Consider the power strip. It’s essential, sure, for your ever-multiplying electronic devices. But beautiful? Never. Well, almost never: There is a version made of white ash with a nylon-covered cord, designed to look as sleek and modern as the rest of your living room.
Or contemplate your bath mat. You might not slip and fall — but why risk dying of boredom when you could get a smile-inducing rug adorned with cartoon boobs instead?
From a ceramic fruit bowl that somehow looks like a soft, wool baseball cap to a vessel that appears to be made of panda fur to a blown-glass vase that doubles as a bong in a pinch, there’s so much stuff you didn’t know you needed.
It’s all available at Yowie, a Philadelphia home goods start-up that launched online, evolved into a series of pop-up shops around the city, and, as of Friday, has a permanent address on Fabric Row, at 716 S. Fourth St. It’s the brainchild of Shannon Maldonado, a freelance fashion designer for such brands as Ralph Lauren, Urban Outfitters, and American Eagle who about a year ago turned her attention to housewares and how a space full of beautiful things can nourish the spirit.
“The brand is about a lifestyle, whether ceramics or a bath towel or a zine. It’s about creating the perfect space for yourself at home,” she said.
Maldonado, 33, has only just finished creating her own perfect space, in a former record shop refurbished to her specifications.
She’s hoping her followers, from Instagram and from pop-ups at Philadelphia shops like Ubiq, the sneaker boutique, and Meadowsweet Mercantile in Old City, will create an instant market for her offerings.
Those include a mix of wares by local artisans and products from designers from across the country and overseas, including exclusive and one-of-a-kind pieces and collaborations between Maldonado and local artists. She’s also planning to develop ceramic, glass, and textile lines down the road.
She’ll carry earthenware vessels with an eye-pleasing contrast of rough, unglazed clay and drips of thick, glossy glaze by Brian Giniewski, who makes the line at a studio at Globe Dye Works in the city’s Frankford section. Giniewski sells his wares mostly online — like Maldonado, he finds many of his fans on Instagram — but he values the retail opportunity.
“Her vision is really particular. I love when she merchandises my work, because it looks so unique and individual to her brand,” he said. “One nice thing about being a small operation is I can be flexible and make things that fit a look that she’s looking for, or she comes into the studio and sorts through what I have and curates pieces that fit with what she’s after.”
Maldonado’s aim is to create a space that functions more like a gallery than a gift shop.
“We give the products a pedestal so they don’t get lost in a sea of products,” she said. “I love every object that’s in the shop, and my goal is to get you to love them as much as I do.”
Yowie also carries items from Felt+Fat, which makes porcelain tableware and planters in a studio in the city’s Harrowgate section.
Nate Mell, a partner in that company, sees the store as something entirely new for the city.
“The vibe is very West Coast, but also parts of Brooklyn. A lot of what she’s carrying are brands you might see a shop or two in Brooklyn carry, but she’s not doing stuff that’s typical to Philly,” he said.
Though Mell has been contemplating opening a Felt+Fat concept store in Kensington, for now Yowie has been carrying some of his one-off, experimental pieces he couldn’t sell through other retailers that would require larger quantities.
“The nature of her shop has been kind of ephemeral, so she can handle selling unique pieces better.”
Experimental work doesn’t scare Maldonado, who, after all, named her shop after a mythical Australian creature comparable to Bigfoot.
“I had a list of 125 names, and Yowie was the one that was most polarizing among my friends and family, so I thought that was the one. One of my best friends hates the name, but someone told me if they don’t hate it, then it’s not worth talking about,” she said. “Besides, it’s a very exuberant word. It’s the kind of a word you ask: What does that mean? That’s the brand. There’s always a surprise.”