How Modern Artisan Marketplace Was Inspired By A Cool LA Mom Group

Photos: Modern Artisan Marketplace

Since débuting on the Westside last year, Modern Artisan Marketplace has brought its women-powered bazaar to cool haunts like ROW DTLA and Newport Beach's Lido Marina Village. Its summer installment once again invades PLATFORM in Culver City this weekend — and this time around, there's a fun twist to help shoppers get to know some of the event's local artisans.

Taking place this Saturday, July 21 and Sunday, July 22 (11am to 5pm both days), the bohemian-cool market feature a hands-on kids crafting station with Art Camp LA alongside over 40 vendors who'll be hawking women's, men's, and kids clothing, jewelry, accessories, bags, home goods, art, gourmet bites, and much more. Plus, MAM will be giving away a swag bag stuffed with $600 worth of merch to the winner their mini scavenger hunt — just pick up the event's passport and collect eight stickers from select brands and designers.

The pop-up event was co-created by LA designer Diana Ra (who's also behind cool local label and ROW DTLA boutique, dRA) and fellow fashion industry veteran Ahyoung Kim, who both saw a need for a stylish and kid-friendly — but not totally tot-focused — market that didn't involve scouring hundreds of vendor booths or circling the block in order to claim the last parking spot.

Modern Artisan Marketplace co-founders Diana Ra and Ahyoung Kim. Photo: Courtesy of Diana Ra

Ahead of this weekend's relaxing retail therapy, we recently sat down with Ra (who was raised in Brazil by her South Korean-born parents before relocating with her family to LA) to find out how MAM was born. Read on to find out exactly how the two co-founders joined forces, what Ra learned from the success of her own clothing line, how she and Kim discover brands, and more.

How did you and Ahyoung connect?

We had mutual friends so we've known each other for a long time but really got closer once we became mothers and joined [members-only group] Fashion Mamas!

What was the "a-ha moment" that inspired the concept of MAM? And what was the conversation that led you two to turn talk of starting MAM into reality?

I think the "a-ha moment" came when we were complaining about how difficult it was to take our kids to an artisanal marketplace. Although we absolutely love them, they're usually crowded with few eating and drinking options, limited parking, and uninviting bathrooms. In talking about everything we didn't like, I think we came up with MAM! We loved the idea of a boutique marketplace that bridges the gap between artisanal fairs and an elevated retail experience by offering convenience and great amenities — like valet, stroller-friendly walkways, and Aesop soap in bathrooms!

We think there is a movement of people who really want to support local brands, small shops, artisans, ethically-made products, and makers with a cause — but they also want the experience to be convenient. For example, guests can valet their cars and start their day with the best bread and butter from Hayden, take their kids for arts and crafts at Art Camp LA, do some MAM shopping, meet and chat with our vendors (who are generally the owners and founders), grab lunch at Loqui, pick up flowers from the Hand & Rose truck, and end the day with boba from Boba Guys! (P.S. the seasonal Tropic Thunder is amazing!) My kids run around during the event like it's our backyard. They're comfortable and familiar with PLATFORM and most the vendors know them by name now.

As the designer of your own clothing line, how did your experiences in the fashion industry shape your decision to pursue creating the event?

With dRA, it's me being creative all the time, but with MAM, I get to step back and turn the spotlight on the creativity and passion of our amazing community of vendors. I know the struggles of a small startup firsthand and I am proud that we can provide a platform for such small businesses to grow and broaden their audience. We put in a lot of time and energy curating the marketplace each season so it isn't difficult to promote each brand. We are truly fans!

What's your favorite part about curating the MAM's vendor lineup?

I love meeting the people behind the brands! With social media these days, some brands appear so much bigger than they are and it's intimidating. But often, I'll find that my favorite brands are run entirely by two sisters, or a mother/daughter team, or just one woman! Everyone has a story and once we understand what drives each brand, it's really inspiring.

How do you discover the designers and brands to include?

Social media (mainly Instagram), boutique stores and referrals! A lot of our founding members are brands I have followed and loved for a long time.

Where do you see MAM in a few years?

Our goal is to spread to different cities all over the world! We have already brought MAM to the Arts District and Newport Beach and would like to keep the momentum going. The key is to hold it at a venue like PLATFORM where guests can experience local artisanal shopping in a luxurious setting. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Another idea we've been toying around with is a MAM retail shop. Stay tuned for more on that later!

Modern Artisan Marketplace takes place this Saturday and Sunday at PLATFORM; see below for the address.

Modern Artisan Marketplace at PLATFORM
8850 Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232

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