Spotlight On Eponymy

This blog was born in Brooklyn. I live in (and love) BK for many reasons, one being the good bounty of local purveyors. I shopped at Eponymy a handful of times before I introduced myself to Andrea Miller, the owner. A fellow aesthete, we immediately hit off a friendship, each calling Park Slope home. Andrea is a brilliant, bright light of a woman who has succeeded in creating a whimsical, chic and unique oasis by sewing together vintage jewelry, new fashion, clothing of the past and contemporary art. For a shop that names itself, everyone is able to take away something with personal meaning.

Was there a moment or a person that truly influenced you in taking the leap to open your own store?

There was a moment when I was cleaning out a storage room in my grandparent’s old antique shop. There were all these beautiful Victorian and Edwardian showcases but they were in really bad shape. I realized I would probably have to actually pay someone to haul them away and dump them and I couldn’t bear the thought of it. I had been working at this photo agency for about six years and although it was a great job, there wasn’t anything about it I was passionate about and I missed having a creative outlet. I got the idea to fix the old showcases up, eventually bringing them to Brooklyn where they became the foundation for the design of Eponymy. These were the pieces I grew up around in my grandparent’s shop and I sort of repurposed them to make them fit into my aesthetic. In short, I’m an impulsive, sentimental sucker.

Did you work in fashion or the vintage circles before opening the store?

Nope. I’m definitely not a “fashion girl.” I’m into aesthetics in general. I figure as long as we’re living this crazy life, it might as well look beautiful, no?  Sometimes I have existential meltdowns about what I am doing because I wonder if it is important. But history and culture wouldn’t exist without aesthetics so I’ve quickly learned to try to hyper-rationalize the doubt out of myself. And I try to make it important by doing something different with the shop. After the financial crisis I think shopping became sort of dirty to people. But it doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t all have to be cheap, mass, anonymous, quick fix, careless consumerism. It can be an experience like going to a wonderful restaurant or performance.

What is your most favorite part about owning a business?

I like that each day is a little different, sometimes drastically different. I’m not in the same chair, in the same office for eight hours a day. Mainly though, I would say it is the people I come in contact with. There are some amazing characters, like straight out of central casting, and then I’ve met people along the way who’ve become really good friends of mine, other local business owners and customers. I guess they have done studies about when people get to the end of their lives…and when asked, what is important in life, sort of “what is the meaning of life?” Without trying to get too deep, the answer is almost unanimously “other people.” I really think I’ve been lucky to meet so many different, forward thinking and wonderful people. But of course, there are always some rotten apples. When I come in contact with those people I’d have to say that my favorite part about owning my own business is that I get to take my dog pretty much everywhere!

What has been the greatest lesson learned to date?

Running a business is not easy. Really. There are so many different aspects to keeping it together – and of course I had to go and make it super difficult what with all the specific aesthetics, complicated inventory, switching of the art shows…I have a lot of respect for people who take the plunge. Every time I walk into another person’s business now, I look at it differently, with a certain level of reverence, from bodegas to restaurants and shops.

When you aren’t at Eponymy, where are you?

My apartment is close by and I often do desk work there and intermittently get distracted by the almost unbearable cuteness of my dog. Sometimes I have to bring her down to Eponymy and separate myself from her because she is too distracting. I spend some time in the city, really only to go to market and showroom appointments or have dinner with my parents or something.  My home away from Eponymy in Brooklyn is my close friend Kathryn’s bar, Weather Up.  We usually meet there weekly for a pow-wow and some shop talk.

Top three places to source items for the store?

For my modern lines I have a few favorite showrooms. I also try to see as much as I can at the shows during market just to get a sense of what’s out there, what’s new and sometimes I’ll pick up new lines. Vintage-wise I buy a lot from this woman in California.  I call her “Crazy Pat.” A lot of people can’t deal with her but I think she is an absolute hoot and holler. She has great stuff though and supplies to a lot of the studio costumers out there.

I’ll go to Brimfield at least once a year with a few partners in crime. We dress like freelance journalists, bring frame packs and carts, wake up early and go hard all day, then spike our lemonade from the stands with vodka at the end of the day.

I also have good luck in random towns across America. I mean, you can find good stuff anywhere if you have an eye, know a few tricks of the trade, and like getting down and dirty in old stuff and exploring dusty corners and dingy barns. And for some reason, not many people like doing that for, like, eight hours a day! It’s definitely an adventurer’s lifestyle.

What will never go out of style?

Interesting question. Tough one. I guess conversation, storytelling, a joke. Of course, as long as people are still around.  A moment when you really make a connection with another human; that’s had to have gone on consistently through history and will continue to do so.

Who is Bianca and how does she influence Eponymy?

Bianca is my best friend and muse, a six-year-old French bulldog. She is the mascot, security detail, greeter and arbiter of style at Eponymy. She is also a model and a socialite and writes her own blog. She’s quite famous, both locally and internationally. She’s been in five or six Japanese publications, was featured on Racked.com and is a general neighborhood landmark.  My friend was waiting with her outside of a bodega the other day while I ran inside to grab something and I heard some little kids outside yelling, “Hey!  That’s Bianca.  Bianca who owns the store!”  And, well, they’re kind of right.

Who are your favorite designers?

Gary Graham, Timo Weiland – so talented both of them.  I love how they both seem to blend all of these seemingly diametrically opposed styles – minimalism, pattern, bohemianism, futurism, classicism – into their collections and it just totally works. It’s what I try to do with my store as well. Something new, something evolved, but also classic.

If you could only wear one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I have a cream colored quilted dressing robe from the 1940s.  I’d definitely wear that, and as I got older, maybe add in a turban and a monkey on my shoulder or something.

Dream client to dress?

I’m gonna have to go with Meryl Streep. This is for a few reasons.  First of all, she’s awesome.  You can just tell, she’s such a professional and so no bullshit.  But I’d really like to see her in different clothes than I often see her in when I’m at the nail salon and looking at those magazines.  I feel like because she is such a brilliant actor, maybe it’s tough for her to nail her own style because she’s so good at other people’s styles?  I’m just gonna put this out there: apparently I really look like her.  I would say an average of 300 people a year tell me this.  I was actually scouted off the streets of New York by an Agent when I was 16 (he turned out to be legit but still kind of sketchy) who wanted to rep me based on the fact that he thought I could get parts just by looking like a young Meryl or her daughter.  I always think, if the shop doesn’t work out, my plan B is to move to India and become a Bollywood actress under the stage name Cheryl Streep.

Perfect Christmas gift?

I think gift giving is a lovely tradition that can get gratuitous. Since I’m around tangible items all day, I think my favorite gifts tend to be experiences or things I can share with someone or the gift giver…a trip somewhere, a massage, a dinner…something like that. 

JBD’ers, look for more Eponymy later this week when I share the jewelry and artwork from this special shop. You can check out Eponymy in person at 466 Bergen Street, near Flatbush Avenue, in Brooklyn.

Image Credits: Jacqueline Iannacone

Note: This interview was edited and condensed.

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