July 10, 2008

Brooklyn Indie Market

The spirit of "indie"pendence is alive and well on Smith and Union Streets in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. During the week, the carnival-esque red and white tent and its accompanying kiosks are quiet, but every Saturday the tent walls come down and the kiosks fling open to reveal their ice cream colored interior, the setting for Brooklyn Indie Market (BIM): a rotating roster of independent emerging designers and the shoppers who love them.

Rather serendipitously, just as I was feeling ready to start selling my jewelry last year, I started seeing signs for Brooklyn Indie Market pop up all around my neighborhood. I booked some dates and was soon selling there regularly.

This year, I've become a bit more involved in helping to run the market, but the brains behind this operation is fellow designer Kathy Malone, whose handmade, limited edition and one of a kind clothing can be found at fofolle.

I decided to interrogate Kathy about the market for my amusement and edification.

above: Kathy in her element.

below: A shopper takes in Rebecca Shepherd's lovely baubles.

above: wonder threads is a regular presence in the corner kiosk.

below: The scene on Smith Street

How did the idea of BIM come to you, and when did you start it?

BIM began as some shop talk between myself and another designer. I was working in a Park Slope boutique that began to carry more and more indie designers, myself included. First we talked of a list-serve for info sharing and support system, then I began organizing events at various community centers and local parks, then the dream tent came along!

What do you look for when curating a day?

I look for selection balance in design categories, price points and vendor personality - the more personality the merrier! I see the market as a place of entertainment as well as a place to shop for unique, handmade items.

How does being a designer yourself inform the way you run BIM?

As a designer/market organizer, I think I understand my customers who are both the shopping public and the vendors who add their talent to the market. I have a deep respect for the makers and the supporters of indie designers/artisans. I work for them and am not merely a rent collector, I hope that comes through. BIM is different from all other designer and craft markets because we are owned and operated by designers for designers. We are the only market that exists to support one another and share our small business challenges. We don't just collect rent, we offer advice on display, legalities, business resources, other craft markets, website improvement etc.

Talk a bit about the current cooperative structure of BIM.

Going into our second year we gathered together some of our most committed vendors in terms of regularity, input and enthusiasm for what was developing. We really didn't have a road map and grew organically much the way indie businesses grow. The community had been well established by the end of last year and it was clear who would be invited to help develop the business this year. I had some trepidation about getting bogged down as a "committee" and losing flexibility but those fears were very soon put to rest. All 6 market managers fell beautifully and expeditiously into the roles which we were best suited for: marketing, vendor outreach, graphic design, ideation, general management, group morale, public and customer relations and much more. Being a multi talented lot, we also chip in and fill in whenever there is a need. We meet regularly and make decisions democratically with simple up and down voting and I believe in the wisdom of the group. The end result has been a streamlined and well-oiled operation!

How does selling at BIM compare with selling at other local venues?

BIM as a market place has a totally different vibe from some of the markets I have participated in and this has been echoed by many of our vendors. I think being a collection of no more than 20 vendors at any given time allows for more opportunities to connect with shoppers and each other. We trade and share information in a noncompetitive atmosphere. Not that I have anything against the excitement of larger craft shows, that's good too! But ours feels more intimate and has often been described as friendly and safe. I think of it as our down to earth club house. Since many of our vendors are just out of the gate I highly recommend it as a first time vending experience.

How has feedback from vendors affected BIM?

Listening to vendor and shopper feedback is invaluable. It's great to hear the good stuff, and we do, but the suggestions and honest appraisals and even dissatisfaction I am most grateful for. Who wants to get caught walking out of the restroom with toilet paper stuck to your shoe? Not I!

Why should shoppers come to BIM?

I am so pleased with our market offerings and the community of indie designers, artisans and now select artists. I want every shopper and lover of all things handmade and gorgeous to pay us a visit. The value is amazing and you will walk away feeling good having met the maker of your purchase, learning more about the personality and the process behind that object you are going to wear, utilize, gaze at or gift. You can also feel good that your support will go directly to the craft artist and encourage this very human endeavor.

Why is the "indie" important to you and to BIM?

"Indie" means no one is breathing down your neck thinking only of the bottom line for someone else's benefit. Its a celebration of individuality AND the community that supports it!

What are your Future Goals for BIM?

I'd like to: Develop and sponsor career building workshops for emerging designer entrepreneurs; expand another arm of the business, Shoptails, cross promotional fundraising events with other non-profits; administer equipment grants for low income emerging designers in need of specific equipment to expand their business/production; administer subsidy grants for low income designers to participate in increasingly more costly craft festivals/fairs; provide health insurance for uninsured designers starting with market managers; develop other physical markets in other New York Metropolitan neighborhoods modeled on the green markets; expand to other cities.

I'm already developing a marketing 101 workshop with a marketing colleague aimed at emerging designers and am in the process of researching non-profits to collaborate on a Shoptail for the upcoming year.

BIM is flattered to have inspired another emerging market to be born, Buffalo Indie Market Buffalo Indie Market by a vendor of ours and have offered start up advice along the way. We would like to do the same for other future market organizers.

Brooklyn Indie Market is a collective of fashion and product designers. Design categories include accessories, clothing, handbags, housewares, jewelry, kids' wear and more. We provide a connection between emerging designers and consumers, retail buyers, stylists, personal shoppers and the press. BIM aims to connect emerging designers and the greater NYC public to our market, fashion events, trunk shows, workshops and more in and around the New York area. We also welcome non-New York area designers who are interested in our mission.

1 comment:

KimmChi said...

WOW! The goals got me jazzed about the future of BIM! - Though I did have to google "Shoptail" heh heh - can't wait!