In conversation with Artist & Fleas Co–Founder, Amy Abrams May 05 2019
In 2014, I launched KOPAL in New York City. The first place I showcased my line was at the iconic Artists and Fleas, a marketplace of markers and artists—drawn by their catchphrase 'Discover and Be Discovered' and entranced by their powerhouse co–founder Amy Abrams.
Read below my interview with her where she shares pearls of wisdom about travelling to colourful and crazy lands, empowering artisans and artists, and running a successful business while raising a family.
Tell me about your professional journey - up to and including creating the iconic "Artists & Fleas"?
It is always easier to piece together the story of your career journey when reflecting back but I would say that the defining characteristics of my career have been creating & building community, creating opportunities / platforms for people to achieve their professional goals and to have fun and a meaningful and purposeful life in the process!
Prior to starting to Artists & Fleas, I lived and worked in Israel, co-founded a co-working space, community and learning center for women entrepreneurs called In Good Company & co-wrote a book about building a business in a way that supports your personal & professional goals called “The Big Enough Company.” I started Artists & Fleas with my husband, Ronen Glimer. Our business is rooted in creating something we love and sharing it with the world. In the process, we have had the great privilege of meeting thousands of talented and creative people around the world who set up and sell or shop at Artists & Fleas. It has been a lot of work and a lot of fun!
You have grown Artists and Fleas from its initial setup to more locations and options – how exciting and difficult has that been?
It has been both exciting and challenging. Overall, our growth has been fairly organic and we have taken our time. After 7 years in Williamsburg, we started experimenting in Chelsea Market with short-term 7 day a week pop ups. After we had some momentum, we decided to permanently set up shop. Then we opened 1x a month in LA. We had a lot of merchants who moved out to LA and it’s a city we know well. It has a culture of artists & shoppers, an appetite for markets and fairs and festivals and the bi-coastal exchange felt right.
Fast-forward 3+ years and now we are in Venice, CA every weekend. Soho was the most deliberate expansion and also the most challenging. Retail is having a lot of moments right now - some good, some crazy but overall Soho pushed us to refresh our brand and clearly articulate what we stand for as a business.
It has been rewarding and really increased our brand awareness and most importantly has provided another outpost for our merchants to grow their businesses.
How have you managed growing such a great business and balancing having children at the same time?
Honestly, I think having your own business gives you autonomy over your time which allows you to work hard but spend lots of time with your kids. It helps that my husband is my business partner so we can divide and conquer.
I am also a big fan of filling in the gaps by hiring awesome people to help. We have been fortunate to have wonderful babysitters over the years (who are now like family) that help out and that are another wonderful source of love and support for my kids.
What is your favorite holiday destination and why?
India and Israel.
We love India. It is crazy, colorful, busy, zany, funny, delicious and total sensory overload but it fuels our souls creatively and is truly a place where we find inspiration and rejuvenation (that part happens at the beach in Goa).
Israel is a second home. We have both lived there and have close friends and family. It is familiar, fun—so much to do in nature—beaches, hikes—there is amazing food and tons of treasures to discover.
If you could live anywhere – where would you live?
I have asked myself this many times and I think NYC is the place for me. That being said … I would love to spend my winters on a beach. I could live in Israel for a year. I would love to travel in India for a year. Honestly, I think I would always have my home base in NYC but would love to travel for 3-6 months out of the year in the future.
Have you ever been to Australia – especially Byron Bay?
No! But it is on my list!!!! When can we come and visit you??
What do the next 3-5 years hold in store for you?
We want to be thoughtful about our growth and navigating this exciting time in retail and the culture of small business entrepreneurship and urban cores while balancing the importance of being present for our daughters who are 13 and 11. These are really important years with a lot for the two of them to navigate. So much is just about being around.
So in a nutshell; expansion, travel, family time.
What are some of the biggest success stories of brands you have worked with at Artists & Fleas?
Erica Weiner, Mast Brothers, Vera Meat, Brooklyn Charm, Zero Waste Daniel, Adina Mills, Uhuru, Malin Landeus – these are just a few of our merchants that went on to launch a (inter) national brand and / or multiple stores. But thousands of our merchants support themselves doing / creating what they love and that seems like a great success story to me.
How has the fashion landscape changed in the last 5-10 years?
There are many more opportunities for designers to get their vision and products out there directly to consumers through social media. There is less of a gatekeeper model than there was in the past (for example – finding a showroom to pick you up). I also think that vintage is continuing to have a huge moment in terms of people wearing it and designers being inspired by vintage.
I love fashion so I am excited about a lot of what I see but also notice that there is a lot out there that looks the same.
Do you work with artists / artisans / empower women etc?
It is deeply meaningful for me to help people help themselves. To make an impact in some small way. I don’t usually use the word empower to describe what I do but I guess that is an aspect of what I do? When I think about my professional legacy, my hope is that I have made a contribution that makes the world a better place.
Tell us your favorite Kopal piece and what you love about Kopal?
My most favorite Kopal piece is a pair of the Shanaia Pant’s. The Indigo with white block print are so fabulous and comfortable and versatile! I have brought them with me all over the world! They can be worn on the beach, on the plane to look fab but be totally comfortable and you can dress them up or down. And … if you are in a pinch, you can wear them as PJ’s. The details on the covered buttons and tassel drawstring are perfect too!
To learn more about Amy and the incredible Artists & Fleas marketplace, visit their website here.
Follow Amy's journey here.