Wedged between art galleries and furniture boutiques in the Design District sits a nondescript white warehouse that comes alive one Saturday a month with local artists, jewelry designers and fashion mavens.
Dubbed The District Factory, the maze-like space pops up during the Design District and Wynwood Second Saturdays Art Walks, when between 30 and 40 local designers set up booths to sell their handiwork. A DJ spins club-style beats as a film projection of a local artist’s work plays on the wall behind him. Meanwhile, a pop-up restaurant Phuc Yea! (pronounced fook-yay) serves up Vietnamese finger foods like gỏi cuốn, or summer rolls, rounding out the Saturday night vibe.
At the core of The District Factory’s mission is curating fashion-forward designs that “you can’t get down the street at another boutique,” said Grace Castro, who created the monthly event in April with fellow designer Chelsea Conklin.
“Art Walk is all about art, but who doesn’t love shopping?” Castro said. “And when you can’t afford a $5,000 piece of art, you can walk away with a cool ring that’s original and unique.”
Castro and Conklin were first introduced by The District Factory’s property owners, who recognized the two shared a vision. Castro and Conklin each produced market-style events at the Palm Lot — the building in which The District Factory is held — where local artists and designers could sell their products. Castro ran Arboleda, a vintage and handmade crafts festival, and Conklin created Launch Arte Market, where local artists, designers and entrepreneurs could sell their goods. The two now run their own separate joint venture businesses, UP HEIGHTS and PLAT4M respectively, specializing in creating outlets for emerging artists and entrepreneurs.
The participating vendors at The District Factory enjoy meeting new customers, as well as interacting with fellow designers and artists.
“It’s not that competition feel — I like that togetherness feel,” said Aria Nero-Seder, a jewelry designer. “The District Factory is trying to build a more creative Miami.”
Here are a few of the participants:
Everyone at The District Factory has a story.
For Nero-Seder, 38, of Miami Shores, her namesake jewelry collection Aria Nero was a result of recognizing her creative abilities after being involved in the retail industry for more than 10 years. Nero-Seder left her management position at the Barney’s CO-OP in Miami Beach about six years ago to become a “mompreneur” and give birth to her daughter. Now, she designs full-time and does freelance retail work, like helping the shops at the Biltmore Hotel with merchandising.
Nero-Seder said her pieces “stand out.” Her necklaces and bracelets create a nostalgic feel with vintage chains, old brooches and other materials she finds at garage sales and thrift and vintage stores.
Nero-Seder’s collection of pieces ranging from $30 to $500 is featured at the Biltmore, local boutiques and the Miami Art Museum, where most of the higher-end pieces are for sale. “I’m a designer, I’m the assembly line, I make everything, I design everything,” she said. “You have pieces that are handcrafted and unfortunately you can’t compete and sell them for $20.”