On Saturday evening, a line snaked through the courtyard of Mandarin Plaza in Chinatown as people waited patiently to be among the first to shop at artists Ben Goetting and Tuesday Bassen's new boutique, Friend Mart.
Bassen was in the news last month when she formally accused the Spanish fast-fashion brand Zara of blatantly appropriating her enamel pin and patch designs. In an infuriating written response, the brand rejected Bassen's claim, saying: “The lack of distinctiveness of your client's purported designs makes it very hard to see how a significant part of the population anywhere in the world would associate the signs with Tuesday Bassen.” Bassen is one of several dozen artists with compelling evidence that their designs were ripped off by the brand; Brooklyn-based artist Adam J. Kurtz is chronicling them all on the website shoparttheft.com, where shoppers can buy the original products from the people who actually designed them.
Several of those brands and artists have stuff for sale at Friend Mart — the store's tagline is “Good stuff for you and your friends, by us and our friends” — from patches and pins to T-shirts and shoes (and a pool float shaped like a giant boob). It's like Etsy's greatest hits but in real life.
If the turnout at Friend Mart's opening is any indication, there's a healthy subset of the population that feels strongly about supporting artists and their intellectual property. The (surprisingly orderly) line to browse the goods led directly to the counter, where it seemed just about everyone was buying at least a little something. Essentially everything in the store is wearable, collectible and affordable art. Bassen herself was checking people out, while co-owner and graphic designer Goetting sat behind a sewing machine doing custom embroidery on people's denim jackets and vests.
Bassen is reportedly continuing to pursue an intellectual property suit against Zara; in the meantime she'll be overseeing her indie-art empire and helping Angelenos shop small. Which is huge.