Erica Cerulo And Claire Mazur Talk The Art Of Curation And The Secrets To Finding Your Personal Style
A decade ago, before the prominence of Instagram and Pinterest, finding unique fashion and decor created by independent makers took more than just a few clicks. Consumers really had to be “in the know,” scour blogs or simply come across unique products and brands by chance. Enter Erica Cerulo and Claire Mazur, friends and business partners, who realized there wasn’t a destination on the Internet that specifically sold things you couldn’t find elsewhere.
The women met in 2002 as undergrads at the University Of Chicago. After college, they both moved to New York and came up with their initial concept. In 2010, this became Of A Kind. The brand quickly caught on. This lead to a highly lauded collaboration with Target in 2014.
The following year they sold Of A Kind to Bed Bath and Beyond, but still remained highly involved. However, by 2019, a change in management and direction from the parent company put the brand to an end. While it might be gone, it’s certainly not forgotten.
I recently spoke with Cerulo and Mazur about how they founded such an impactful company, the art of curating objects, their podcast A Thing Or Two on Dear Media, as well as what they’re doing now.
Telling A Story Through Design
“We loved buying from young designers, people who no one had ever heard of before, when we were in school in Chicago. In the early 2000s, there was still an indie design scene there,” says Mazur. “And we wanted to replicate that experience online for people who didn’t have interesting shopping communities where they lived.”
Of A Kind worked with emerging designers to create limited edition pieces that would be posted in conjunction with a series of stories about the designer, combining content and e-commerce in an innovative way.
The site started with fashion, but once Instgram, which was also launched in 2010, became a popular social media platform, Mazur and Cerulo decided to expand the site’s offerings. “Instagram was really making people in our demographic start to care about what their homes looked like in a way that they hadn’t before,” explains Mazur. “Because all of a sudden, everybody was taking pictures of their home, people were curating their own Pinterest boards— there was a real demand for interesting home pieces.”
Finding Your Style In A Complicated World
In a very short period, our homes have become more important than ever. And without Of A Kind, finding interesting items, especially limited edition products isn’t as easy as it used to be. Once any trend becomes mainstream and everyone has a particular item or iteration of it, it becomes less interesting. The furniture and decor in our homes should reflect our personal style, but discovering what that is exactly can be a challenge. Social media adds extra pressure to create a complete aesthetic even for those who aren’t influencers by any means. But Mazur and Cerulo believe knowing your own style is a far better approach.
“Take your time and do it slowly. With so many people moving, many people have the mentality that they need to need to have a complete space that looks perfect as soon as possible, but the problem is that people end up making concessions,” says Cerulo. “You end up not necessarily liking the thing long term. Take your time and wait until you land on a coffee table, or a fruit bowl that you buy on a trip that has some memory attached to it. Those things are more meaningful, and you have deeper connections with them. They’re not just stuff you have around.”
On the other hand, Mazur recommends being extra mindful of what you’re attracted to and how it makes you feel. Once you do, it’s easy to recognize patterns and be the algorithm of your own internal Pinterest Board. “At some point, I realized that every woman on the street who passed me, who [made me think that] I want to be her, was always wearing head to toe neutrals,” she says. “And I [thought]: why aren’t I just only buying neutrals then and becoming that woman?”
The same school of thought, Mazur explains, can apply to home spaces as well. “We’re inundated with images of other people’s homes. Pay attention to the ones that you’re constantly responding to [where you think] that’s where I want to be. And you’re going start to see patterns emerge, whether it’s that they’re all super minimal, or they’re all really pattern heavy— you will start to notice.”
The Art Of Curation
The reason why Of A Kind was so successful is that the two founders truly mastered the art of curation. And just because the brand no longer exists doesn’t mean they’ve stopped curating, it just means they’re doing things a little differently. One of these ways is through a weekly membership newsletter called The Secret Menu where the women share some of their favorite things across the board, from decor to snacks, recipes, etc.
Their podcast, A Thing Or Two also continues to thrive, especially during the pandemic. They not only interview people they find interesting but also talk about their own lives and share their latest obsessions.
After Thanksgiving, their fan-favorite annual gift guide episode will go live. Listeners write in and ask for gift recommendations for the most challenging people on their list. They offer truly interesting suggestions beyond the typical whiskey stones for your brother-in-law. “We’re excited to put out those queries and start hunting,” Cerulo says.
While it’s clear that sharing stories is so much a part of who these women are, their content is just as useful as it is entertaining. After all, once a tastemaker, always a tastemaker and they’re certainly not stopping any time soon.