Volume 17, Number 40 | February 25 - March 3, 2005

Downtown Express photo by Robert Stolarik

The Market NYC, where young designers sell their creations, is open every Saturday at St. Patrick’s Church gym on Mulberry St.

Church doubles as fashion market for upstart designers

By Amanda Kwan

Fashionistas on a budget looking for one-of-a-kind clothes and accessories are sure to find that unique something at the youth center in the back of St. Patrick’s Church on Mulberry St. — as long as they show up on Saturdays.

That’s when the gym at 268 Mulberry St. becomes a young designer’s market and is packed with eight long rows of tables — two designers or companies seated at each — in a brightly lit loft space pumping with loud pop music.

The Market NYC (www.themarketnyc.com) is the brainchild of Alex Pabon, 28, and Nicolas Petral, 37, who came up with the idea while peddling Petral’s clothing at the city’s flea markets. “We were selling at the flea markets and got the idea to create a market for designers to sell,” Pabon said.

The Saturday market is free to the public and is open from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. It gives space to young designers for $80 a day so they can showcase their work in one place to shoppers. Prices for items at the market range from $10 for a pair of gold-lacquer earrings to $300 for a reversible capelet made from a vintage alpaca coat and silk-panne velvet. “We don’t want someone selling something here that anyone can get on Mott St. or that looks like everything else out there,” Pabon said. “We tell vendors who sell mass-produced items that they can’t sell here anymore.”

“Every time I come here, there’s always something new,” said Vivian Cheung, a 24-year-old shopper from Rego Park. “I like to come here and look at the jewelry.”

Kareen Smith, a fashion designer in her 20’s who has done freelance work for Gap and JC Penney Co. Inc, thinks cash-strapped students can get more for their money here. “People don’t realize they are paying for cheap labor when they buy from a chain store. Mass production is cheap labor,” Smith said, the volume of her voice rising as she spoke. “For most people, especially students, $100 seems like a lot, but would you rather go spend $100 on something you’ll get tired of?”

Designers like the camaraderie of the market. “It’s a great social event. You’re with like-minded people,” said Brian Bailey, a 35-year-old jewelry maker, of the market’s designer-friendly atmosphere. Bailey’s company, I Love My BuBu (www.ilovemybubu.com), specializes in fine jewelry that mixes pearls with gemstones, such as a $35 sterling silver necklace with pink freshwater pearls and a briolette-cut natural rose quartz pendant.

Bailey, who owns a marketing company and started designing jewelry as a hobby, hopes he and his business partner, Dexter Julius, a 27-year-old graphic designer, eventually can make jewelry full time. “It’s affirmation; it’s being appreciated for your art,” Bailey said.

For others, the market is a temporary space for a budding idea. Mahasin Mumin, 23, and her business partner Michelle Haskins, 27, make enough jewelry to sell only at the market for their company, Chi Lovenergy. “We sell wholesale to an online boutique, but right now this market is all we have time to make for,” said Haskins, a sales associate at a boutique in the city. Haskin’s Chi Lovenergy pieces are among the lower-priced accessories at the market, with prices that start at $12 and make their table a popular stop for customers.

Their most expensive piece is a $150 14-karat gold-wrapped sterling silver chain with citrine stones and raw rubies.

For the most part, designers said they usually come away with a profit at the end of the day. Citing springtime and Christmas as his best-selling seasons, Bailey said, “we’ve never lost money here.”

Not everyone is so lucky. “Some days you don’t make enough money,” Smith said, adding that she will probably lose money this Saturday because the cold weather keeps shoppers away. “It’s a good place to showcase. Boutiques come in. They pick up the line.”

Smith herself is an example of finding success through the market. Her line, Kareen Smith, is available for public sale only at the market while she sells wholesale to the Venisacc boutique in Miami and the Hempest boutique in Boston. However, Smith prefers her market business.

“The things I sell to the market are one or two-of-a-kind,” Smith said. “But here, you’re buying quality, creativity and helping out young designers. And [you’re buying] a piece that you won’t see anywhere.”

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