GENESIS OF BROOKLYN INDUSTRIES
Brooklyn Industries was founded by two artists- Lexy Funk and Vahap Avsar- in 1998 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
The artist duo first met in July 1995 at the artist residency program Art Omi in upstate New York. After working together at the residency they decided to settle in NYC. They moved in together in Manhattan, Vahap worked at the storied drag queen restaurant Stingy Lulu’s as a manager and Lexy at an ad agency. After a year they quit their “day jobs” and decided started Two Tsunami Productions, a studio that made music videos and promotional videos by day and their own art by night. When Lexy was traveling around the globe pursuing her documentary films, Vahap got a hold of some used billboards and started making art. Once he realized the amount of NYC billboards going to landfills every month, he decided to make a product people to recycle the material. He thought that bike messengers, the urban cowboys of NYC, could use more colorful messenger bags to carry their cargo. He taught himself how to design, cut and sew bags and started making messenger bags for NYC bike messengers. He called the brand Crypto.
In 1997, when Lexy returned from Greenland, she saw that the video production studio had turned into bag workshop. Huge billboards were spread on the floor and sewing machines had replaced desks. As a conceptual artist and aspiring filmmaker she wanted to have nothing to do with a commercial product but watching colorful billboards cut and sewn into beautiful objects she was convinced they were up to something and agreed to help manage the operation. Vahap and Lexy became partners in the new venture.
Soon the orders were coming in not only from messenger companies but also stores like Air Market, Antique Boutiqe and Adhoc in NYC, Beams in Tokyo. They decided they needed more space to manufacture the Crypto bags. Lexy found an old factory in her old neighborhood, Williamsburg and they set up small factory manufacturing the billboard bags.
They were working in the factory around the clock investing all their savings into this factory. Unable to also afford a separate apartment they lived in a tiny unheated room above the factory.
The year was 1998, artists were beginning to move to Williamsburg neighborhood in search of affordable spaces to live, work and create. Kids were skating outside Crypto factory in the middle of industrial wasteland on Wythe avenue. Everyone was excited to see someone set up a shop there. Artists, skaters and locals were curious about what the duo was making. Soon enough the factory was a place where the creative people started to come hang out. At the same time manufacturing enterprise was growing, more and more companies were asking Crypto to make products with their name on it.
Duo decided they needed an identity for their manufacturing to satisfy the demand.
They decided to launch a new brand to reflect this new era in Williamsburg and make smart and meaningful product for that creative community. Lexy came up with the name Brooklyn Industries and Vahap drew the logo, the view from their factory rooftop overlooking Manhattan past Greenpoint. He wanted the logo to both depict their romantic industrial landscape and to be super simple and memorable.
Lexy and Vahap started designing graphic t-shirts chronicling the change in Brooklyn as well as making all kinds of industrial bags under Brooklyn Industries label.
Skaters were wearing the Brooklyn Industries as uniform and plastering the borough with Brooklyn Industries stickers. Demand for product by the community grew so much that the duo decided to open a small store on Bedford avenue. The first Brooklyn Industries store opened at the same time that their first child Aslan was born in 2000.
By 2001 the designs and demand grew enough that they needed a bigger store, so they took the old hardware store location on the corner of Bedford and North 8th. We still have this Williamsburg store 17 years later.
Over the past 20 years many things have changed as the company has grown and many different people have collaborated with BKI and been involved in its development.
After 20 years of numerous designs the original founders Lexy and Vahap are focusing on this original heritage and trying to stay true to its original idea “making smart and meaningful product for the creative community”.
The motto Live, Work, Create came from an artist movement in the mid nineties where artists were fighting to live and work in industrial spaces. For Vahap and Lexy, Live, Work, Create became a mantra to run their company by- to be creative in everything that they do and to bring art each day.