Originally established in LA four years ago, State of Unique has grown to become the country's largest independently curated design mart. The two-day events are so loved that founder Sonja Rasula recently expanded her Made-in-America marketplace initiative to San Francisco and now New York. This weekend sees Unique NYC set up shop at Chelsea's Center 548 with a particularly relevant mission in mind; supporting local businesses in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, as well as their non-profit partner World-Up.
Rasula has tapped a myriad of sought-after East Coast creatives for Unique NYC, including accessories designer Marie Turnor, who will have on hand her waxed canvas and leather tote called "The Picnic" and "The Idea Bag", a replica of Ikea's ubiquitous blue shopping sack. She Hit Pause Studio will be selling Polaroid prints of surf art, vintage scenes, tropical flowers and other scenic shots. Exclusive to the show are Brooklyn Taco's as-yet-unreleased kale taco and a secret project being revealed from men's grooming experts The Motley in collaboration with Joya.
"I wanted to expand to New York for many reasons but the most important was to show off the plethora of talented designers, makers, and entrepreneurs," explains Rasula. "I'm really excited to be featuring such great furniture, textile and industrial designers at the show. Her special picks include Brooklyn-based designer Stephane Hubert's collection of furniture and home goods created from mostly reclaimed, repurposed and sustainably sourced materials and Joann Berman's "wild" and colorful hand-printed textiles on everything from pillows to upholstery. Also, she adds, "Caroline Z Hurley will be branching out at our show with her newly-made textiles and paper goods such as throw blankets, gift wrap and pillows."
The effects of Hurricane Sandy compound the need to support local artists. "The most heart-breaking thing for us is how devastating the storm was for our community of artists, designers, galleries, small shops and independent business owners," says Rasula. "Our venue is in Chelsea's gallery district, which was destroyed by the storm. The area is packed with creative businesses and galleries who not only lost everything stored in their basements, but are now facing record-low numbers of tourists and visitors. The recovery process is going to be brutal. I really hope we can bring a lot of people to the area this weekend, not just to shop at Unique NYC, but to visit the galleries and surrounding area."
Center 548 flooded nearly six feet during the storm—it will now be held on the unscathed upper floors—posing significant challenges to producing the event, but Rasula maintains her focus. "Our mantra of helping grow and strengthen community, creativity and the local economy are now even more relevant. Buying an item that's been crafted locally, something that's made-in-America has such an amazing affect and is crucial for our economy to grow. When people come to Unique NYC this weekend I think they will be blown away with the quality and craftsmanship of our vendors, and quite simply, they'll feel good because they'll witness and be a part of a movement and community that is so filled with passion, care and love."
"If I can show someone great American design and production and help to open their eyes to the positive affect that spending money on locally made items has, then I've introduced them to the idea of 'conscious consumerism'. Hopefully they'll think twice when they see that a product isn't made in the USA," says Rasula.
Unique NYC runs 17-18 November 2012 at Center 548 in Chelsea. Ten percent of ticket sales will benefit World Up, an organization aimed at empowering kids by fusing hip-hop, technology and education. I Spy DIY will be leading craft sessions and workshops. For more information and the list of participating designers and artists check out Unique's website.