Story by Rachel Schwartzmann – Shop Cold Picnic – Photos by Bridget Badore for The Style Line
We’ve asked a lot in our interviews over the years,
though recently we addressed what was perhaps one of the most interesting questions we’ve considered to date: What is a Cold Picnic? For answers, we turned to the dynamic duo and Cold Picnic founders, Phoebe Sung and Peter Buer who replied, “For us, the name conjures up a lot of concepts we respond to – a genteel sort of wildness, simplicity, nostalgia – but it doesn’t have any secret or specific meaning.”
That enigmatic charm is something that can be attributed to Cold Picnic’s cult success in the fashion and interior worlds. The brand is heavily known for its eclectic collection of interior goods – featuring their infamous “private parts” collection of rugs and pillows, beautifully crafted plant hangers, and detailed wall hangings. Coupling this with their sculptural jewelry and small leather goods, you could say that Cold Picnic is easily a go-to for style mavens and design lovers alike.
If you’re still not convinced, today’s featured studio visit with the effervescent couple will surely prove otherwise. We were reaffirmed of Phoebe and Peter’s distinct point of view as makers, and a thoughtful eye for style during our morning with them at the Cold Picnic studio in Ridgewood, New York. There, they gave us a grand tour of their live-in workspace, which was appropriately adorned with plants, books, and other fun odds and ends that made the studio feel as warm and inviting as the goods they create themselves. In our chat with Phoebe and Peter, they kindly shared more on how they met, their process, and how their personal style is influenced as a result of their colorful designs. Discover the full conversation below which features snapshots from our morning taken by Bridget Badore for The Style Line.
*THIS STORY WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN AUGUST 2016 AND REFLECTS UPDATED CHANGES TO THE LAYOUT AND INTRODUCTION
We met at school in Boston
10 years ago and have been living and working together since. We both studied apparel design, and after we graduated we worked at all the same jobs, because there were so few fashion jobs in Boston. We moved to New York about 5 years ago and worked the same job again, because a former boss was hiring! Last year we bought a house in Ridgewood – we converted the basement into a studio/showroom and got married in the backyard. So our personal and work lives have always been intertwined. Both of us are obsessed with food. Eating and cooking. And reading, and Netlifx. The beach. But mostly, life seems to revolve around our dog Phillip. Is he happy today? Has he done his business?
We love Cold Picnic’s dynamic products, do you find it difficult to switch gears in terms of design (from working on rugs, accessories, objects, etc.) and how have you found a way to make everything cohesive?
It might sound strange, but I think each category we work on helps prepare us for the next.
Especially since starting the rug line. We usually design the rugs first, working on little studies in our free moments which gradually take up more and more of our time until we’re overwhelmed with drawings and paintings and CAD renderings. We definitely over-design and then hone it down until we have a very small handful of designs. The entire process puts us into the right frame of mind, and the more we work on the rugs, the more we discover about them. The goal is for them to sit together well in terms of color and composition, but also be different enough from one another to stand on their own. Once we’ve finished with the rugs, we know more or less what we want the rest of the collections to look like.
In your own words, what is a “Cold Picnic” and what is your ideal Cold Picnic set up?
We’re not even sure ourselves! For us, the name conjures up a lot of concepts we respond to – a genteel sort of wildness, simplicity, nostalgia – but it doesn’t have any secret or specific meaning.
Our setup right now (live/work spaces in the same building but separate floors) is something we’ve been working toward for a long time. It’s perfect for us. I suppose at some point we’ll have to get help but for now we enjoy Cold Picnic as a sort of cottage industry.
Talk to us about Brooklyn – why do you think this is the best place to build a brand like Cold Picnic? Have you been able to connect with other makers in the area?
When we moved to Brooklyn relatively recently, it was still possible to find a cheap place to live and to find different ways to make money in order to have the time and budget to build a brand. There are a lot of artists and designers and everyone is excited to meet and work with one another. It was very different from Boston, which is an equally expensive city but one without many work opportunities (for us, at least) and few, if any, manufacturing resources (again, for us). New York and Brooklyn in particular offered a lot of opportunities as well as an incredibly supportive community. We’ve met so many wonderful and talented people since moving here. But it has gotten a lot more expensive. I wonder if we could manage it if we tried to do it over again today.
Do you have any unexpected sources of creative inspiration, if so what are they?
Not so unexpected. Natural parks and natural phenomena, always. As well as films and art. All those always form the starting point.
How do you hope to see the Cold Picnic brand mature?
That’s a good question! Cold Picnic’s growth and direction has always happened so organically that I wouldn’t want to hazard a guess. As long as it continues to move forward!
What is one question that you wish people asked you more often?
I‘ve always love list questions, though I’m not sure they would shed any light on Cold Picnic! Favorite 5 foods, animals, books, etc.
How do you think creativity contributes to some of the world’s bigger conversations and what role is Cold Picnic playing in this shift in thinking?
It takes a lighter hand than ours to be able to create with that a message in mind.
In many ways the two of us design to create an imaginary place, rather than to improve our existing world. Our efforts to improve the world we live in through our company lie more in the way we manufacture or run the brand, or in raising money or awareness for a cause we believe in.
How would you advise the next generation of makers, creative/fashion professionals or people in general to leave in an imprint in the world just by doing what they love?
I think running a small business has made us hyper aware of everything, and the more we think about everything, the more mindful we realize we need to be. We try to be very careful – in consumption, in how we treat the people we work with, in how we design, in how we spend and make money. Improvement is necessary on a daily basis, especially in both design and in running a small business.
How does Cold Picnic encourage fostering personal style? How do you personally celebrate personal style?
We like to think of our designs as minimalist statements pieces.
They should be striking but also fit seamlessly in with the home or the wardrobe of the new owner. Our style has become more pared down since we’ve grown older, and since we’ve had the brand. We work with so many colors and patterns it’s nice to have a rest! But then we’re always attracted to colors and patterns, so it’s a constant balancing act.
The Style Line was built on the premise of discovery, exploration, and transit. With this in mind, what is “the style line” in your wardrobe?
The seasons dictate both of our styles by necessity as well as mood. Just when I get comfortable with my style for a season, the weather changes and I have to figure it out all over again. Maybe that’s why people in LA look so great. Old movies are another constant source of inspiration. Not many of those on the streets but sometimes you see an older person who still looks “dated” in the nicest possible way and that is always inspiring. It makes me nostalgic for a time I might not even have lived through.