Designers Radka Osickova, Natasha Samoylenko, and Aimee G met doing markets in New York City over a decade ago, but five years ago they collaborated to open Trunk, a boutique at 68 Jay that is one part gallery, one part clothing store, and one part lifestyle destination. We sat down with them to talk about their mission, aesthetic, and fifth birthday!
DUMBO is a community and we started as a community, so it’s our foundation and the driving force.
Natasha Samoylenko, Co-Founder of Trunk
What first inspired you to open Trunk five years ago?
Natasha: We all know each other from about 12 years ago. We met doing a market in the city, doing our own businesses, and we got together a few times to have these collective markets and sales events, about once a month. We started doing it in DUMBO primarily; we all wanted a store, and when this space became available, we jumped on it. It was a very quick decision. It was always in the back of our minds, and we just took the opportunity.
Radka: We also saw that the neighborhood was growing, and it has been growing.
Natasha: We kind of did our market research for a couple of years and created a following, so when we started the store we already had a customer base.
Radka: People remembered us, people liked us.
Natasha: And in a way that’s why I think it was so organic, because it’s about community. DUMBO is a community and we started as a community, so it’s our foundation and the driving force.
Aimee: It’s also been a community for us personally, the community of people with small businesses who are producing in New York.
Natasha: Most of the vendors that we carry, we know from [when we all did markets together].
Aimee: That’s why it was easy to bring all these [designers], because they trusted us, we trusted them, we knew their product, and it was a relationship that we built over the years.
Why is it so important to you to feature local designers and artists?
Aimee: We’re local designers who want to produce locally.
Natasha: You have more control over the product itself, over quality, over the fabrics you choose, there’s less mistakes, and you’re keeping it local.
Aimee: It’s part of the community we were talking about; manufacturers, people we get our zippers from— they all know us.
Radka: We support small production, like the sewers. [It's reciprocal]; they make your product and you give them jobs.
Aimee: It’s all part of the community philosophy.
What would you say the aesthetic of the store is?
Natasha: I think the aesthetic is kind of warm industrial, or textured industrial. There are a lot of textures, warmth, and comfort here; it’s not cold and stark, but it’s still kind of masculine.
Aimee: We really wanted to give our product a nice clean, easy-to-understand platform. So the basic concept of the store is very clean, functional, and straightforward.
Natasha: In a way that’s how our products are; functional, straight forward, with a little bit of an edge.
What is the most rewarding aspect of owning a small business?
Natasha: You’re in control of whatever situation you’re in. If I have certain pieces that are not selling, I’m not going to be sitting there waiting for it to sell, I have the opportunity to change it, or add something else. You have the flexibility as a small business owner to control your product.
Aimee: I think a big plus for owning your own business is you get to design as much as you can; obviously that’s the most fun part. It’s fun to have a balance; one day you’re working on the books, and the next you’re designing. You’re not sitting there doing one job day in and day out, you have to wear many hats.
Radka: We’ve gotten it to a certain level where we’re really comfortable, and everything’s going smoothly; we come here and we know what we have to do. I think in the beginning we were learning, but now it’s well divided and we just get things done.
Why do you love being in DUMBO?
Natasha: When I got here in 2006, it was still nothing. They had just started renovating the second floor in this building. I don’t know if there’s another neighborhood like this in New York because it’s close to Manhattan, it’s right by the water, you have the bridges, you have the beautiful waterfront, it’s close to the train, and it’s small. The only place it grows is up, there’s no expansion. It’s very contained, so it’s very nice.
Aimee: And there’s a nice demographic here between the artists and the residential living here.
Radka: There’s a nice community feel, it’s like a small town where you start to get to know people.
Natasha: I used to call it the DUMBO College because it was like everyone was in their own dorm; “I’m in 68 Jay! I’m in 20 Jay!” At one point we wanted to get t-shirts printed that said 'DUMBO College' [laughs].
I would buy that t-shirt. Is there anything else that you want to tell me about the store?
Radka: We love it!