Direct-to-consumer tableware brand Year & Day has opened its first brick-and-mortar-space, a pop-up at 91 Crosby Street in Manhattan’s SoHo.
From now through Dec. 24, the space will house the breadth of Year & Day’s assortment of tabletop products, including European-made ceramic plates, bowls, serving dishes and mugs, flatware and drinking glasses along with a small selection of gift items, such as cookbooks. Prices range from $11 or a small bowl to $180 for a four-person set of flatware.
The year-old, San Francisco-based start-up is the brainchild of founder Kathryn Duryea, a Stanford MBA who has worked for L2 and in marketing, digital and e-commerce at Tiffany & Co. When conceiving of Year & Day, Duryea envisioned a modern homewares brand for the digitally native generation that would speak to the Millennial entertaining style — informal and usually centered around an open kitchen — and the way they like to shop, which is online and without too much choice.
“I’ve long loved the tableware category, and I think there are a number of tableware brands that are beloved at the high end that aren’t really resonating in aesthetic, brand values or price points with today’s [Millennial] consumer who is now in the process of household formation — this digitally native generation in their mid-20s up to 40s,” said Duryea. “Today’s entertaining style is much more casual — dining rooms are becoming less of a preference of this generation. The consumer is looking for something that can span everyday use to special occasion and is a little more interesting in design than just a plain white plate.”
Year & Day’s Instagram-ready ceramic tablewares come in four muted, demi-matte tones — Midnight, Daybreak, Fog and Moon — inspired by the California sky. In true Millennial fashion, the products are made by environmentally conscious manufacturers in Italy and Portugal.
“A lot of high-end [dishes] on the market are not [relevant] today,” said Duryea. “You have hand-painted porcelain and silver that is not only too expensive and quite formal, but quite frankly difficult to care for. These days people don’t have the time to hand-polish silver or hand-wash plates in the quantity they once did.”
The company’s offering is purposefully limited to three flatware finishes and just three varieties of glassware, including just one wine glass. The small selection is due to “information overwhelm” in the homewares category — it’s the antithesis of walking into a department store homewares floor and encountering dozens of plate brands. Said Duryea: “It’s a minimalist aesthetic that feels very current and of today’s era — we spend a lot of times looking at the screens on our phones, and eating is a moment of time where we’re nurturing ourselves with food. It’s supposed to be a nice respite.”
The upscale homewares category, as Duryea saw it when building Year & Day, is comprised largely of legacy brands that have historically “relied on third-party retail and department stores to do their marketing and tell their stories for them.” At a time when many Millennials aren’t shopping in department stores, Year & Day acts as a voguish tablewares alternative to mall brands like Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel and china from Bloomingdale’s or Bergdorf Goodman, doing the bulk of its marketing on Instagram and selling only through its web site.
Despite its California roots, New York is Year & Day’s biggest customer base. Duryea is looking at the SoHo pop-up as a test before considering other pop-ups or a more permanent space. Her rationale for taking her direct-to-consumer brand, which in March closed a seed round of funding led by Founder’s Fund, into brick-and-mortar retail is that customers want to a place to touch and feel the products. While Millennials may be eschewing the brick-and-mortar department stores of previous generations, consumers still like to see and touch “wonderful, beautiful, high-quality products,” said Duryea.