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The operation is a decidedly small one - the line's website has an honest plea for business ("please buy lots of stuff so I don't have to work a normal job"), and when designer/crafter Poon is on tour with her band Wet Confetti (LAS review), shipping of orders goes on hold until she returns home. Once back on task, Poon checks for online purchases via PayPal, wraps up the orders and sends them out herself.
Operating on a compact scale doesn't necessarily mean that Poon is at a disadvantage, however, as it leaves plenty of room for the intimate, hand-crafted quality that can make a small fashion startup into a successful business. After all, American Apparel didn't start out as a multi-million dollar international company. While Frozen Peas likely won't be opening a store in Zürich any time soon, Poon has been steadily networking with hip boutiques on both coasts to sell her products, as well as hooking up with cleverly titled online stores like The Small Craft Advisory and Fabric Junkie.
The brand's name has also been circulating amongst fashion tastemakers for the past few years; Frozen Peas wares have popped up in high-profile glossies like Nylon, Teen Vogue, Time Out New York, and as far afield as the Israeli magazine Alma. Not to mention the current issue of Playgirl (if you're shopping around, its the one with "Centerfold Robert" on the cover, "hot out of Houston"). LAS recently caught up with Poon to chat about getting her operation started, where her creatures' names come from, and if there are plans for any bro-tastic designs in the future.
LAS: I suppose that like any thorough interrogation we should start at the beginning - what prompted you to start making accessories? What was your first piece?
Alberta Poon: I started making jewelry about three years ago, when I was working at a clothing boutique that sold local designers' things. All the employees at the store kept saying, "I can do this." But no one ever did. So then one day, I think after seeing a local designer selling us some crap, and it selling to a customer, I knew I could practically make anything and that it would probably sell. But being the way that I am I would never make anything I wasn't really proud of. So the first thing I ever made to sell was reversible silk-screened unisex felt cuffs. A lot jammed pack into one product, I know.
Screen-printing can be truly addictive, but it is more of an obvious - for lack of a better word - avenue to print designs on t-shirts and other clothing. Shirt companies are a dime a dozen - what prompted you to use screen printing in the non-traditional way that you have?
I think it is because of exactly what you're saying. I didn't want to be like everyone else and screen t-shirts. So I just started getting all these funny ideas of how I could be original with the idea. And I just kept coming up with more and more weird ideas and people seem to really like them, so I guess it's not that weird.
I'm curious as to how the earrings and necklaces are made - do you have the wooden hearts made somewhere, or do you create those forms yourself as well? I've screen printed on some small things before, but never a one and a half-inch wide wooden heart shape... How difficult is that process?
I get asked about how I can screen such detailed things on such small surfaces all the time. Because if you're familiar with the process its really difficult to be that detailed. I guess my OCD helps in that aspect. And I get my supplies from all sorts of different places and suppliers.
|Frozen Peas proprietor Alberta Poon, with her "Bird/Horse" necklace.|
What have some of the stops along the learning curve entailed? Was it a trial and error process, or did things come together fairly smoothly?
Surprisingly things have been pretty smooth. My latest designs, that aren't done yet, are what I'm having the most problems with. I'm working with a laser cutter and some of my designs are too detailed for the laser to handle, so I've had to adjust and readjust a lot of little things.
There are a number of cute forest creatures in your iconographic collection - fox, deer, bird, squirrel - but there are some more exotic animals as well - whale, unicorn, elephant. What is the criteria, and where do their names come from?
The only criteria I require is cuteness. The pieces are all named after friends.
Your line features a lot of lovely, soft, cute and cuddly designs for the ladies - any plans to cut the garçons in on the action with some flaming skulls or cobra prints?
Actually, you'd be surprised at how many boys purchase and wear my accessories. The wallets especially, but even pins too. I think if I were to make a skull or cobra I'd still make it so cute that it wouldn't be all that boy friendly in the outcome.
Much like the music business, distribution is key with apparel and accessories as well. How have you gone about connecting with online and traditional shops and boutiques to carry your line?
At first I contacted all the local Portland stores that I thought my stuff would fit in, then I contacted a few stores in New York and everyone I contacted pick up my line. From there stores started finding me, then my stuff would get blogged about, which would then lead to a big write up in a magazine. And here I am today getting interviewed in LAS!
So, when you started making things, did you anticipate a magazine write up in Hebrew?
Never, and I still don't even know what it says. Hope its good. I also didn't expect Playgirl to feature my stuff! That's right, you heard me - my "Oddball Pony" is in the current July issue.
Your site mentions a selection of new products you're working on - what does Frozen Peas have up its crafty sleeve for the future?
I have been working with a Danish designer named Anders who does fantastic designs that are right up my alley. So for the first time ever I will have collaborated with someone else for a Frozen Peas design. I'm really excited about the new stuff and can't wait to finally get it out there! SEE ALSO: www.frozenpeasaccessories.com
Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.
See other articles by Eric J Herboth.
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