Local Collection, a retail boutique, opened over the summer in the Faneuil Hall Marketplace (South Market Building, #2135, Boston, 617-722-4310 Facebook page). This eclectic shop features an array of 30 different designers and artists of apparel, accessories and jewelry, home decor, beauty products and more.

All of the designers or artists are local to the Boston area. Local Collection features about 30 different vendors and artists. The Arts and Business Council had sent out an email invitation to local merchants in the area, as well as scoutings that took place at the SOWA markets and Downtown Crossing Art Fridays. In February 2009, there was an open-house informational session, followed by an application process and juried selection process.

The artists sign a year-long contract with the venue, and at the end of the term, receive an evaluation. Katie Kurtz, director of Local Collection, is hoping to rotate the artists and vendors; however, by no means does she want to “turn people away” that are doing well at the venue. She hopes what Local Collection will do is support the artist until they grow enough outside the store to support themselves and their brand. The company is always looking for new talent.

While Kurtz is based in Chicago, she felt even with its supportive art community, there just was not a venue to feature artists in the way she envisioned. She liked Faneuil Hall originally, but opened the first store in more of a mall setting in Glensdale, Calif. (near L.A.). Business there has since been successful, that the Boston location soon followed.

Kurtz feels that so many artists “have a great line, but no funds to get their product out.” Local Collection provides the venue and space, as well as staff and “day-to-day operations” of running a store, to allow artists/designers to feature their products and get their names out there.”

This return to supporting local artists is also a celebration for some green practices. A beauty-product line by Tseh-Hwon Yong, Threla infuses science, beauty, and eco-friendly ingredients. While working as a MIT researcher, Yong—a beauty-product devotee—discovered that a lot of the same ingredients she was working with could be found in beauty products. Wanting to create a beauty product that was not only safe and effective, but also included meaningful ingredients, she set off to create a line of lotions, soaps, candles, and other products (all vegan-friendly, except for the lip-balm which contains beeswax). Prices are reasonable for a local merchant ($3.50 for lip-balms to $20 for a facial set).

Since being featured at Local Collection, this beauty guru has found the experience to be “better than expected,” especially at a location which is just too hard to beat.

“For someone just starting off, this is a great opportunity,” Yong said. “I feel that people do appreciate locally made things—not just tourists— [Boston is] starting to support homegrown businesses and artists.”

Dina Carducci of Dina Designs, heartily agrees, saying the experience has been “hugely beneficial and very successful.” She acknowledged that when she was doing shows at either Downtown Crossing Art Fridays or at the SOWA markets, there would be times when her inventory would be packed away in boxes for weeks or even months. However, at Local Collection, her work is “on display, seven days a week,” and that she can now get her work out there.

Dina Designs is some womenswear, but mostly accessory designs. Carducci started two years ago, and her head pieces can range from simple, everyday wear ($20-35), to very elaborate, 1940s-inspired head pieces ($120).

Carducci points out the support the artists and designers are given by the company.

“They’re such a great company, such huge supporters.”

Jennifer Sheehan, designer of the handbag line called Genevieve Boston finds the support from the company reassuring and encouraging. “They are working to sell the goods for me; my success is also their success.” The company, Sheehan states, is working intensely to get the artist and designers the exposure, and their interests lie in promoting the designers as individuals, not as a business.

Genevieve Boston handbags range from $60-245, for both everyday and special occasion. “For me,” Sheehan said, “It has always been about the individual consumer, whether selling to a bridal party, a birthday, or any special occasion. I mean, I use my bags everyday, so they can be for everyday situations, too and not just luxury, but just a fun accessory.”

She thinks local Bostonians will be receptive of the boutique if they are aware of it, especially acknowledging the trend towards supporting local designers and artists, and that in the past, these grass-roots markets have been successful.

For Ideologie Organic take sustainability to another level. Developed two years ago by a group of Suffolk entrepreneurs, the idea to create an organic T-shirt company originated from a social movement about spreading “positive messages of education, philosophy, art, love and poetry,” as founder Mark Grignon described. They have already started their second collection, which features hoodies, tanks, and t-shirts ($40).

The company is already sold nationwide from Miami to NYC, however, breaking into the Boston fashion industry has been “tough for us.” Being featured at a downtown location has been, as Grignon said, “big for us,” especially since all their artists, friends, and supporters are Boston-based “we now have a place to send them to.”

Grignon also points out that one of the best aspects of Local Collection is that it’s not just a clothing store. Local Collection has an upstairs space that will be opened for art shows or future workshops and classes. On May 13, Ideologie Organic promoted an art show of some of their artists.

Kurtz says that the idea to feature classes and workshops at the store has received great responses, “Like, ‘How exciting! It would be really fun and different to really involve the store with its customers!’”

“This was huge for us. And it went really well,” Grignon said. “These students or interns as art students have a hart time getting noticed, or getting their artwork out there, and here they were featured at Faneiul Hall. It was great exposure, it was free exposure for them, and it was our way of giving back to them.”

