On May 15, 16, and 18 in New York, GRAY and Totokaelo hosted a series of live conversations with industry leaders—designer Jonathan Nesci, ceramist Simone Bodmer Turner, and Noguchi Museum senior curator Dakin Hart—at the fashion retailer’s shop on 61 Crosby street.
GRAY’s Tiffany Jow, led each talk, which focused on a commissioned project each individual created for Totokaelo as well as the ideas and processes behind it. “Totokaelo has always celebrated design and included design objects in its offerings,” says Totokaelo’s VP of Brand and Marketing, Fanny Damiette. “It’s in the DNA of the brand and is a natural extension of fashion. Showcasing our support for emerging and established designers during NYCxDesign with GRAY, another Seattle-born design-focused entity, allowed us to explore design and connect with a broader audience in a new, meaningful way.”
“As GRAY expands its coverage to the global design landscape, it is important for us to have an authentic, relevant presence at marquee festivals like NYCxDesign,” Jow says. “Totokaelo’s heartfelt dedication to design is evident throughout its New York and Seattle stores, and we have a shared interest in elevating the work of creatives who are shaping the industry. Based on the strong attendance and engagement at all three talks, our audiences are interested in learning more about design, too. We couldn’t be happier with the reception of this project.”
Nesci, who created a line of multifunctional tables called PHI for the store (that installed them at its center to display handbags, clothing, and accessories), kicked off the conversation series on May 15. “What was great about the commission was that I received a design brief from Totokaelo with what it should do, how many objects it should hold, but then [it] let me be free to do me work. It is rare to have the freedom to solve the problem on your own without interference,” Nesci said. “Thinking about the tables as a modular system that could be a lot of things. There are three different sizes—a square, a rectangle, and a small rectangle where the edges are all the length of each one, so together they can match up. They’re also reversible, where they become a tray table by flipping the leg.”
Bodmer Turner developed a collection of sculptural ceramic objects that was on view throughout Totokaelo, including a back-of-store installation, which served as the backdrop for each talk. “Totokaelo was one of my first wholesale accounts,” Bodmer Turner said during the conversation on May 16, noting how her latest line for the fashion retailer allowed her to explore something that had been on her mind for some time. “I am very interested in challenging myself in [creating] non-functional [work]. The first two pieces in the new collection I created for Totokaelo have caverns, and the rest do not.”
The Long Island City-based Noguchi Museum created an installation of Akari—the paper, bamboo, and metal light sculptures made by sculptor Isamu Noguchi—at the front of Totokaelo; Akari is currently available to purchase through the retailer in-store and online. On May 18, Hart described the significance of the installation, which was part of a recently closed exhibition at the institution, in the context of a fashion shop. “This is incredibly appropriate because the cloud we did at the Noguchi Museum was inspired by the ones that he made for Bloomingdale’s. Because for about a decade in the 1970s, Bloomingdale’s was an important Akari retailer. So Noguchi made a cloud there as part of an overall retail installation, and that was the way that many New Yorkers were introduced to Akari. It’s nice poetry to bring it all around.”
Each event featured a signature cocktail created by Glyph, a new San Francisco–based whiskey brand. Visitors enjoyed the drink and shopped before and after each talk.