Three textile-based designers are hoping to change Pittsburgh’s retail scene by offering a storefront shop where local makers can sell, showcase and create their work.
Make + Matter will open late this summer in a 1,200-square-foot space at 3711 Butler Street in Lawrenceville, featuring four to six new designers each month who will have the chance to sell products ranging from clothing to home goods to accessories.
“We’re hoping to enrich the local ecosystem of makers here,” says partner/collaborator Rona Chang of Otto Finn LLC. “This is a component that normally you would never have.”
Make + Matter’s three partners — Rebekah Joy of Flux Bene LLC, Kelly Simpson-Scupelli of Kelly Lane Design and Chang — will create their own designs in the rear of the shop and feature their own products permanently. All three focus on ethically made, sustainable designs.
Joy is looking forward to customers being able to “see us actually cutting things and sewing things and then putting things out on the floor,” she says, and letting those customers “see the entire process.”
The idea for the collaborative space, which combines all the best elements of a pop-up shop and a market to give designers a chance to sell their work in a prominent setting, was the brainchild of Simpson-Scupelli.
The three women connected through Monmade, bonding over their sustainable designs, which for Simpson-Scupelli means using vibrant, all organic wares for women, kids and the home. As a graphic designer, she creates custom prints for her line.
Chang, whose designs include items for kids and babies, is focusing on home goods at the moment. Her work includes biodegradable, washable paper storage buckets printed with water-based ink.
Joy, who opened a studio in 2012 and did custom work until last year, uses only reclaimed fabric for her Flux Bene line, which is made with zero waste.
Their creations are unique and they have varying levels of experience (Simpson-Scupelli has been in business for nearly a decade). But all three share a love of sewing and art, as well as a common commitment to the environment.
The women all have featured their work at pop-up markets, which involve lugging boxes of products at early hours to set up (in Chang’s case, with a baby in tow). They’re glad Make + Matter can offer a less exhausting option for its visiting designers.
Here’s how it will work: Designers don’t have to be present in the store while their products are being sold. After paying a fee to the store, they will keep 100 percent of their profits. (Fees will begin at $550 a month for August, September and October. The plan is for them to rise to $750 for November, then to $850 for the December holiday shopping season.)
At a meet-and-greet event each month, designers and their combined audiences can connect. Designers also are encouraged to come once a week to the store, since many shoppers like to meet designers in person. Those times will be announced via social media.
Through the meet-and-greet events, designers can meet and talk with new clients and hopefully grow their business, while customers “get to meet the artists who are making the product,” Joy says. “I’m hoping for a lot of connections to be made.”
Visiting designers can stay for one to three months which means customers will regularly find new surprises.
“They’ll be able to have stuff in the windows which I think is a big bonus,” Chang says. Even before the shop opened for a pop-up sale last weekend, customers who were driving by said they wanted to know when they could buy items they saw in the storefront window.
The location and the foot traffic it can provide was one reason the partners chose Lawrenceville. The other reason? The neighborhood is home for Chang and Simpson-Scupelli, while Joy lives nearby in Bloomfield.