Curated shopping—the concept of offering a selection of products as carefully edited as a museum collection—has become a retail buzzword in recent years (see “Shopping Etc.,” March 2005). Colette, in Paris, and Moss, in New York, helped pioneer the concept, and both still set the standard for others. Now every major North American city seems to have at least one independently owned store with a decidedly unique approach to shopping. When it comes to furnishing interiors, these shop-owners-turned-lifestyle-curators assemble a contemporary mix of art, design, and craft that is exuberantly decorative and conceptual, even ironic. Unlike the pop-up retail trend—low-maintenance stores that appear temporarily in urban areas—boutiques that mix local and global designs are in it for the long haul, acting as incubators for lesser-known talents with bright futures.
“We hope to be a resource for the creative community as well as an alternative to the mainstream gift shops,” says Kristoffer Knutson, owner of ROBOTlove, in Minneapolis. Knutson’s shop is on Lyndale Avenue, near the Highpoint Center for Printmaking, Soo Visual Arts Center, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and the Walker Art Center. “Lately we’re seeing that many of the artists we carry are moving toward household goods,” he says of the evolving merchandise. “It’s exciting for us to be able to broaden our selection.” The store recently featured Dalek shower curtains and Cerealart’s limited-edition melting-snowmen containers by artist Marcel Dzama.
In addition to giving up-and-coming designers a venue, these refreshing boutiques offer shoppers unique items in an age of mass production. And as an appealing alternative to big-box stores, they promise to be retail tastemakers.