Shoptalk: Stand Up Comedy in Portland

Monday, March 30, 2009

above: a view of Portland's Stand Up Comedy
all pictures courtesy of Diana Kim

I first discovered Stand Up Comedy about a year ago through a friend, who directed me to the Portland-based boutique’s minimalistic website. I was immediately intrigued by the simple presentation of the shop’s objects, a mix which includes avant-garde menswear and womenswear, accessories and books. The modest layout of the shop and website can be a shock to the senses in the best possible way, especially when one is used to flashier showcases for designer items. After interviewing Stand Up Comedy’s co-owner, Diana Kim it all made a little more sense. Read on to learn more about this super creative, independent boutique.

“Neither of us particularly enjoys fashion but we are interested in style and its interpretation through product,” admits Diana Kim, who, along with business partner, Rachel Silberstein, opened Portland boutique, Stand Up Comedy nearly two years ago. Interviewing Kim about the venture is a bit, one imagines, like speaking to a sphinx: her responses are pared down and elliptical, bordering on the absurd, which nearly captures the flavor of their joint concept.

“We're both interested in the absurd, so the name and the shop are a kind of challenge to ourselves, to remember,” Kim says. “We love comedy and stand up especially and are interested in its practice as a way of looking at the world we live in now… To laugh is to be on the edge of crying, right? The intangible quality that exists in between those two impulses feel very subversive. It's like, what if you had an idea but no words to express it? That's why the shop exists.”

Absurd-inspired name aside, Kim and Silberstein seem to draw upon their fine arts backgrounds to curate the space: Kim was formerly a performing arts curator at Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center and Silberstein has a background in film. The shop, Kim explains, operates on a set of default rules, which reads, appropriately enough, like an artist’s mission statement:
Stay within XXX budget. Have a memorizable inventory. Don't add anything fixed to the space that doesn't already exist in some form, only take away. Do not stock anything that can already be found locally. Make a website using a free program. Make it a living archive. Do not deviate from the standard template. Do not style products in the shop. Do not style products on the website. Do not attempt to cultivate an experience, only hope for the best. When a project is done in the shop, it becomes a shop project. Nothing should happen behind closed doors, no matter how messy or odd it may seem to a visitor. It's all small ways of acknowledging that art becomes life becomes work becomes art. And on a more brutal note, that retail environments don't have to be precious; neither does inventive, really special work of all kinds have to be.

above: accessories on display

above: the store's spartan display

above: print and objects at Stand Up Comedy

For inventory, Kim says both she and Silberstein buy for the store together and “talk about every piece in minute detail before buying it.” Typically, she says, they buy only a few pieces of each item: “When buying, it’s better for us to be rather austere. Otherwise, too many outside influences can infiltrate.” In addition to price point and quality, Kim says “the main criteria are whether or not the thing adds a continuum to the story of the shop at the moment; and, does it help the creator reach a new audience or does it help the audience to be introduced to a new maker.”

At the moment, the “story” of the shop includes pieces from Acne, Arielle De Pinto, Henrik Vibskov, Hope, Bless, Ann-Sofie Back, Creatures of the Wind, LD Tuttle, Pelican Avenue, Samma, Saskia Diez, Slow and Steady Wins the Race. For fall, Kim is particularly excited about pieces from Isaac Reina and Daphne and Vera Correll: “Isaac makes exquisite leather goods with no logos or ridiculous hardware. The type of bag you'll have the rest of your life and will never be recognizable. The Corrells have been referred to as craftspeople, but they work in a more painterly tradition - the hand of the maker is so evident, with a softly calculated drama.”

In addition to stocking new items for spring, Stand Up Comedy fans can look forward to the store’s raingear collaboration with Slow and Steady Wins the Race, which will include ponchos, umbrellas, trenchcoats and waterproof pumps; the collection will launch in Portland in mid-April, continuing to the Saloni di Mobile furniture fair in Milan, as part of Apartamento Magazine’s pop up shop, before hitting shops worldwide. As for the shop’s plans to expand into other cities, Kim seems happy to stay local for now: “Portland is a very special place and it’s not a fashion town. That’s what makes it livable.”

Stand Up Comedy
811 E Burnside Street
Portland, Oregon 97214
+1 503.233.3382
+1 503.232.0200


Carlotta said...

thanx for the nice comment!! I'll check your blog daily it's amazing and lots of great info..I'll def. go to the Salone del Mobile here ;-))

Dream Sequins said...

Carlotta-- you're so lucky to be in Milan! Lots of great shopping and amazing events. Thanks for reading. :)

Dream Sequins said...

Oh one other thing-- they have a preview of the Slow and Steady Wins the Race waterproof pumps on their website-- which look amazing. 4 inch heels. Waterproof. What more do I need to say?

i.d. said...

Thank you for your lovely comment - it really made my day!

Isn't Carla amazing? It was wonderful to interview her because I'm in the process of making the switch too. Just left my corporate job and started fashion school - tres exciting! :)

The Haute-Shopper said...

Great post, always nice to read about smaller more unique boutiques!

By the way, I've seen American Retro around - almost bought a scarf from their Printemps section during the sales. I'll probably end up writing about them as well!

Dream Sequins said...

i.d. - That's so awesome to hear that you're in fashion school pursuing the dream! Love hearing stories like that. That's why was inspiring to interview Diana Kim of Stand Up Comedy. She is the very definition of indie spirit.

Haute-Shopper - Thanks for reading! As you can see from my comments on your blog, I love shopping the big stores as well, but these labels are the ones closest to my heart right now. :)

jordana said...

Great tutorial! I visit Portland once or twice per year and will definitely have to check this out!

K @ Blog Goggles said...

That hat looks gorgeous! Wish I could visit :)

Dream Sequins said...

Jordana: Yes, it's definitely worth checking out. The story behind the boutique is really cool, too. These ladies take a different approach to fashion, and that's so refreshing.

K: You can always visit their website :) That's how I found them!

Kelsey K. said...

My god, I love Stand Up Comedy and Portland. Its definitely on my list of places to check out along with Xtabay Vintage, Seaplane, Broder for Breakfast and Voooo Dooooo :)

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