hater’s mind. I also love that Boqueria is a Green Certified Restaurant, using local and eco-friendly products. -Meagan

Forbidden Planet Comics, 840 Broadway
I am a bit of a geek, and I have come to terms with this. I have checked the boxes and scored high on the geek quiz. Yes, I like video game RPGs, yes I have been to a couple Ren-Fair’s, and yes I used to collect pewter Dragon and Wizard figurines in my early teens. While I might not share those small details on a first date, I proudly admit to being a devoted comic book and graphic novel reader. For those of you seeking to find a great escape, please take a step into the very cool Forbidden Planet. Wander the shelves and discover complex contemporary mythologies and beautifully illustrated literary lore. There are all sorts of comics for the adventurous reader. Besides mutants and magic, you can encounter strange parallel worlds where even the most ordinary individual is destined to become a hero/heroine.

And in case you were wondering, I’m still waiting for my latent mutant powers to kick in. -Aaron

Fishs Eddy, 889 Broadway
What’s not to love about a place that looks like a perpetual Mad Hatter’s tea party? Fishs Eddy is a perfect storm of objects both practical and whimsical, which means there’s always an excuse to go in. On my last visit, I went in looking for a pair of salad tongs and walked out with tongs and a fluorescent yellow cake stand. Now all I need is a pretty cake to go with it. -Nancy

While you’re in the neighborhood, swing by and say hello to us at our Union Square location at 801 Broadway.