Live Review: Unique LA - Refreshing, Like a Cold Drink of Water

Hundreds of local artists and creators set up shop at this summer's Unique LA.

If you went to UNIQUE LA this weekend expecting to stop in for an hour or so, you probably left feeling something akin to a hangover – the effects of too much, too quickly and too little water and sustenance. In short, complete sensory overload. And the one-hour line for food trucks outside didn’t help curb the hunger.

FOOD
But who cares about hunger when there’s shopping to be done? Especially when said shopping includes food, albeit not necessarily food that constitutes lunch. But it’s OK, because much of this food was worth the wait. Take chef/owner of Cast Iron Gourmet, Rashida Purifoy’s breakfast bacon, for instance, cured with maple syrup, orange juice and Intelligentsia espresso. The bacon’s flavor is booming, and definitely enough to wake you up with a smile on your face. Or the sweet, smooth black mission fig jam from Rondo Mieczkowski of Coldwater Canyon Provisions. Try pairing that with some brie and you’ve got pure joy on your hands.

The flavors over at Hepp’s Salt Barrel booth gave new meaning to the phrase “salt of the earth.” If you’re a fan of salt, you could quite possibly enjoy eating the black truffle sea salt by the spoonful. Who needs pepper anyway?

The salt bar at Hepp's Salt Barrel
And for a bit of the salty with the sweet, the folks over at le Bon Garcon had it going on. While the salted caramel combination is perhaps a bit overplayed these days, when it’s done this perfectly, who cares? But if you’re in need of a break, their passion fruit mango caramel is refreshing, with the fruit flavors playing perfectly off the rich caramel for a light, summery treat.

Mario Ford and Jason Gaines of Jate Clothing

APPAREL
Key highlights in the clothing category included two San Francisco-based T-shirt companies, Jatè Clothing and FAZE Apparel. While each designer was quite different in style, both companies had lots of original designs carrying a can-do message. Even their names spoke of overcoming obstacles, with Jaté standing for “Journey Against the End” and Faze standing for “Fearless and Zealous Everyday.” These dudes sure love their acronyms.

A T-shirt design by Faze Apparel

LoveNailTree clothing was another highlight in apparel, and their tees were an apparent hit, based on the number of customers wandering in and out of their booth carrying some new duds. Clever messages with catchy images, such as a shirt with an image of a Ramen noodle cup and the words “Livin’ on dreams and 10 cent noodles” are great for those looking for clothing with a bit of an artist’s nature.

LoveNailTree's T-shirt

BABY
And if you’re shopping for the little one in your life, you’re in luck because, oh baby, were there a ton of baby clothes and accessories. If you’re looking for a comfy, cozy, colorful carrier to tuck baby into, look no further than The Basket Girls. These beautiful hand-woven cloth baskets come in every color and fabric, and they look so comfy you’d be jealous of the wee one inside. And for well, qute clothes, check out Qute Clothes. For the rocker babies, PunkBabyClothing.com has you covered with “Pour some powder on me” onesies, among others clever slogans.


ART
Of course there were all kinds of nifty stationery items, prints and posters, but none of the art pieces were quite as cool as those from Lisa Swerling’s Glass Cathedrals. As Swerling tells it, one day she was given a very small worn-down figurine from an architect friend. She didn’t want to throw it away, and so she just put it in a simple IKEA memory box she had around the house. The way the figurine related to the big space really resonated with her, as though the box was the figurine’s whole world. And now she sells about 200-300 Glass Cathedrals each year.



The basic concept is a small figurine about a quarter of an inch tall that is placed in a plain white box with a glass front. Very simply, Lisa decorates each box and in typeset places a simple statement inside. One of the most dazzling was the figurine of a small child with water wings, with a note that states “The world is a scary place, but I have water wings.” Another noteworthy piece was a female figurine looking into a mirror, and the note reads “Yes, you look fabulous.” They really were just the coolest pieces, a definite conversation starter for anyone who owned one.

TRENDS
Overall, there were some unexpected trends (or expected, depending on how you look at it). Bows and bow ties were all over the place in different forms. The guys over at Pocket Square Clothing were rocking their big ol’ charming bow ties, and each tie had a name like “The Kickstarter” or “The Strategist.”
Bow ties from Pocket Square Clothing

Bow ties from Pocket Square Clothing
Hats off to the people of Krochet Kids, who got their start after teaching women in Northern Uganda how to knit so they could sustain themselves and their families. Now, the beautiful beanies made of thick, soft yarn are being sold in Nordstrom. Each hat carries the signature of the woman who crocheted it, which holds a special sense of human connection.

CLASSES AND PARTIES
And if you’re looking for human connection, the different classes some of these vendors are offering might be a great fit for you. With hat-making workshops at The Millinery Guild and scent-mixing classes with The Mobile Mixtress, you too can stretch your creative side and have some fun. Even Purifoy, L.A.’s bacon queen, is soon to be offering classes at Surfas on how to cook with bacon.

Jennifer Hardaway, creator and owner of both Mobile Mixtress and Klean Spa, recently introduced her own party/class offerings. For bachelorette parties, birthday parties, bat mitzvahs and more, Hardaway brings her mobile mixing bar full of a variety of scents. Guests are able to work with Hardaway to try out different scents and mix and match until they find a combination they love. They get to take a personal perfume bottle and roll-on scent home with them. One great perk of this party offering is that Hardaway keeps each person’s scent on file so they can order “their scent” whenever they need more.

There were such a large volume of impressive vendors at Unique LA, but perhaps the most important take-away is something bigger than the products themselves. The spirit of community, passion and communal talent was enough to leave any creative heart inspired. In one corner, you had Brian Hepp of Hepp’s Salt Barrel chatting with Purifoy about using Hepp’s Salt to make Cast Iron Gourmet bacon. In another, you had two clothing brands sharing a booth and laughing with each other and spurring one another on.

And you leave, feeling perhaps a bit hungover, but also encouraged and enlightened to all this city has to offer.

QUICK NOTES ON COOL BUT QUIRKY ITEMS

Book Journals

● Sick of those same ol’ leather-bound journals? Book lover Jacob Deatherage of BookJournals.com has a beautiful solution. Deatherage loved the look of old books so much that he came up with a way to reuse them and make them valuable again. He started collecting old books and using them to bind together journals. The sentimentality of these journals is a huge selling point, as we are often closely tied to the books we grew up with. One buyer told Deatherage excitedly that she had to buy the “The Family That Grew,” because it’s about adoption. As an adopted child, her parents had used the book to help explain adoption to her.

Quote cards from SpiltMilkandCookies.com

● Quote cards and themed boxes of quote cards from SpiltMilkandCookies.com. If you love a good quote or know someone who does, order them a box of quotes. Whether they’re for a friend or a lover, Spilt Milk’s variety of carefully curated quotes probably have a good fit.

● Surprise package subscriptions from Fair Ivy. Order a subscription for yourself or as a gift, and every month they’ll send a small package full of little treats like bath goods and sushi-shaped candles.

● Condom holders at ElevenEleven.net.

For full coverage, view our slide show:


All photos by Jessyca Dewey


About the Author

Jessyca is an L.A.-based editor for Demand Media who moonlights as a freelance writer with a focus on beauty and fashion writing. She has written for Back Stage magazine and Beverly Hills [213] magazine, among other regional publications. Dewey spends her free time reading InStyle, volunteering with the foster kids organization Peace4Kids, making and enjoying great food, and hanging out with her wee dog Webster.
Follow her on Twitter: @jessycadewey

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