Iris Sonnenschein of Iris Quilts enjoys the exposure that she is getting from being one of the vendors at Local Collection.

“It gives an opportunity to show my work to a wide range of people. Tourists, but not just from the New England area, but from around the world,” she said.

The experience for her has been really fun and she has since received more hits on her website as well as good responses.

“And it’s such an eclectic collection, a little bit of everything,” Sonnenschein said of Local Collection’s array of merchandise and products. Her own works include wall quilts ($200-2,000) and silk scarves. Her interest in quilting began twenty years ago with a traditional quilting class that met every single month. Since then, the group of women still meets for monthly sessions.

Jennaca Davies of Jennaca Davies Design Studio, loves how original the concept of the shop is, and the way that they promote themselves.

“For me, this is something new and an interesting way to market my jewelry to a broader audience. And is especially exciting because Faneuil Hall is such a busy marketplace…I thought it would be an unique opportunity for me to show my handmade work in a midst of a marketplace where many items are manufactured overseas in mass-production—All of my work is handmade by me in my studio in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.”

Davies jewelry includes silver pieces ($50-150), and one-of-the-kind pieces (like intricate and exquisite paper and enamel designs) at $200-500.

“The store only recently opened on May first, so I am not exactly sure how sales are going, but I do hear that my work is getting great responses and compliments—so that is really great!” Davies admits. However, “I’m optimistic that this is going to be a great thing for me as an artist!”

Because Local Collection in Boston is so new, artists have not yet had time to gauge how business will go for them. The Local Collection in California opened only last fall, so the concept of bringing local merchants and designers into a space like the boutique is still in its early stages.

Maggie Carberry, a jewelry designer and painter had found out about the “Call for Artists” through an email invitation from the Arts and Business Council about an information session on Local Collection.

“I attended the session, liked what I heard, and decided to go for it,” she said. “So far the experience has been wonderful. I haven’t made enough sales to quit my day job,” Carberry also works as a teacher, “but traffic to my website has increased exponentially. It’s really hard to judge because the store is so new and the tourist season has barely started,” however, “One reason it is great for me as an artist is that I have control over my prices and inventory. I can experiment with the market without investing too much financially.”

Maggie Carberry features a variety of work in the store, such as note-cards ($7), jewelry ($40-140), and her mixed-media paintings ($700).

One of the best aspects Carberry finds in Local Collection is that, “Someone is there selling my work seven days a week, which allows me more time to create it.”

Artists and designers pay a nominal rental fee for the space, and after a certain dollar amount that sells, they get a percentage back. Since online selling is difficult, as Mark Grignon of Ideologie Organic explains, working through Local Collection, who sells it and the artists or designers get “one-hundred percent back, it’s a unique arrangement,” that seems to be working.

Dina Carducci of Ducci Designs admits that it was a risk, but to have her work on display seven days a week like Carberry pointed out, made it a very sensible gamble. And with the idea of buying local becoming trendier (and not to mention the great Faneuil Hall location), Local Collection works, and will continue to work.

Sally Vetstein of Sweet Tots is happy with the success and sales so far, but says, “It’s a new store, so you don’t really know what’s coming. But the trial month has been definitely good.”

Vetstein sells childrenswear ($20-45), like infant sun-protective clothes, “which block out one-hundred percent of UV light;” a very popular seller for the Sweet Tots line.

The artist began two years ago by creating clothes for her first granddaughter. Dissatisfied with the patterns that did not have the right sizes or finishes that were not-ready-to-wear, Vetstein wanted to have a line of infant and children’s clothes that looked like they came from a fine children’s clothing store, but not at the price. Since then, the company has taken on a life of its own.

She finds the setting at Faneul Hall great “because you have a lot of tourists,” as well as local Bostonians. She feels having such a diverse group of customers will allow her to feel out better designs for clothing styles and get a better marketing sense of what is selling as an impulse purchase verses a gift purchase.”

Faneuil Hall Marketplace is located near the historic Faneuil Hall, financial district, the waterfront, the North End, Government Center and Haymarket, and only a five-minute walk to the New England Aquarium, The Children’s Museum, The Old State House, and Paul Revere’s House. And only ten-fifteen The New State House, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Public Garden, Old North Church, The USS Constitution, and Fenway Park.

The Faneuil Hall Marketplace features more than 75 shops, and a variety of food venues. Street parking is available, as well as public transportation (Blue line to Aquarium/Faneuil Hall, Green line to Government Center, or Orange line to State Street).

Local Collection is open from Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and on Sundays from noon to 8 p.m.

About The Author

Lee Hershey is Boston-based a fashion model who aspires to be a fashion journalist. She is a recent French and English Literature graduate of Simmons College. She recently started the clothing line lee.lin. She has also contributed to New England Films Magazine.

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