Olio United (1028 SE Water) is celebrating its first birthday this weekend, and the store—which focuses on merchandise that has a compelling story behind it—is putting together three days of activities that emphasize an interactive connectivity between maker and consumer. The shebang kicks off on Friday night, August 29, with drinks, DJs, and an auction of TOMS shoes that have been embellished by local artists like Trish Grantham and Amy Ruppel. Meanwhile Entermodal, a luxury leather company based in Portland and making waves 'round the world, will have a pop-up factory set up in the shop, with Entermodal staff producing flip card cases in store. Proceeds from both the auction and the sale of the cases will go to benefit Transitions Cambodia, a nonprofit serving the needs of sex-trafficking survivors from Vietnam and Cambodia. The activities continue throughout the weekend (visit oliounited.com for a complete schedule).
Entermodal is taking their pop-up factory on the road this winter, with a week scheduled at Odin, in New York City, in December. It's a unique idea—pop-up stores (short-lived retail stores that last only weeks, or even days) have become an increasingly popular way to generate buzz, but the factory model is particularly appropriate to a brand that gets more exciting the more you learn about it. I spoke with founder and designer Larry Olmstead about the pop-up factory, the craft trend, and Entermodal's Japanese takeover.
MERCURY: Where did the idea for a pop-up factory come from?
LARRY OLMSTEAD: When we started out, we knew we were making a luxury product, and as we began selling it we found that people in stores really liked it, but didn't get it. At the same time, people who actually came to the studio really reacted, realizing, 'Wow, it takes 20 hours to make this,' and often ended up buying something. We wanted to bring the factory out to the stores, and it's good for them because it's really on-trend. Craft is really hot right now, and having someone crafting right inside your store lends the rest of your lines credibility.
What are you hoping people will get out of seeing your process?
It will be interesting to see how much time we spend talking to people as opposed to actually working; we'll just have to do the best we can. We're mostly trying to put a face on what we're doing, put a face on the brand, emphasizing that this isn't made overseas; this is made by us, in Portland. It's not an everyday occurrence for most people to buy a product that's going to last 30 to 50 years, and if we give them an outlet to learn about the benefits of doing that, it can hopefully serve as an educational piece.
Do you anticipate that people will be inspired to make things themselves, or is it more about impressing them with the level of craftsmanship required for what you do?
I hope it's both. It would be great to inspire people to do more things themselves.
What's the next big thing for Entermodal?
We just delivered our first order to Isetan, the most luxurious retailer in Japan. I think they're going to put us in their Hermès room.