Tuesday, December 8, 2009

report from Unique LA 2009

by frédérik sisa

I realize I said I’d offer a foots-on review of those Huarache running sandals, but since I haven’t been able to take the pictures I’ve wanted it will have to wait until next week. Sorry. Instead, I give you a report of the 2nd Annual Unique Los Angeles Independent Design and Gift Sale, a great idea that didn’t entirely live up to its promise.

Here’s the scoop: Unique LA jammed up space at the California Market with designers and artists selling their wares – jewelry, clothes, greetings cards, chocolate, and an assortment of stuff. Key word: local. The ground-floor room focused on specifically “green” vendors, like a fellah who transformed record album covers into snazzy take-out boxes, while the 13th floor was more general in scope. The overall feeling was of a hipster’s arts and crafts fair, an urban version of a country crafts sale.

It’s my understanding they have several events like this, although this looks to be one of the biggest for the obvious holiday-related reason.

For all the nobility that comes with bypassing the whole made-in-China thing, however, Unique LA suffered from a curious lack of diversity. There were plenty of t-shirt vendors and jewelry-makers, plenty of letterpresses selling greeting cards, plenty of baby and kids stuff. After a while, the juxtaposition of idiosyncratic vendors only highlighted just how similar the idiosyncrasies tended to be. How disappointing. Curious was the overall lack of truly refined, elegant products. It was like walking into a clothing store and finding lots of nifty jeans and t-shirts but very few dress shirts and blazers. The most disappointing quality of the show had to be, hands down, the lack of items for men. Bling for the ladies? Oh yes. Accessories and cute indie-designer clothes for the gals? You bet. Gifts for moms? Absolutely. Dads, however, were mostly out of luck in the gift department, and so were guys looking for a unique sumthin’-sumthin’ for themselves. Like I said: lack of diversity. I feel very excluded.

But in any case, there were standouts. My favourites of the show are:

Crows Cloth: Accurately self-described as “peculiarly unique textile art,” I’m reminded of the cheery macabre oddities from Necromance on Melrose. Doriandra offers t-shirts, bloomers, skirts, pants, hats, bags, creatures adorned with medical diagrams, pages from Coton Mather’s treatise on witches and demons, quirky erotica, or other delightfully peculiar images. Think Victorian by way of steampunk, seasoned with goth, and crafted with skill, class, and wit that goes beyond genre offerings. Bonus points for eco-friendly vintage re-use. I bought my wife a fuzzy black hat with cat ears – we call it a Russian Kitty hat – and she’s been getting much admiration for it ever since.

Dust and Co: In speaking with a few other folk who went to the show, the verdict came in: a wee bit pricey, but wow, what a concept. Using recycled watch parts – mechanisms, clock faces – and vintage finds, Jill crafts rings, pendants, and cuff links that are mechanical yet minimalist, industrial yet not without an elegant flourish. Forget the fanciful stuff that belongs to a cosplay convention; Jill delivers on the honest, DIY side of steampunk.

Loomlab: Founder Jane Henry offers some funky fresh scarf and pocket square designs drawing on her experience working at Reebok International designing tennis apparel and, more recently, at the fashion house of Tadashi Shoji & Associates. Designs are inspired by technology - circuit boards, barcodes, Braille – and make me wish I incorporated pocket squares and scarves in my wardrobe. (Personally, my scarf style is cold weather and Tom Baker but I can admire, can't I?) Materials range from silk to wool. Lovely, lovely accessories for today’s fashionable wardrobe.

Scarlett Glass: A mother-daughter team of artists. Daughter Sunny offers photography and fused glass pieces of jewelry including pendants and earrings - elegant, understated, reasonably priced. Sally is all about pot melted glass with vibrant, amorphous colours.

The question is, would I go again? Sure...with tempered expectations and a more detailed look at the vendor list beforehand.

For a full list of the vendors, click here.

How about you? Did you go to Unique LA? Find anything? Share your shopping experience by leaving a comment below...

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