The transformation between last weekend and today at The Real Designer Market was truly remarkable. Where last Saturday the Mulberry street gymnasium was a little on the empty side (probably due at least in part to the extremely inclement weather), today the gym was buzzing with music and conversation, and there were plenty of visitors browsing the booths of roughly 40 designers offering clothing, jewelry, photographs and even cupcakes. I was especially enthusiastic and walked away with two stackable rings made by Tammy Gia, and a beautiful photograph of the Hudson taken by Zaza Weissgerber – I really need to stop interviewing such talented people! I have no doubt that next weekend will be even livelier.
Last week I met up with Chane, one of three designers who has helped revive this former location of The Market NYC, now known as The Real Designer Market. Chane owns three surf and skate shops and a screen-printing store in Mississippi and sells his funky silkscreened T-shirts and totes at several New York boutiques, as well as at the Artists & Fleas designer market in Brooklyn and now at The Real Designer Market. He was a regular at The Market NYC for many years, and continued to sell at the Mulberry location when it was briefly known as The Super Market (which shut down for lack of customer – and designer – interest). We talked about how Chane and his fellow designers were approached to revive the market and how it’s been going so far. Here are a few highlights from our chat.
When were you approached to restart the Mulberry Street Market?
About a month ago. The people from the Super Market were ready to get out, it wasn’t working for them anymore. The church approached us three partners and said, “Hey, do you want to take it over?” We want to continue what was started here, because we’ve built up a clientele and a dependence on this market and this location. We have a really strong setup for this weekend. I think we had 42 [vendors] signed up this week.
How were you able to set all this up so quickly?
We were connected with designers in our loops and groups, and we had a lot of people’s contact information. Designers are hungry for a good place to sell, and everybody had established a dependence on that market, really up until about a year and a half ago. Not many people stayed after the transition. A lot of vendors, blasts from the past, showed up last Saturday to see what was going on.
Were you able to sign a lot of the old vendors?
That’s kind of the transition and difference from last week versus this week. This is the perfect time to come in. It’s not quite ready to be busy yet, but people know they need to establish if they’re going to get a space. We have a degree of skepticism that we have to work with that we inherited from the two previous situations. You take all those previous situations as education, and you move forward. Now’s our time to shine with our market. To say, “It’s by designers, for designers. We want to hear your ideas, and we want to mold this around you.”
When you dedicate yourself to being a designer, especially in a town like New York – New York doesn’t hand it to you easily. You have to know how to ebb and flow and constantly change and reinvent because the same surface you’re standing on today is not guaranteed tomorrow. The ones who last are the ones who make the adjustments.
It sounds like the market is still in a “trial run” stage.
We did sign a facility usage agreement [with the church], and we have a good faith agreement that’s been built in as well. That part of our relationship seems to be coming along pretty well. As long as we can come in and prove that we have a strength and a validity, they’re willing to let us keep rolling forward with it. We think we’ll keep it going as close to indefinitely as we can, but you never know. If it doesn’t work out there, we’ll go somewhere else and do it.
It seems like designers who sell at these markets have a pretty tight community, and you’ve formed relationships with a lot of them.
It does. The word spreads really quick if you do something right or you do something wrong. If people are pissed about something everybody knows it. In our case the buzz has traveled fast because hey, they’re new, they’re designers, so they’re really interested [in] keeping this going so they can sell their product, their secondary goal is making the money. We know what we’ve dealt with, what we liked and what we didn’t like. We know when we’re upset because there aren’t any flyer people. We know we get irritated when we get nickel and dimed and charged for tables. We know that if market owners aren’t coming and talking to individual designers, then the designers feel like outsiders. You’ve really got to build up that respect. We don’t fully have it yet; we’re working with the monster of skepticism. It just happens in time.