August 29, 2016
Walking past the produce stands that line the Italian Market, wafting in the smell of pork from George's, you'd hardly realize that three floors up is one of the city's most fabulous New York exports: Yowie.
Yowie, launched in June, is an online-only home goods boutique run out of the Italian Market by Pennsport-native Shannon Maldonado, a former American Eagle Outfitters kidswear and outerwear fashion designer from New York. After giving up corporate life, Maldonado relocated to the Italian Market to embrace a city that's becoming more and more welcoming to creatives.
"Some of my friends were like, ‘Why not New York?’ But there are so many positive things happening in Philly right now, and being a Philly native, I want to be one of those things," 33-year-old Maldonado, who then lived in Bed-Stuy, told PhillyVoice. "I have three Philadelphia designers [carried at Yowie] — supporting the creative community here is so important to me.
"Not everything ‘cool’ has to happen in New York or L.A."
Bucking the norm, Maldonado opted to categorize her home goods in true fashion designer form: in the form of collections. Rather than search by candles, mugs and textiles, she organizes her products around a story. Her first, she explained, is a group of 20 products that inspire the feeling of "a Saturday morning in Bed-Stuy." The items – ranging from mugs to a "boob bathmat" (a best-seller, see below) — are mostly simple and clean with funky twists to make them pop in a home setting.
"It's the idea of living your Saturday morning and what you do, waking up and drinking your coffee and just playing records, and these are the products that fit that morning and that lifestyle," she said. "In that [curating] process, it’s making Pinterest mood boards, and editing, and going back and forth and working with designers to find out lead times, and then coming up with these tight 12-to-15-piece collections.”
What makes her stand out, she said, is her ability to pare down the selection, offering only the products she things her customers would be interested in and giving those products the spotlight they deserve. It's how she envisions things evolving, should Yowie become a brick-and-mortar storefront: a boutique with the organizing principles of an art gallery.
“It’s about clean open space, so the products have a pedestal to shine and it's not a bunch of stuff. I think the edit is what people are excited about — I’m not asking you to buy ten mugs, I’m asking you to buy two," she said. "To me, these two are the coolest mugs I’ve seen. And that's what people who have gone to the site have told me they appreciate."
Products are curated solely by Maldonado, mostly through Instagram and Pinterest discoveries, but also through artist connections and sample sales. Eventually, she said, she'd like to design her own line of bedding.
For now, she's working on her third Yowie shop collection, and rounding out the logistics for her first pop-up sale, a three-day event to be held at Meadowsweet Mercantile in Old City starting Sept. 9 from to 9 p.m. (The pop-up runs through Sept. 11) Look out for that real-world location as she "reacquaints" with the city and finds a neighborhood that matches her brand.