Honestly, I wandered into Better Than Jam by accident. I was looking at art at the Loom during Bushwick Site Fest, and suddenly I found myself in a bright, beautiful boutique, with rack after rack of silkscreened t-shirts and dresses, felted hats, shining jewelry, stitched pillows, knit scarves, and on and on. It turns out that Better Than Jam is a handmade design co-op, a collective space run by fashion designer Karin Persan. It’s a lovely shop full of lovely things, open daily. Go support the store and buy yourself something nice, but first read my interview with Karin!
brooklyn spaces: How did this all get started?
Karin: Well, I’m a fashion designer. I’ve been doing markets on the weekends for six or seven years, just traveling around, and the opportunity came up to take this space and open a storefront, so I grabbed it. I wanted to make it a showcase for local designers, and I started with a core group of awesome, talented people, and as I’ve been open I just meet more and more creative people from the neighborhood. The way the space works is everyone puts in a little bit for rent, and then keeps 90 percent of what they make. It’s a self-sufficient space.
brooklyn spaces: Do you have specific ideas for what you want to stock?
Karin: I have to keep it noncompetitive between the designers, so I only take on new people who don’t have anything similar to what I already carry. I like to have a good array of styles, designers with a good range of experience, and everything is high-quality, obviously.
brooklyn spaces: Do you do all the selection and the running of the space yourself?
Karin: Yup. I don’t make the designers work like a co-op usually does. I do want them to be involved, like bringing in new stock regularly, and I have events every once in a while, so I want them to come and participate, so people can meet them. People really love meeting the designers of the pieces they love.
brooklyn spaces: I’ve never heard of a space like this before, is this a pioneering idea?
Karin: Oh, I don’t know. I went to art school, I’m not a business major. I’ve had people emailing me from all over the country, saying, “What’s your business model?” I don’t have a business model! This is just what works for me.
brooklyn spaces: Was there a particular desire to have your shop in this neighborhood, or in Brooklyn in general?
Karin: It made sense for me to do it in Bushwick. This is where I’ve been for the last few years, I’m really proud of my neighborhood and how many creative people are here, and I like being a part of the growth of it, in a positive way. It wouldn’t make sense for me to open something like this in Park Slope or Williamsburg, because that’s not me, that’s not where I’m going. This is my neighborhood, this is where I have to be.