Fashion, Forward

Fashion, Forward

Erica Cerulo and Claire Mazur

Erica Cerulo (left) and Claire Mazur founded Of a Kind. Photo: Ann Street Studio

In an era of mass retailers, many fashion lovers seek unique designer pieces – but finding them is another matter. Enter Of a Kind. Created by Claire Mazur and Erica Cerulo, the online boutique features limited editions of jewelry, handbags, and clothing, along with housewares, created by up-and-coming designers, with an emphasis on handcrafted and small-batch goods.

The pair met as undergrads at the University of Chicago in 2002. Both moved to New York City, and they remained friends as Mazur navigated the art world and Cerulo worked in magazines. In 2010, the duo combined their talents to create Of a Kind. The idea has since evolved to include three or four weekly “editions” and to offer a platform for featured designers to sell their full collections. Presenting carefully curated selections and rich insider details about each designer, Cerulo and Mazur use their stylish concept to champion fashion’s promising new talents.

Why artisan fashion designers?
Cerulo: Ultimately, we both just really like fashion. Early on in our friendship, we bonded over discovering under-the-radar fashion designers and lines at boutiques in Bucktown or Wicker Park in Chicago, and later on, the Lower East Side in New York City.

What is it about these smaller, emerging designers that appeals to your customers?
Mazur: There’s a real thrill of discovery that comes with feeling like you’re one of the first to support a designer – that sense that you’re the early adopter and you’ve found something new. Beyond that, you feel like you’re really getting to know these artisans and supporting someone. If it’s just one person making this thing in their studio in Williamsburg, there’s a very different feeling about that piece than something that may have been made in a factory overseas.

Cerulo: This movement toward handmade things and small-batch pieces is something we’ve watched evolve since we started. Our audience, who five years ago would have been pretty comfortable shopping at H&M and Zara, I think is now less so; they’re more interested in knowing where and how the pieces they buy were made and feeling good about them. They would rather have fewer things and have a really positive connection with them.

Was there an “aha” moment for you?
Mazur: I had been working in the not-for-profit art world for many years and was very frustrated with what existed in this country to support artists in their careers. I was applying for a job at online art vendor 20x200, and I sent Erica my cover letter to edit. I was really inspired by how 20x200 was selling pieces by emerging artists and thought we could translate the idea to the world of emerging designers.

Cerulo: Claire then sent me an email with the subject line “Read this instead of my cover letter.” It basically said, “Why doesn’t something like this exist for fashion, because fashion designers experience the same sort of hurdles as visual artists?” We hashed it out that night over 20-some emails.

Do you have any favorite discoveries?
Cerulo: We’ve worked with more than 200 designers, and so on any given day we are wearing multiple pieces by them. We own bags from Lizzie Fortunato’s leather collection and from Fleabags. We love Veda’s leather jackets. We both had our engagement rings made by Of a Kind designers. Mine is by Blanca Monrós Gómez, and Claire’s is by Lauren Wolf.

How do you describe your style?
Mazur: What we want to wear ourselves and what our audience wants are things that you can wear to work that feel a little more special than what everyone else is wearing. It’s not J. Crew’s No. 2 pencil skirt, but maybe it’s something you can wear with that skirt and really make it your own. I think the overarching vibe is young, accessible, and aspirational.

Sara Glassman is a fashion and style writer in Minneapolis.