Indagare member Amy Abrams co-founded Artists & Fleas with her husband in Brooklyn in 2003, and the popular fashion and craft market now boasts multiple outposts in New York and Los Angeles. A co-founder of In Good Company, fashion designer, personal stylist and serial traveler, Abrams’s appreciation of style and creativity knows no borders. Indagare spoke to the renaissance woman about the development of Artists & Fleas, her favorite markets around the world and the top highlights of her Indagare-planned vacations.
Amy Abrams will be leading an Indagare Insider Trip to India in January 2018. Email email@example.com to learn more about this special experience.
Tell us about your company, Artists & Fleas. How has it evolved since its founding?
Artists & Fleas was originally inspired by my love of travel and collecting cool things during my adventures. Anywhere I visit, I seek out marketplaces, as they are often the heartbeat of the city and showcase the vast artisanal creations and culinary delicacies that reflect the culture and history of the destination. I also grew up going to flea markets and art fairs, as did my husband and business partner, Ronen. Fundamentally, we are treasure seekers, and we wanted to create an amazing marketplace in New York where artists, designers and vintage collectors could set up shop. We opened the first location 15 years ago in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and now have several more locations, including in Chelsea Market, SoHo and Los Angeles.
Related: Neighborhood Walk: Cozy Brooklyn
You also co-design a fashion collection, Bon Voyage, and are an expert on vintage fashion. What drew you to vintage clothing specifically?
I created a small clothing collection with my friend Valentine Leung that was 100% inspired by my love of travel, hence the name “Bon Voyage.” I wanted to create pieces that were comfortable but chic, versatile, and most importantly, that were easy to bring wherever I traveled. I purchased all of the fabric for my first collection in Jaipur, India. I have always loved block prints, and I wanted to create contemporary silhouettes out of these lovely, colorful and easily transported fabrics! We created several collections that were really well-received, but now we only create a few customer favorite pieces each fall and spring.
As for my vintage collection, I love playing dress up, and I see clothing as wearable art. Collecting vintage is a passion that is all about the hunt. The inherent scarcity of finding something one-of-a-kind is so exciting, and that’s how we want people to feel when shopping at Artists & Fleas. Additionally, every trend that you see today is inspired by a previous fashion trend. With the influx of fast fashion, I often think the original version is more beautiful and more thoughtfully crafted. Wearing vintage is also a great way to go green, since you are recycling!
Related: Melissa’s Finds: Jaipur
What are some of your favorites markets around the world?
The Arab market in the Old City in Jerusalem, Shuk Hapishpishim in Tel Aviv (Olei Zion Street), the Medina in Marrakech, Chatuchak in Bangkok and the entire country of India!
Related: The Shopping Guide: Marrakech
Exploring foreign markets can be daunting. Do you have any go-to strategies when navigating them?
The first tip is to try not to get too excited by the first things you see, as you will encounter many versions of the same exact thing. You are better off letting your eye adjust to the styles of design and then trying to seek out the most unique version of what’s available. That said, it is also very important not to have “traveling glasses” on when making purchases: It is very easy to fall in love with the whole look of a country’s aesthetic and make purchases that will not integrate into your life back home. Try to find really special items that you imagine will accent your life at home. Finally, try and learn the local customs on negotiating price. In some countries, it is part of the fun, but in other countries, it is very insulting.
What are some of your favorite items to buy abroad and is there a specific store that comes to mind?
I love purchasing clothing in India. There is a store in Delhi and Goa called Nani K that has an amazing array of clothing for women and children with a French aesthetic but utilizing Indian fabrics. Kardo is an incredible menswear line with a shop in Delhi (Dada Jungi House, 5G, 2nd Floor, Shahpur Jat, New Delhi). I have also purchased beautiful jewelry in small antique shops in Jaipur and Delhi, and we shipped a ton of furniture home from Lalji in Jodhpur!
In Israel, I love to purchase antique jewelry, since the variety of cultures there has given rise to an incredible collection—if you know where to go. My favorite store is in the North of Israel, and they have beautiful Tunisian and Yemenite pieces. I also always discover beautiful vintage embroidered blouses in the market in Tel Aviv.
Additionally, I love finding home goods like napkins, baskets and bowls—most recently in Colombia.
Related: Long Weekend: Cartagena
Can you think of a moment that made you fall in love with travel? (At Indagare, we might call this a ‘transformative travel moment.’)
