After months of quarantine lockdowns, economic anxiety and muted spending, consumers might be itching to get out again and discover promising up-and-coming brands.
On Friday, American Field, which goes by the moniker A.F., launched its latest pop-up marketplace at Empire Stores in Brooklyn’s waterfront Dumbo neighborhood. The holiday event taking place from Oct. 9-23 curates an assortment of largely New York City-based maker-led brands, with giftable wares like beauty brand Ona New York’s Airplane Mode intense hydration gel mask, the Gotham Gold timepiece from Stella Watch Company, Brooklyn-manufactured Kynsho’s face masks, cowls and Ts, and ethically produced, fair trade women’s loungewear from Oyun.
Visitors to AF x Empire Stores can also shop Lula & Shay’s sustainable jewelry made from recycled, reclaimed or ethically sourced inputs, in addition to Eeny Eyewear’s selection of style-forward optical accessories.
Billed as a “growth platform for innovative and emerging brands,” A.F. hosts events that put artisans and makers in front of consumers, creating immersive storytelling opportunities and nurturing crucial connections for fledgling companies dealing with spiraling customer acquisition costs online. Mark Bollman, founder of USA-made hunting sports apparel and accessories label Ball and Buck, launched A.F. in 2012 to “revitalize” retail by bringing brands and landlords together for pop-up markets and longer-term branded storefronts. A.F. says its popups have drawn more than 100,000 visitors in cities from Austin and Boston to San Francisco, Nashville and Denver.
Despite a lurching restart in retail, and troubling signs that the coronavirus pandemic might be building into a second wave, brands continue to test the waters of brick and mortar. Clicks-to-bricks specialist Leap, which guides digitally native upstarts in de-risking their foray into store-based selling, recently opened a clearance-focused Chicago popup for Meghan Markle-approved maternity brand Hatch. It also helped dual-gender essentials brand Goodlife expand from its inaugural Bleecker Street store with a second New York City location in the Hudson Yards complex.