Artists & Fleas began as a small market in Williamsburg with about 20 vendors. Fast forward 12 years, and the Williamsburg staple now has locations in Manhattan's Chelsea Market and, most recently, downtown L.A.
Amy Abrams and Ronen Glimer, the husband-and-wife team behind Artists & Fleas, said the highly successful shopping destination was born out of their love of shopping and personal connections to talented, emerging designers.
Artists & Fleas features a cool, curated selection of apparel, jewelry, accessories, vintage items and much more. We recently spoke with Abrams to learn more about the unique, indie designers she features at Artists & Fleas, what it's like working with her husband, her impressive vintage collection and more. Keep reading for our full interview, and learn more about Artists & Fleas here.
1. How did the idea for Artists & Fleas come about?
"My husband and partner, Ronen Glimer, and I have always loved markets. Throughout our travels around the world, visiting the local markets is always a highlight as it is really where you see the pulse of the country from a cultural, artistic point of view. Markets are sensory overload. From the colors, the smells, the sounds, it really is the heartbeat of a city. New York City had a few great markets that were closing in 2002 because their locations were being gentrified. We were living in Williamsburg, and we felt there was an opportunity to create a market that reflected the incredible artistic and emerging designer talent in the city that needed exposure. We wanted to create a market experience that encouraged discovery of new talent and amazing things and was a fun place to hang out. And we both love to shop!"
2. How do you discover the artists who sell at Artists & Fleas?
"Many artists and designers who sell at the market find us through visiting the market or through their friends who sell at the market. That being said, if we are ever in another city or country and we discover an artist or designer that we like, we invite them to participate. It has been really amazing to have talented vendors visit us from around the world!"
3. What do you look for in potential new vendors?
"We look for artists and designers that have a point of view and make something unique. In the case of our vintage vendors, we look for merchants that have a specific collection (era, style, etc). We want to have a variety of artists and designers so that when people come to shop, there is something for everyone. While we curate, we also want to leave it to the shoppers to respond to different styles. It is not about having a market filled with merchants who have products that I like, it is about having a diverse and interesting [offering] and new products for people to discover."
4. Artists & Fleas has been around for more than a decade — what do you think is the key to its success?
"Slow and steady growth, running a professional business and being nice. We started the market in Williamsburg one day a week with 20 vendors. Slowly we added a second day. Next we moved to a larger space with 45 vendors. Then we moved again to a space that showcases 100 vendors. We opened at Chelsea Market and offer a seven-day-a-week market experience. In terms of running a professional business, we have hired amazing staff and have fostered a culture of autonomy and recognition. We also respect and appreciate our merchants. We see the success of our market as a symbiotic relationship. We need one another to create an amazing experience where merchants can make a living and grow their businesses. Being nice goes a long way. Like any business that has a lot of interaction with many different types of personalities, you have to be able to understand others' perspectives."
5. What is your favorite part about your job?
"Running the business with my husband allows us to have autonomy over our time. We are able to spend a lot of time together as a family and travel. It is fun to build something together and really share in the success. Shopping at the market is another amazing benefit!"
6. What's it like running a business with your husband? Do you think it's more challenging than running it with someone else would be?
"Overall it is really fun. In many areas we have different skill sets (he is better at the day-to-day operations, and I am better at big picture and strategic thinking). In other ways (marketing and strategic partnerships) our skills overlap. We really like spending time together, and we are great friends, so I feel incredibly lucky."
7. We heard you have an amazing vintage collection — tell us about some of your favorite pieces.
"Most of my favorite pieces are items from the 1970s. I have a vintage Indian block-print caftan that I purchased at Gypsy Nation Vintage, and it is my most beloved vintage piece. It is various shades of red, maroon and pink (my favorite colors). I always travel with this dress as it can be worn on the beach or in a city. Another one of my favorite vintage finds is a Laize Adzer pink dress. It is the most gorgeous shade of pink and created in very lightweight wool. The dress is totally effortless and chic — generally the look I strive to achieve. Another favorite piece is a painted silk dress that was actually a bathrobe. The colors are magnificent. I feel like I am a walking sunset when I wear this dress. I also have a few vintage Judith Ann/Ritu Kumar silk Indian block-print dresses. This was an amazing collaboration in the 70s. People have been copying these dresses for years, but the originals are still the best!"
8. What tips do you have for new vintage shoppers? Any dos and don'ts?
"I say buy what you love. And have a good tailor in case you find something that you love that needs alterations. I think it also a good idea to do some research and have an idea of pricing if there are specific styles or pieces you are looking to purchase. Vintage is tricky in terms of pricing because it is really about scarcity. The best thing about vintage is that a good piece is truly one of a kind!"
9. You love to travel — where is your favorite place to visit and where is one place you'd still like to go to?
"My two favorite places to visit are Israel and India. They both have incredible market cultures. They both offer so much color and visual stimulation and great food too! There are so many places I want to visit (and return to). I am not sure I can just pick one place, so here are a few places I would like to get to next year: Peru, Mexico City, Odessa, Budapest and Berlin."
10. We love Artists & Fleas' Instagram — what tips do you have for taking great pictures like yours?
"We are so lucky that we have so many amazing products to feature! I think it is important to offer some variety and have a sense of humor. We love to showcase the beautiful products, but often it is fun to snap a photo that is a little unexpected and makes you laugh (see most of our puppy photos)."
11. Do you have plans to expand to any additional locations anytime soon?
"Maybe.... Stay tuned!"