Yasmin Keshmiri Hejduk opened Gallery by Minty Concept Club in Prague less than a year ago and already it's become the city's go-to destination as an experiential retail and gallery. "Gallery is a space where people meet, browse through new magazines and enjoy a more social setting to find goodies within the heart of Prague," Hejduk says. "Gallery combines the cool aesthetic of Scandinavian design with friendly charm, creating a modern vibe and opportunity to discover a new world." She is kept busy moving a constant rotation of clothes and accessories through the front of the shop while planning the next big pop-up event in the back, but after a well-earned vacation she sat down to tell us the story behind Minty.
You opened Minty in September, 2011. What did you do before that? What led you to create an art/retail space?
I met my husband in 2002 in Prague when I came over to shoot a commercial. Having worked in the film industry for years in London and then running a Production Company in Prague gave me a real taste for creative activities. Though I'm a producer, I still felt that it was a creative job—you certainly have to be creative with money!
After having my two sons, I wanted to branch out in a different way and decided to set up Minty Concept Club as a creative studio/experiential agency. Minty became big in Prague due to the number of pop-up projects we executed and we soon got a reputation as a company that brings a real creative edge to commercial projects. It was a natural progression to find a space that can give us the opportunity to continue.
What were your goals for Gallery when you first started out? What kind of role did you see yourself playing in the community?
The goal of Gallery was to bring lifestyle and trend-inspired projects to Prague while collaborating with young designers and artists. We really try to promote the people we have collaborated with. For example, we worked with Veronika Jirouskova on our set direction, Lenka Mikova, who designed the Gallery furniture and Veronika Vlkova for graphics and the murals on the walls. Hopefully, through these creative yet commercial projects, they can build a good portfolio for the future and we are proud to be part of that success.
Can you tell me a bit more about how Minty splits its functions as both a gallery and a retail space? Is it common for people to visit and just look at the items for sale like objects of art, or to sit in a chair and read one of the magazines without browsing the clothes or other items for sale?
Absolutely. Gallery is all about creating an atmosphere within which we sell what we love, and the space almost acts as a mood board for Minty's creative activities. The layout is perfect for what we're about. The front is a more commercial shop with jewelry, one-off designer collections, magazines and emotive objects. The middle is a reading room and the back is an empty white space for exhibitions and instillations. I think the reason we're receiving such positive feedback is because we're more than a shop or a gallery. Gallery is based in Prague, but I think a space like this sits very well in any cosmopolitan city that has a thirst for beauty and inspiration.
How does Minty's neighborly vibe shape the way it functions in the community?
We are just off of Old Town Square and Parizska, and as much as we welcome passers-by we do not rely on the tourist trade. There's always something happening and Gallery is becoming a sort of creative hang out. This is very important to the function of Gallery as our visitors are contemporary, fashion conscious and open minded individuals who add a very unique vibe to the neighborhood.
Does the space become a more "normal" storefront in between pop-up exhibitions, or is it always in a state of constant exhibition, moving straight from one show to the next?
The space changes all the time. It all depends on the timing of our own projects, collaborations or exhibitions, which can last a few days to a month. We try to keep things different and fresh from merchandising and swapping the space around. The spaces have had dramatic changes from the Rocka Billy Tattoo Parlour for Zoe and Morgan, to a Black Forest designed by Igor Hosnedl. Even in between projects there's something new to see, a new brand we're launching or new collection arrivals. Some people even come in just to hear what music we are playing!
Can you talk a bit about your current exhibition, "Melt Your Cold Cold Heart?"
"Melt Your Cold Cold Heart" was a collaboration with design duo Rozbijim Se and Photographer Ladislav Babusak. We produced 14 limited edition Valentine's chocolate photo packaged keepsakes. Within the project we created a glass instillation which had tasting stations with crystal water glasses. And finally in the back we created a black box with only a photograph lit, where the visitors sampled the chocolate in a more intense setting. It was a very fragile and personal experience that really enhanced the chocolate's unique taste and the individual's bond to the setting.
What we can expect to see from you in the coming months?
We have lots of lovely exhibitions planned. We're working with one of our favorite photographers, Bet Orten, and the indie music band, Please the Trees. Gallery has many possibilities. We love to continue to work with chocolate and branch out into coffee. I would like to say there is a really great coffee shop in the centre of Prague but sadly so far there's not. There are many lovely spaces like Sucr Kava Limonada or Cafe Louvre, but the coffee quality is falling behind other cities, so you can imagine what's next on Minty's agenda!