October 22, 2012

Chicago Manual of Style: The looking-into-other-people's-home shopping network

Few would refute the claim that the U of C is not the fashion capital of the world. Now that’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of well-dressed people roaming the quads: In fact, I’ve seen more interesting fashion choices in the Reg than I have in the Loop. Even those who wouldn’t consider themselves fashion-conscious possess a certain style that is cool in that it is undeniably U of C (I’m thinking of the “oops, my shirt doesn’t match my pants because I finished my readings instead of looking at what I put on my body this morning” look). But I think we can all safely admit that the school is more interested in econ than chiffon.

However, two U of C alumni have broken out of this tendency against the trendy and introduced some phoenix into the fashion world: Claire Mazur (AB ’06) and Erica Cerulo (AB ’05) founded Of a Kind (, a half-blog, half-online shopping website that emphasizes the work of “on-the-rise fashion designers.” The website features one rising designer at a time, providing site-goers with the newcomer’s background story, as well as a piece (an article of jewelry or clothing, a bag, a box, a hat—anything, really) designed especially for Of a Kind. If you’re in the mood to spend, go right ahead: You can buy anything you see straight from the Web site. However, the site is packed with interesting bios, witty comments, and lovely photography, courtesy of Jamie Beck (please teach me your ways!), so even if you’re not ready to shell out 80 bucks for a cardholder, you’ll surely find something worth browsing.

According to the site biography, Mazur and Cerulo, who met as undergrads at the U of C in 2002 where they both participated in the Major Activities Board as well as several other RSOs, bonded over “an appreciation of fashion and a Tracy Flick-like approach to their extracurriculars.” The two moved to New York, and, after agreeing that they were tired of buying mass-produced items from faceless suppliers, decided to create an outlet for a more personal and informed type of shopping. Of a Kind was born.

“We find something thrilling about new designers,” the site reads, “because it’s so easy to see their personalities in the things they make—in experiencing their products and process, you get a strong sense of who they are and what they’re about.” On the Web site, you can browse through photos of the designers’ studios, their sketchbooks, their homes, their music collections, even their children. You can learn where the man who designed your sweater went to school, and where he met his wife, and where his favorite restaurant is. That is, you don’t just buy a necklace—you buy a necklace made by Peter and Phoebe, who met while doing homework at the Massachusetts College of Art. You don’t just snag a tote bag as you’re waiting in line—you pick one from Kyle Ng, who you already know has a taxidermy collection so big that it doesn’t fit in his house (they provide pictures, in case you’re interested). Of a Kind redefines home shopping—you’re not just shopping from home, you’re looking directly into the homes of the people who make the products, and this intimacy provides for an incredibly refreshing break from the norm of anonymous purchasing.

Recently named by PSFK as one of the “11 Startups Reshaping NYC’s Fashion Industry,” and previously featured on The Today Show and in W, Women’s Wear Daily, and the Los Angeles Times, Of a Kind is making quite the splash in the fashion world. And the founders came from our own questionably-clothed ranks. U of C might not be topping the fashion listings just yet, but it looks like we’re off to a good start thanks to the innovative ideas of two fellow phoenixes. If this keeps up, who knows—someday maroon may be the new black.