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Enamel pins are having something of a renaissance. They're suddenly everywhere, no matter the price point or the aesthetic. Industrious artists on Instagram sell them, Proenza Schouler has a line, even Ann Taylor Loft offers pin sets.
At the forefront of the resurgence, which only dates back to 2014, is Brooklyn's Pintrill. Despite the now inexplicably-crowded fashion pin space, Pintrill has managed to stay at the forefront, snagging high profile collaborations, earning boatloads of social media play, and just today opening what might be the planet's first pin boutique.
"Someone asked me if there's another pin store in New York City," co-founder Jordan Roschwalb tells me from inside Pintrill's new retail home in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. "I was like, 'no, there isn't a pin store anywhere in the world.'"
The slim, white space Pintrill occupies is stocked with dozens (hundreds?) of its own designs as well as vintage pins, and what Roschwalb and team refer to as pin accessories: jean jackets and baseball hats.
Pins aren't new, and the brand isn't alone in the category. How did Pintrill fund the opening of a store in pricey Williamsburg (where retail rent goes for around $125 per square foot) with eight dollar pins of Drake crying? Roschwalb takes us through the company's start as a job hunting distraction, to the moment that had him sobbing in front of Roc Nation VPs, and through the unique design challenges of creating a store with no blueprint.
Tell me the Pintrill origin story.
I was working at Mercedes-Benz as an operations manager and [after some turnover] I wasn't vibing with [the team]. It wasn't a good feeling being there. I thought, "maybe I'm just being paranoid but, this is just not right."
I had no idea what to do. My long-term goal was to be there for three years, [save] a nice amount of money, and open a candy store.
Why a candy store?
Candy never goes out of style. Even if you look back to the Great Depression, people used to chew gum and then put it in a cup of water overnight to [save it]. When things are bad people still want candy.
Like lipstick and alcohol, all the vices.
Yeah, exactly. Obviously [opening a store] costs a lot of money and I didn't have it at the time, so I was looking for another job.
Every time I would look for something, it just wouldn't happen and then I was like, "All right, I need something to take my mind off of this. I'm just going to make pins because I love pins and I think that there should be emoji pins and there should be [modern] pop-culture references on pins."
Did you have experience making pins? How did you come to the format?
It was just a learning curve, just like anything else.
You just Googled "pin production" or something?
That's exactly what I did. I found a factory and I grew, learned more about the process.
If I was making sneakers, I can go knock on Nike's door and be like, "Hey, how do I make sneakers?" At least you could get an internship or something like that; there's been somebody that's done it in the past. With this, there was [no blueprint], so it was just learning as I went.
What were some of the first pins you designed?
One was like a Basquiat crown which actually never got produced. The first ones we [made] were the Fire emoji, the 100 emoji, "Good Vibes Only," the hashtag symbol, and the Pintrill logo.
[I decided] I'd go into my savings and spend x-amount of dollars [on production]. Once I spent that, if I felt that I'd moved forward then I'd keep going. If not, then I'd figure something else out.
What is the minimum run that you have to order?
A hundred pins.
I feel like I see editions of 20 all the time.
There's a lot of stuff that we've made 100 pins of and just released 20.
When I saw a Nike x Pintrill pin for the first time I was like, "What is happening? This is real. That's not a joke."
You're a thousand percent right and any brand working with Nike would be like, "Oh my God, I'm working with Nike!" I'm jaded by the fact that I'm just trying to pay my rent, you know what I mean? Like, as long as this deal comes through with Nike I got rent for the next couple of months.
How did you first get eyes on Pintrill? How did Nike even know you existed?
For Nike, the reason they knew we existed is because I was working with Kinfolk. One of the buyers there hit me up two weeks after we started working together on custom pins like, "Oh hey, I'm actually leaving on a tour for this marketing company." Two weeks later he called me up like, "Yeah, Jordan Brand is one of my big accounts. I think they want to make pins so I'll let you know." Three weeks after that he called me up and he's like, "Yeah, we're going to do pins for All Star Weekend." I'm just like, "What?" That was February last year.
That was like kind of through friends, like natural social circle stuff.
Exactly, just natural progression. He knew I was about making pins. I just got enjoyment out of doing it and I was going to do it the best that I could.
What's the most surreal collab that you've done?
One of the most surreal moments for me was the day after my 28th birthday.
A week or two before, I got an email from Roc Nation to sit with them and consult on pins for their caps. I was thinking, "I think I'm doing this. Jay Z was 28 when he did Reasonable Doubt. I'm sitting here, I'm 28, I'm moving. This is awesome."
I literally was brought to tears sitting in the office with the two VPs from Roc Nation and they were just like, "Whoa kid, don't worry, it's okay."
Now everyone makes pins. Who do you admire, who do you think is doing a great job?
Big Bud Press does an amazing job; her stuff is awesome and super high quality. Prize Pins is super artistic. Stampd LA always makes cool pins. He was one of the first people to inspire me to do pins, so I always try and stay up on their stuff.
Are you worried at all about a saturation point for this, too much in the market place?
Pins are so small that you would never have too many, and they're interchangeable, so I don't think that saturation is the thing. Just go get another denim jacket and have two denim jackets full of pins, you know?
You said from the beginning you wanted Pintrill to have a store, why?
There's two reasons. One is because I think this deserves it. Pins deserve to be exhibited. Nobody gave them a place to be rooted [so] this is it. It can grow from here.
The other reason is because I grew up in the car business and I always, always wanted to have my own dealership. Everything unfolded and I ended up not being in the car business and starting to make pins. I mean, I wanted a candy store, too.
Those things kind of make sense together. This is sort of a candy store.
It is, it's a candy for your clothes.
Why did you pick Williamsburg and this space in particular?
We started in Williamsburg, in my loft on North 8th Street. I always thought this was a destination store. It should be in a good neighborhood, it should be in a nice place. It should be in a place you want to walk around and be around and congregate.
What were some of the challenges designing a retail space for a product that's so small, and a retail category that doesn't have a blueprint?
The biggest thing is that pins need to be front and center, making them the focal point of everything. Everything else is second to that, any accessory or anything like that.
Did you take inspiration from any other kinds of stores or any other kinds of retail in designing it?
Kith inspired me because when you walk into it you feel like you're walking into a different world. That's what I wanted to get out of this, just like when you walk into Disney World or Disneyland, it doesn't matter how old you are, you feel like a kid.
Who did you work with to bring this space to life?
No one in particular. We had two friends who come in and they were like, "Oh, here's an idea, here's an idea." But we essentially did it ourselves.