|Show Offs: Erica Cerulo and Claire Mazur|
KOB: How and where EXACTLY did you guys meet and how did you know it would be a lasting friendship?
ERICA: We met at Bartlett Dining Commons at University of Chicago in 2002, at a table in the way back. How’s that for exact? A mutual frenemy—that’s really oversimplifying, but it would require about 3,000 words to explain that relationship—introduced us because Claire was dating a basketball player, and I had dated a basketball player my freshman year. So I had experience, or something. Also, it’s important to note that these were Division III athletes, so we weren’t in it for the chance that we’d become NBA WAGs.
|Their First Date|
KOB: What college did you go to?
CLAIRE: University of Chicago. They sell t-shirts at the bookstore that say "University of Chicago: Where Fun Comes to Die." The other motto is "Where the squirrels are cuter than the girls." Honestly, though? We love it so hard and are total geeks about it.
KOB: What were your jobs at the "concert production company" and were they real jobs?
CLAIRE: Erica was the chair. Two years in a row. It was unprecedented, really, for someone who was not a 4th year to be promoted to that position. But she did it. She was great at it. I was Volunteer Coordinator and decidedly terrible at it, but I also had a car which meant that I got to drive the talent around. I wasn’t good at that job either because I’m a dangerously bad driver, but I can be charming so I think that made up for it. I had some really special car rides with Rufus Wainwright, Mitch Hedberg, and the dudes from Jurassic 5.
And no, these were not real jobs. They were the furthest thing from real jobs you can imagine.
Bonus fun fact because I can’t find the picture of that sign: At one point Erica started dating someone else involved in the organization, and she was really concerned about the conflict of interest. As in: almost didn’t date him because of it. But, also: they’re still dating now.
KOB: Who did I meet before? Was I nice? God I hope so. And if the answer is yes, how did you remember me? I hope it was my name cause I have been trying to brand strangers brains with a sing song name for too long.
CLAIRE: You met me! Yes, you were really nice. That's your gig, right? Being super sweet?* We met at the Gen Art New Garde show that they did at the old "Tunnel" space. I obviously remember your name but I also remember that everybody was really excited to see you. I guess you used to work in the NY office and had moved to Chicago or LA?** So everyone was all, "oh Kelly's coming back! Kelly’s coming!" You lived up to the hype.
|I was told this was a costume party.....right.|
KOB: We (clearly) share the same obsession for emerging artists, whatwiththegenarttiesandall. Are you married to emerging designers or do you welcome any brands to work with you? (P.S. I won't believe you if you say NO.)
CLAIRE: We love working with emerging designers because they’re at such an exciting point in their careers and they’re usually designing for themselves and their friends, so you can see their personalities directly translated in their aesthetic. It works well for our model because we tell their stories and you can see those stories played out so literally in the products we sell from them.
Right now we’re focused on the emerging design community but who knows how we’ll grow a year or five years from now--there are so many options for expanding the business which is one of the reasons it’s so exciting. I think we’re definitely open to working with bigger brands, but it would have to happen in a way that feels consistent with our goals and right for the model. We’re pretty intent on not rushing into anything just for the sake of it.
KOB: How far ahead have you secured designers? It seems like a HELLA lot of work.
Claire: It is a lot of work, but also so much fun, because we end up getting to know all of these designers really well and feeling really affectionate towards them. They’re all kooks in their own special ways, and so are we, so it’s perfect. Each week brings a different product and personality to show off and a different audience to market it to, so it never gets boring.
In terms of how far ahead we have stuff secured--we have some products secured for March and April because certain designers need to plan that far ahead if they’re doing their production overseas--but we’re still filling in some slots before then too. Every designer has different productions methods and time lines so we have to work around it all--put together a puzzle based on when and what people can deliver. It’s a bit of a circus in that way.
KOB: What do you LOVE about the other one?
ERICA: I love that Claire is really excitable. Like, there is jumping around and squealing at times, and you really need that the stay motivated and to remind yourself why you’re doing this. Also, she will talk to anyone. No, really, anyone. I am overly conscientious at times and worry about bothering people, but she will walk up to someone and say, “Hi, we just started this company...”
CLAIRE: Erica is ridiculously on top of things in a pretty calm and collected way. She's got her shit together. You’ll see below that this is also is my not-favorite thing about her, but in a business partner it is stellar. When I get in that mode where I’m anxious and convinced I'm forgetting something important, all I need is for her to tell me I'm not, and I trust her. I also trust that if I am forgetting something, she’ll remind me.
|On Sale Today: All Knitwear for ofakind. Only 20 available. Giddyup.|
KOB: What do you HATE about the other?
E: Sometimes Claire second-guesses things and wonders, “Should we do this? Is it too late to change that?” Once I make up my mind, I move on, and so it’s actually really good that we can balance each other out—that she can reconsider things and that I can say, “Ok, we’ve got to let it go.”
C: Okay, so this is hard to answer, because all these pansey people we work with are into this “hate-is-a-strong-word-do-you-really-mean-it” vibe, and it’s seeping into my veins. So I’m just going to say that the thing that drives me crazy about Erica is that she is the type of person who has 4 cheese-grater-pasta-server-in-ones stored in her closet on the off-chance that she has a housewarming party to go to and is without a gift. And she sent hand-written thank you cards via real mail, even in college, when most people could barely get it together to change out of pajamas for class. It’s all well and good until you start to wonder if she’s holding you to the same standards that she holds herself to and that’s a pretty dangerous path to go down.
KOB: What roles do each of you play?
E: In short, Claire handles the retail, and I cover the editorial. But, I mean, the two of us are the only people working on this full-time, so we basically do everything—including things we never knew would be part of the process, like getting in touch with our payment gateway about processing American Express gift cards.
C: Also, I play the lunatic.
KOB: Are you besties?
E: We are—though I think we’re both past the point/age of calling anyone a best friend. But, besties, yes! The hard thing now is finding time to hang out when we don’t talk about work. Ok, so that has basically not happened since August! But it’s such a huge thing to have the relationship we do—I’ve known Claire’s fam since we were like 20, and Claire has been pals with my boyfriend since before we started dating.Editors Note: You are never too old for a best friend.
KOB: Am I annoying?
E: NO! You are adorbs. Cross my heart, hope to die.
KOB: Any former Gen Art Alumni on the horizon?
E: Actually, the first designer we ever talked to about Of a Kind was Melissa Coker of Wren. We knew nothing. Is it possible to know less than nothing? If so, that was us. She was ridiculously sweet and helpful, and hopefully we’ll be doing an edition with here soon—right now we’re taking our time getting into apparel because of the issues with sizing.
KOB: If I made custom Kleenex boxes would you buy them? (see this post ). I think I am on to somethin'.
E: We would totally buy them, and we would help you get the word out, too. Actually, you should talk to designers who create their own textiles like Dusen Dusen, Mociun, and Mary Meyer—that would be some next-level facial tissue.
** Nope, just plain ole captivating I guess.