Founded in 2003, Artists & Fleas, a weekly marketplace of makers, sellers, and designers, has evolved from a simple storefront in Williamsburg to multiple locations across the country. They hosted a fun Sip & Style event on March 30 and kindly invited Greenpointers (that is to say, our publisher Julia and myself, the editor. Bonus points if you can spot us in the featured image).
Sip and Style hosted creators and influencers from YouTube in celebration of sustainable, up-cycled fashion. Vendors from Regeneration, Artists & Fleas’ vintage fashion offshoot, sold their wares. 12 Chairs catered the event, offering up delicious snacks like halloumi sandwiches and hummus with crudité.
We caught up with Artists & Fleas co-founder Ronen Glimer to learn more about Regeneration and what’s next for the brand.
Tell us about the launch of Regeneration.
Regeneration opened April 2021, so we’re just coming up on a year right now. Regeneration exists adjacent to our North 7th Williamsburg Artists & Fleas space, but is really designed to be exclusively a market dedicated to vintage, thrift, and preloved fashion, with more of an emphasis on nineties and Y2K point of view, as opposed to the fifties or the twenties.
One of the best analogies to give is whereas Artists & Fleas is akin to a real life Etsy, Regeneration is more likened to a real-life Depop. A bit more of a point of view, certainly in the vintage space, to era, style, and also a type of seller that might be a little bit newer to selling vintage, and also just might be a little bit more on the upswing, in terms of growing a business, a brand, an identity.
How did the pandemic impact Artist and Fleas, with the lack of in-person events for quite some time?
Our business is predicated on a few things. First and foremost, it’s really predicated on both sellers and shoppers who are interested in patronizing the types of marketplace and the physical environment that we create. Creating a marketplace that has energy and people and vibe and crowd is sort of antithetical to the early days of COVID.
It was certainly challenging. We closed the markets, and at a point in time, we had explored the possibility of going on-line and doing e-commerce, to give opportunities for our merchants and our community, but ultimately we thought the better of that. In part, because a lot of good folks already have existing online channels, and truth be told, it’s really just sort of not where our hearts were. We wanted to sort of focus on ways that we could re-open in a way that was both safe but also consistent with the sort of experience shoppers and sellers came to expect from artists and fleas. So we did re-open and sort of dipped our toe in the water in July of 2020, that was a little too soon. But we did re-open in the fall in time for the holiday season, taking into account the physical changes that needed to be made in terms of spatial configuration.
Top of mind for us was how do we ensure that there’s a fun experience and an energizing experience, from a collective perspective. We didn’t want you to walk in and all of a sudden be hit with “Tsk, tsk, don’t do this, don’t do that, this is what you need to do” because we felt like that was just gonna be a real sort of bummer and buzzkill to the experience. I’m happy to say that we were able to reopen. The economics changed, certainly. A lot of the sellers also changed, and that’s just sort of given the realities of people’s own journeys and where they ended up during the course of the pandemic.
We emerged from the pandemic energized and excited, and Regeneration is a testament to the creativity of our community, and our desire to embrace an opportunity and change. We’d always been doing vintage showcases within Artists & Fleas, one-off events or weekend events going back to 2014. But we wanted to create a home for vintage sellers in Williamsburg, and this was largely born of sort of what was going on in the marketplace, and what we were seeing, just in terms of people exploring more than just a side hustle, but actually wanting to pursue it in a more serious way. And as recently as last week, we’ve now opened Regeneration Thursdays through Sundays, so it doesn’t just function the same hours as Artists & Fleas, which continues to just be on weekends, but now also has Thursday and Friday as well.
Artists and Fleas will turn twenty years old next year. Any big plans for a birthday celebration, and any takeaways that you’re reflecting on with twenty years in the business?
In terms of events to celebrate and commemorate our twenty year anniversary, come back to us later on the other side of the summer. Right now, we’re really gearing up for expanding Regeneration, for some of the growth around our recent acquisition of Manhattan Vintage Show which opened this Friday and Saturday, as well as some new cities and locations for Artists & Fleas coming up. Some have already opened, and some will open in May and June.
Looking back on twenty years and sort of what Artists & Fleas stands for, fundamentally we believe that we exist, in many ways, to keep our cities interesting, to be a place where people can come together, can transact, can engage, can interact, can co-create, can discover one another. It’s a place where ideas get cross-pollinated, where trends are born, where fashion is discovered, and all of that happens in real life. In many ways, we see ourselves as an antidote to conventional retail, as well as being an antidote to online shopping, because when you walk into Artists & Fleas or a Manhattan Vintage Show you don’t necessarily know what you’re going to discover. And part of that is just the experience of crossing the threshold and being open to the experience.