Designers creating one-of-a-kind handmade products
How often do you ask yourself where your oranges and tomatoes come from? Do you ever wonder where on earth were the clothes you wear made, and how? I guess the meaning goes beyond a tag.
Living in San Francisco, we have come to fall in love with a counter culture of products that are basically opposite to the overwhelming fast-fashion merchandise at department stores. Most of us will rather focus on the people, fair trades and the crafts essential to the creation of things we eat and use every day.
Now, shopping is already exciting, but it gets so much better when you know that what you are buying is special. Now, imagine entering a store where every product sold is especially chosen because of the message behind it?
Treasure-hunt spot Gravel & Gold is one of these unique stores around the Mission district, where blankets, knives to hand dyed ties, funky jewelry and organic cotton clothes coexist in the same space.
You feel like visiting a funky friend’s house when coming into the corner store on 21st Street and Lexington – a naturally lit living room with rights to cozy sofa in the corner and wooden décor. The point is to hang out and discover what the charming, ‘70s looking place beholds. For instance, their charming wooden wall- and mosaic/tiled-dressing room transforms into a catering and bar station during dinner parties, and food–related workshops hosted at the store.
Random notes are also pasted on the walls besides products to remind us a bit of how merchandise, like belts, jams and leather sandals are made – by whom, and where. “A huge part of the shop is putting the emphasis on the makers themselves,” said manager Em Gift on a visit I did last week. That might explain not only the fact that they know their vendors personally, but the personalized space that each one is given inside the store, and in Gravelandgold.com – where a small profile and links to the brands’ own website can be found.
What we have here is a network of artists connected by Gravel & Gold. The store was founded in 2008 by friends Cassie McGettigan, Lisa Foti-Straus and Nile Nash. None of them had experience in fashion, or actually created pieces like the ones they feel proud to sell today, but it was a junction of similar sensibilities towards what goes on behind interesting products. “Where do you buy your socks, your soap, and who makes this leather bag?” were questions that came up regularly, making it a point to build a place – pet project – where unique, high-quality products, eco-friendly practices, fair trades, and some dinner parties here and there would link.
“An additional way to activate our emphasis on the creation of the products is to get makers to come in and host workshops,” said Em about the limited to 10-folks events that range from learning the art of pepper jelly, to how to craft leather pot-hangers for floating indoor gardens. “It’s just another way to sort of build a community around makers.” Great relationships, if not friendships have been the outcomes of these collaborations.
That’s where G&G’s newest endeavor falls in. They’ve started special product collabs with the likes of R.P. Miller Stripey Shirts from Pennsylvania, which translate into essential pieces that also carry a G&G tag. “Now we are also starting to produce our own stuff, and design textiles. – a new chapter of Gravel & Gold.” Canvas totes with leather handles, pillowcases, and interesting types of cotton and silk-wear, with exclusive boobies- and panda face prints, are highlights inside the store.
After a lot of traveling, shared interests, and opened mind and eyes, everything pretty much fell into place. “We care about things that are made with quality and distinction.” I guess we do, too.
Photos and text by Laura Acosta