Art To Ware Opening At The Oculus

Art To Ware Opening At The Oculus

Image Via Tess McHugh

On Thursday, I attended the opening of Art to Ware located in The Oculus. Chashama and Art to Ware launched this new pop-up retail location together. In addition, Art to Ware opened this retail store as part of Chashama’s Storefront Startup program. Art to Ware is a sustainable, minority and women-owned fashion brand that showcases the latest designs from up-and-coming designers. A2W founder and fashion influencer, Lesley Ware, hand selected these designs. At this pop-up, the featured designers include Parron Allen, Gianni Lee, Hansel Clothing, JRat, Alexa Stark, Ooh Baby, and Epperson. Furthermore, Ware chose to feature these designers because of their socially responsible approach to fashion. I interviewed one featured designer and the founder of Chashama, Anita Durst. The opening was a beautiful celebration of modern and sustainable fashion.

Interview with Designer Constanza Orlowski

Constanza Orlowski with her featured designs (the first 4 pieces) Via Tess McHugh

Constanza Orlowski is an incoming senior at Parsons School of Design. She is from Argentina and has been living in New York City for a year and a half. I was curious about where the inspiration for her brand came from, and she provided a beautiful answer: “I like to say that my brand has a purpose which is to invite people to celebrate themselves and the spontaneous harmony of life.” In addition, she described her brand’s aesthetic as colorful and harmonious but not necessarily beautiful: “It depends on how you wear it and my pieces are very versatile. It has its own world.”

Although she herself is an aspiring figure in fashion, Orlowski had some advice for incoming students at Parsons: “It’s important for aspiring fashion students to know why they are getting involved in fashion. They should have an intention, not necessarily everything figured out. It’s important to not get carried away by trends or what everyone else is doing. I have many peers who feel insecure and I don’t think there is any reason for it because it is a safe space for creativity. Parsons is a place where you are free to express yourself.”

The Future of Constanza

When asked about which social issues she is supporting through her work, she was adamant about supporting local manufacturers. Furthermore, she wants to support local manufacturers so she knows exactly where her products are coming from. “Instead of outsourcing the cheapest production oversees from unknown places, we should highlight local brands, designers, markets, and local sourcing of materials.”

As for the future, Orlowski believes building important connections from events such as this one is crucial for her future: “I just started my brand three months ago, so right now I’m just trying things out. So far, I am very happy with the people i have encountered and the opportunities I have taken advantage of, such as this. Right now, I am focussing on getting my pieces out there and possibly dressing an influencer or someone with more outreach than me. Getting people to find credibility in your brand is definitely the hardest part, but it’s just a day by day process.”

Interview With Anita Durst

Following my interview with Constanza Orlowski, I conducted an interview with Anita Durst. Anita Durst is the founder of Chashama, which is a New York City based non profit arts organization. Furthermore, they work with property owners to change vacant real estate into spaces for small businesses and artists. During the interview, I first asked Durst about the inspiration behind their collaboration with Art To Ware. Durst proceeded to tell me about how it began: “During the pandemic, we had a lot of storefronts. So I said, let’s put small businesses in all of our spaces. As a result, they all sold out because no one had places to shop. In addition, there were so many people from the pandemic who came out of it wanting to do new things. So, it was this marriage of putting these two things together.”

Durst’s Desire To Support Small Businesses

Durst has a passion for helping others and boosting small businesses in a place like New York City. “I love creating this synergy and helping change the economy of New York. There are a lot of these big box stores and not many opportunities for small businesses. So, I feel really excited to help small businesses build a name for themselves”

I was curious about Durst’s process for finding these unique small businesses, and she admitted that it wasn’t easy to find them in the beginning: “In the beginning, we didn’t know any. So, we just reached out to all the bids and to anyone we thought had a business name and sent out an RFP. We sent out many RFPs and we got about 200 applications, and we replied back to all of these people. Leslie Ware was one of the people who responded to us, and two weeks later she heard back from us. Following this, we started working with her.”

Chashama and Art To Ware

Durst then went into what it was like to work with Leslie. “She has been with us for almost two years now, and kept seeing so much potential with Leslie. So we decided to move her to another space, first in the Port Authority and then The Oculus. It’s not just her; she’s helping thirty other people with her internships, upcycling, and sewing, so it seemed like a natural evolution. Because this program only opened two years ago, this is a great fairytale story. Hopefully now, she’ll be able to go and open her own space. She will have saved enough money and have enough clients that she will rent her own space after The Oculus.”

Future of Chashama

Chashama is blossoming into a popular non profit organization, so I wanted to know what Durst sees for Chashama’s future. “Right now when you walk around New York City, there are so many empty spaces. So, I really would like to get a large grant so we can get out and take on hundreds of spaces. Right now, we have forty locations donated to us, and I feel like we could take on another eighty or one hundred if we had a big enough staff and enough money to hire that staff. We also want to help upgrade these spaces just like how we upgraded this space for Leslie.”

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