Shopgirl Visits Michele Varian in NYC
Hi it’s Jillian here with a very special shop girl visits column! I recently traveled to the states and coming from Australia, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arranged to photograph Michele Varian’s shop for this column — though I knew it was likely to be filled with beautiful things after I read about it in Sibella Court’s book. It also came highly suggested by Holly since Michele has been so supportive of her and she’s met Holly a few times already so it was in the stars: this was the shop I’d shoot!
On the day of my arrival, I made my way to the shop to find the street closed to traffic and lined with movie trailers. A NYPD car was parked outside and it all felt very “CSI New York” to me and a bit exciting. Michele’s store was open though and so I made my to the lovely entrance. The store is located in a historical building with beautiful light and to say it’s a treasure trove of prettiness is an understatement. It was gorgeous!
Michele greeted me and from there I received the grand tour – though it was a bit overwhelming — I almost didn’t know where to start shooting! In the end I decided to take a systematic approach. I started at one end of the shop where the beautiful pillows are displayed and made my way to the other end. So what did I find?
I discovered quite an eclectic mix of beautiful pillows in jewel tones; furniture – some new and some vintage; jewellery; Michele’s new line of wallpaper; lighting; artwork; books; tableware and gifts for the special people in your life.
As I knew so little about Michele’s work I asked if she could answer a few questions for me and she very kindly agreed.
Q. What is your design philosophy?
MV: My philosophy is nothing remarkable, mostly, it’s just to have things that you love around you and figure out how to put it all together as you go. I like living in a space that reflects who I am and that means it didn’t happen overnight. It also means that it is constantly evolving.
Q. How did you first get into design?
MV: I moved to NYC from Detroit to go to Parsons to study fashion design. I worked in fashion for 10 years, but when I started my own business, I decided to make home accessories. I had always enjoyed entertaining at my NYC apartment, and loved creating a cozy and fun environment to hang out in. My primary collection is decorative pillows, which is textiles based with a lot of my knowledge coming from having worked in fashion design. I just launched my first line of wallpapers, which also takes advantage of my experience working with prints while working in fashion.
Q. Where do you source your products – the US, Europe, Asia?
MV: I try to support local artists, designers and manufacturers as much as possible. I also really like having things in the store that are a range of prices, so we have some things that are made overseas that are more affordable. I try to keep at least half the store filled with products that are made in North America or Europe by their designers, but these pieces are usually more expensive.
Q. The cushions are lovely. Do you still make all the cushions in NYC?
MV: Yes. In the very beginning though, I made them all myself, but now I have some lovely seamstresses here in NYC who do the sewing for me.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, I’d like to thank Michele for taking the time to answer my questions and for welcoming me to her shop to spend time chatting and taking photos You can find her her store at 27 Howard Street, New York and her blog here.
See you all again next month with another New York gem! – Jillian
(images: jillian lieboff)