• Tue, Jan 11 2011

Of a Kind: Small-Batch Fashion From Emerging Independent Designers

Behind Of a Kind: Cerulo and MazurVery late last year, we had the opportunity to sit down with Claire Mazur (pictured, right) and Erica Cerulo (and left), the comely, hyper-articulate entrepreneurs behind Of a Kind. The site–which launched to fanfare on the same day as Google Boutiques–is the kind of project we love, so let’s refresh:

Each week, Of A Kind will feature one new designer, covering them Monday till Wednesday at 1:00, at which point the designer’s sale will begin. All items sold will be made exclusively for the site. The pieces will be released in microbatches, (anywhere from five to fifty pieces), with prices starting around $50 and capping around $500. Best of all, Of A Kind will actually be bankrolling the production, offering a low-risk opportunity for up-and-comers.

Basically, everybody wins: emerging designers get exposure and online shoppers get unique, cool, X-small number “of a kind” pieces. We began by discussing any intimidation they may have felt starting a project like this one in New York City, where fashion starts with a capital F and is pronounced “exclusive as fuck.”

Trying to break into fashion is intimidating! Did you guys feel like outsiders?

Claire Mazur: We had a certain insecurity about being in the fashion world and particularly this city, knowing what the fashion culture is here. …It can become very trivialized.

Erica Cerulo: [But] there are tons and tons of smart people in the fashion industry! They don’t get credit for being as smart as they are, like Sally Singer is obviously brilliant. It’s hard to be taken seriously.

CM: We spent a lot of time trying to figure out how we can do this project but not be fashion… that fashion culture we don’t like, what [we] try to stay away from. We feel like this is a thoughtful project and something unique, though we are about clothes and we don’t want to [position ourselves] as anti-fashion. But what gets stigmatized about the fashion world is that it’s so exclusive.

Yeah it is. Did you feel embraced initially?

CM: I feel like we took a backdoor! We made our way in through the tech world. The tech community here is so supportive, not insular, very welcoming. We got our footing that way. I think if we had said, ‘We have to go out and meet all of these fashion people,’ going to fashion parties, having to network that way, it would have been a different story.

EC: But to be fair, when we reached out to designers, we were just two girls starting a thing. [laughter] We’re still two girls starting a thing.

CM: But we didn’t have a website. We had nothing.

EC: We were just cold e-mailing from our personal e-mail accounts. The number of people who said they’d take a meeting with us and how many [eventually] got on board was… shocking.

How did you find that initial round of designers?

CM: It’s funny, Mandy Coon (she of the famous bunny bag) was joking, ‘I had this meeting with you guys and I had no idea what it was going to become.’ We had just e-mailed her from our Gmail account and she was far and away the biggest name we got but also so cooperative and easy and enthusiastic right out of the gate. I credit her with so much because–by having her on board–other people took us more seriously. Within two seasons, she’s gotten on the radar of every major fashion editor, gotten in Vogue, so to have her was a huge stroke of luck. Well, it actually wasn’t… she loved the idea.

Many Coon's Bunny Bag

How long did it take before people started pitching you?

EC: Even a couple weeks before launch [people started]. That was one of our milestones.

How involved are you two? Completely hands off? Is there any input?

CM: We set out [a few] parameters. We want it to be indicative of [a designer's] aesthetic. We’re all for designers trying new things but in this setting, we want to feel like we’re introducing you and your signature aesthetic to our audience and we want people to get a sense of who you are. We want it to be a showcase, so something [wildly] different from what you regularly do… doesn’t make sense.

So you do edit the collection in some capacity.

CM: A lot of times, by the time you’ve gotten to meet with the designer, they [already have] a really solid idea, because it’s a pretty unique opportunity for them. They [encounter] so many restrictions in their regular collections–saleability, production timelines and availability–so [with us] they can do a limited run of something. For example, if there’s a fabric they want to work with, but couldn’t use it enough to justify it in regular collections, why not try it out with us?

[Continued after the jump...]

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  • Eileen

    But what I really want to know is can I buy that green dress.

    • Sara

      I was thinking the exact same thing! I want it bad.