Curating Collected & Thoughtful Spaces with K colette
Settled in Portland, Maine is k colette, a showroom of the sorts selling artisan-made goods, sourced from around the world. K colette believes that quality, handmade products connect us to beauty, joy, and awe, opening us to an important part of what it means to be human. Quality products communicate the story of the artisan who crafted them. K colette celebrates the passion of its artists and artisans by thoughtfully choosing the handmade products that bring this beauty, joy and awe into our lives.
Photography by Megan Boltz
Why is it important, now more than ever, to support local artisan communities?
K colette was founded with the mission of supporting local artisans and makers while bringing the work of more far-flung and international artists into our local community. We value supporting the creativity of people who bring beauty and craft into the world, and we like to think that a product bought from our shop is a vow of support to the artist who made it. While handmade goods can be more expensive than their mass-produced counterparts, we believe in paying artists fair wages for their goods so they can depend on their craft as a livelihood and thrive. Craft, for many, is not only a way of sharing their vision of beauty, but a way of sustaining themselves, their families, and their communities. We feel privileged to be a part of that process.
You’re headquartered in Portland, Maine….what’s the design like there?
Portland has established itself as a bona fide food town, one of the best in America—we’re lucky to be home to incredible chefs who’ve come here from all over the country (and the world) to settle down and open the most forward-thinking, wonderful restaurants. With all that innovation in cuisine, the other commercial markets seemed, until recently, to be lagging behind. That’s all changing now, as the city begins to become somewhat of an entrepreneurial center of up-and-coming creatives.
Take the clothing store Judith, opened by a former fashion designer who moved here a few years ago from Brooklyn. Walking into her store is like entering an art gallery filled with designers you didn’t know you needed to know (and wear): Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Rachel Comey, Apiece Apart. It’s inspiring, it’s unique, and it shows a real respect for the local consumer’s savviness about design. Other standout local fashion boutiques include Zane, Peyote Moon, and Rough & Tumble.
In the lifestyle space, there’s k colette—there isn’t anything else like it here (or anywhere, we like to think). Sprawling though it is, k colette is warm and welcoming, offering everything from handmade, hand-glazed mugs by a local ceramicist to Astier de Villatte urns from Paris, one of a kind Kantha quilts from India, hand-painted wooden animals from Germany, jewelry-like forged bronze flatware from Charleston, and Maine-made wool blankets with colorful stripes. That’s in addition to trendsetting brands like Caroline Z Hurley, Franca, and Coral & Tusk. The store’s owner, Karen Burke, has a real eye for introducing up and coming designers in the community here, as well as carrying the work of local artisans. She’s ahead of the curve in many ways and was at the forefront when she opened the store five years go, of what looks to be a growing reality: Portland as a design destination.
Who are the local artisans, designers, florists, and textile manufacturers that k colette enjoys working with?
We have a wonderful relationship with a host of local painters—Jill Matthews shares her vision of nautical scenes and serene marshes that dot the Maine coastline, Holly Brooks’s abstract, colorful visions tell the story of our islands and seascapes, and the masterful Johanna Moore hand-gilds her beautifully detailed landscape carvings. We collaborate with talented local floral designers and organic flower farms like Watershed Floral and Broadturn Farm. As for textile sources, we’re proud to work with Brahms Mount, based right up north in Monmouth, and Nanne Kennedy of The Maine Blanket. We are especially inspired by Nanne’s process: on 80 acres in mid-coast Maine, she raises sheep bred for their soft, superfine wool. She then dyes the yarn using solar-derived heat and natural salts and acids from seawater and weaves them on antique looms. Nanne’s work is but one example of the kind of craft and artistry our vendors pride themselves on.
K colette carries hundreds of products from talented artisans and artists. What’s your sourcing process and how do you establish and maintain relationships with the designers you carry?
So much of what we carry in the store is dictated by the feeling we get when we meet a vendor and hear their story. Whether that’s at a trade show in Paris, through a mutual friend in Maine, or over email with an artisan we’ve fallen in love with via their Instagram account, we hand select the products that go into the store based on their beauty and craftsmanship as well as the relationship we have with the person or people that make them. Our eyes are always open to new discoveries, whether on our travels, on social media, or in our inboxes—we’re lucky to say that many talented vendors reach out to us with product submissions, which is how we’ve come to sell many of our favorite things in the store.
We respect our artists, we pay them quickly and fairly, we share their stories and processes both in the store on signs we place next to their products and online with detailed descriptions, “In the Studio” blog posts, and marketing campaigns. I think because we share so much background about our vendors with our customers, they think of us as more than just a nameless, faceless point of sale and more like a trusted partner. We certainly respect the seriousness of that level of trust and we care about representing them well.
What are k colette’s best-selling categories for interior designers?
We see a lot of interior designers come our way for our textile selection, for which we draw from artisans all over the world—Maine to New Zealand, Brooklyn to India. Decorative pillows are our biggest category with designers, followed closely by tabletop goods from the likes of Astier de Villatte (there’s nothing more striking than a china cabinet stocked with an artful display of their dreamy white ceramics). Designers also gravitate to our artwork by local artists as an impactful finishing touch in a room.
How does k colette typically work with interior designers?
Until recently, the best way for interior designers to work with us was to come into the shop and treat us as a showroom. We love hosting creatives who stop by to browse, feel, and select from our wares in person. We just introduced an online trade program, meaning designers can now shop our website from anywhere and their designer discount is automatically applied. We treat our site as a curated extension of the store—and a wealth of information (both visual and logistical) accompanies each product. With its professional photography, detailed item descriptions, and intuitive categories, we hope it’s a valuable resource and an easy one to use, at that.
What can interior designers benefit from the k colette trade membership program?
When you establish a designer membership with k colette, you’ll get a streamlined quote and purchase process, personalized attention to the needs of your project from our creative team and sales manager, and access to our designer discount (Ivy Members enjoy a deeper discount than non-Ivy Members).
Can you offer interior designers some tips of best practices for making the most out of the k colette trade membership program?
One insider tip: take advantage of our customization capabilities. Be it a one-of-a-kind embroidery on a silk blanket depicting the map of your choice or a guest book emblazoned with your client’s address or a vintage postcard they love, we love working alongside our artisan partners to bring your ideas to life. We carry many one-of-a-kind products that you can’t find elsewhere, whether handmade quilts from vintage saris, hand-thrown pottery in custom color ways, or pillows crafted from antique Chinese fabrics—they’re the special touches that can make a house into a collected, thoughtful home.
How does k colette prepare for the holiday season?
You’re catching us at the right time with this question! We’re just wrapping up our holiday orders; preparing for holiday is some of the most fun you can have as a buyer. We don’t bring in vendors we wouldn’t otherwise carry, but we do like to reimagine our selection based on the festiveness of the holiday season—a little extra sparkle, a jollier palette, an increased awareness of hosting needs (serving ware, cheery table linens, punchy throws). We also try to select products that we love and want to present in the store even beyond the holiday season—the versatility and lifespan of the products we sell is a big consideration for us, as we know it is for our customers.
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