The first time I went “traveling” was for a month in Turkey with three friends during our junior year in college while studying abroad in Israel. It was such an incredible adventure with so many unexpected twists and turns and hilarious encounters. I loved the combination of feelings I was experiencing: arriving in a city feeling totally disoriented, seeing landmarks, sites and national treasures that were exquisite and filled with rich cultural history, stumbling upon amazing places to eat, meeting locals who were so warm and welcoming, finding treasures that I still have today, making friends with travelers and sharing tips, feeling like I could find my way around a new city within a few days and knowing that this experience was challenging me, shaping me and opening my eyes in new ways. I knew that travel was something that I would always need to incorporate in my life. So far, so good.
What are some of your most memorable experiences on Indagare trips?
I have so many memorable experiences from my Indagare adventures! Our family India trip was really incredible. We absolutely adored Sher Bagh and our safari guide Yad who was so intelligent. Seeing a tiger in the wild is really a moment that takes your breath away—and the bird that stole a cookie out of my hand when we were hanging out in the jeep was pretty unforgettable, too! My kids loved the atmosphere at Sher Bagh. Staying in luxury tents, a.k.a “glamping,” is really an extraordinary way to spend time in another country. We loved eating a gourmet communal meal around the campfire with other guests. We also loved our kite-flying class in Udiapur. Kites are a big part of the culture in India, and the girls had so much fun picking out kites and flying them from the rooftops. Another incredibly memorable experience that Indagare planned was my Italian adventure with my mom for her 70th birthday last May. We had so much fun eating, shopping and drinking our way through Italy—and, of course, we soaked in a lot of culture, too. A particular highlight was our stay in Tuscany. We took a cooking class together and made countless varieties of pasta.
Related: Just Back From…India
How has Indagare changed the way you travel?
I love to travel, but it can be overwhelming and time-consuming to plan a vacation. I think Indagare is such an incredible resource to allow you to direct the type of adventure you are seeking but then have full confidence that all of the arrangements and details are in place, so you can have a totally stress-free and fabulous travel experience. Indagare does such a great job of taking my cues—I usually know where I want to go, but they help plan the best route and then help me stay at places that totally fit my tastes (e.g., I prefer boutique hotels). I also love Indagare’s restaurant recommendations—no one wants to eat a bad meal on vacation!
Which cities most inspire you?
Above all, New York City. It is constantly re-inventing itself.
Paris. Who doesn’t love Paris?
Mexico City. The food is amazing and the city is having a real moment these days.
Tel Aviv. Incredibly modern city in the heart of the Middle East.
Jaipur. Amazing for all five senses—the color, the textures, pure delight!
Related: Top Tables Mexico City
Do you have a favorite neighborhood to explore in this city? A favorite restaurant or shop?
I am really loving lower Manhattan these days—SoHo, Nolita, Chinatown—where there is a lot of energy and creativity. As for shops, I am a huge fan of Isabel Marant, and I think Warm is an incredible store with a collection that feels like Paris meets the beach (181 Mott Street). And Rachel Comey is really a fantastic New York designer with a fabulous store (95 Crosby Street).
What is always in your carry-on bag?
An embroidered shawl from India that can function as a blanket, scarf or jacket, cashmere slippers (my feet are always freezing on planes), an eye patch (cannot sleep with light), a few issues of The New Yorker, a good book, a book light, Tata Harper moisturizer, a journal and a hat—all of this kept in a embroidered pouch purchased on my travels to India—and sometimes a pair of sandals and a vintage Indian dress if I am leaving cold weather and heading to warm weather.
What is your favorite travel splurge?
Rather than purchasing things that are ubiquitous, I try and seek out a very special merchant at a market (vintage and antique dealers) or boutiques that utilize the artistic traditions and take them to the next level. What is most important to me is to purchase things that I will actually use and integrate into my style when I return to New York.
Related: Unplugged in Tulum
What is your favorite travel ritual?
Creating my packing list. It is really more of an art than a science. I never allow myself to bring more than one carry-on sized suitcase and one tote bag. That forces you to be really creative and thoughtful about what to pack. What is versatile? What can you dress up and dress down? At the same time, I like to dress in a way that reflects who I am but is also comfortable and appropriate for where I am traveling. And, of course, I always pack an extra bag for purchases I make on my travels!
What are some destinations on your travel wish-list?
There are so many more places that I would like to visit in India, like Ahmedabad and Calcutta. Also, Iran, Peru, Cambodia, Budapest and Italy (where I traveled with my mom last year and want to return with my whole family).
Related: Just Back From…Iran
Name a destination that surprised you and tell us why. What trip has changed your perspective?
We recently went to Costa Rica, and unlike most of our trips where we run from city to city, we just camped out at the Harmony Hotel for a week. I was surprised by how important it is to just totally slow down and surrender to the environment. When we arrived, I was really concerned that I would get antsy, but ultimately just sitting still and going to a beach in a beautiful country where the people are nice and hospitable was a very valuable and rejuvenating experience for my whole family.