BE A BRAT
by Dawn Alexander
A friend once joked with me that I now had to move onto wearing long skirts instead of short ones due to getting older but I will likely never act my age, whatever that’s supposed to mean. I’ll probably remain in a state of trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up and Im sure to do so while wearing the clothing I feel expresses my personal style. I gravitate towards people living their truth in this way as well. Whether it be through their art, style or fashion. As much as I hate the phrase “Do you!” (eyeroll), I totally believe in it. People should do what brings them happiness.
Many years ago I stumbled upon a shop in my neighborhood that lives it’s truth. I go out of my way to swing by when I have little cash to spend or I simply want a chat with the fabulous owner, Nancy Hunt. Nancy owns Brat. It’s a small, hip boutique that pops on the otherwise quiet street of 14th near Pico Blvd in Santa Monica, CA. Stop! Don’t even imagine those ugly ‘bratz’ dolls. This is a punk rock/rockabilly inspired store with affordable clothing, gifts and accessories. Brat opened in 2001 and the name is inspired from its roots, an homage to Bobbi Brat of The Bobbi Brat band. Before Bobbi Brat became somewhat of a legend in some California music circles she was an employee of Nancy’s first punk rock store, Na Na, which opened in 1976 selling mostly shoes like Doc Martins and Monkey boots. Bobbi Brat was a rising star at the time but died tragically of cancer in 1988.
After many years Na Na closed all of its stores, which were in various locations such as New York and San Francisco, in 2001. A sad affair in some respects but Nancy took this as an opportunity to get back to that direct touch with customers she had missed during all of her years traveling from store to store managing Na Na. “It lost it’s charm for me”, Nancy explain about the impersonal managing. She felt it was time to get back to what she really enjoyed. “I really love people and contact with people”
Brat’s punk rock style is very fitting for it’s location. It’s not often that you can walk out of a store with shopping bag in hand and have a fantastic view of a graveyard as well. The Woodland Cemetery is directly across the street. According to Nancy, ‘Bobbie loved cemeteries’, she was a punk rock girl after all, so when the real estate agent called and hesitated to offer the property due to it’s unfortunate proximity Nancy quickly replied, “I’ll take it!”
“I think that the product in here is interesting enough that it is a magnet for really great and very creative people who just aren’t the status quo and those are the people we need in this world to change things and create things” -Nancy Hunt
Brat is the kind of store you want to walk into, even just to peek around. The mannequins in the window look like they are having a blast. Always dressed colorfully in fun poses surrounded by interesting items and props. It’s a small but inviting and cozy shop. A lot of Brat’s style echoes that of Na Na. There’s even a picture hung in memorial of Bobbi Brat.
Despite the small space I have often found myself circling the space several times getting into a new item of interest at each turn. The music filling the boutique ranges from 50s to current punk rock. There are fun socks and accessories hanging from the wall, hat racks, sunglasses, clever gift items, baby clothing and although it’s mostly women’s clothing you can find mens clothing as well like T-Shirts, accessories, jackets and more. She manages to fit it all in one space while not leaving you feeling overwhelmed.
I personally own many items of clothing from Brat and they are alway my most complimented pieces. An added plus those of us animal friendly consumers Nancy avoids selling any leather or fur. She thrives to still get the best quality to maintain that punk style people want without the unnecessary cruelty. “You still have that same badass look that you get from leather” She’s explains about her leather-free motorcycle style jackets, “.. and believe it or not the pleather now is such good quality it will hold up and breaths a lot more”
Another thing that makes Brat and Nancy so special is her love and devotion to her community. Brats’ home has been Santa Monica for a long time and she’s not planning on going anywhere anytime soon despite feeling the change that has occurred over time. “Santa Monica used to be called The City of Slow Growth” Nancy laments. Over the years it’s lost that touch a bit as developers take over more and more. “We’re losing any kind of people that are artist and creative people..and that hurts me”. Nancy enjoys being a part of her community as a store owner providing not only fun fashion for all ages but summer jobs for the local kids but it has changed a lot since she first started.
“When I first opened kids could still be in college, get a part time job, many of them worked for us, they could be in a band, they could surf, skateboard and still live by the beach”, Nancy explains passionately, “It was still affordable enough for these kids that we need in this community, in any community for that matter. You need diversity and creative people putting new life into a community, pushing a little bit to the edge to get things to go in the future”
Despite more industry people filling the streets than from long ago Nancy still has her core of customers that are all over the age spectrum. Punk fashion has been around for so long and still inspires young kids today to those over 70. Nancy has seen young parents in their 20s share interest in the fashions and products with their own small children. Her clothing is affordable for anyone from a young student to a senior citizen.
“I have grandmothers in their 80s, they are very lively, they buy moto jackets..they say ‘I can wear that can’t I?’ and being who I am I could never deny them”, Nancy explains, “I don’t buy into that at a certain age you have to give up being fresh and trying new things. I just can’t buy into that and I never will.”
She’s proud to be so close to, as she calls them, the ‘coolest kids’ that attend Santa Monica College (SMC). To her these are the kids in our community choosing to aspire to the arts and aspiring for more than money making careers. “Those are the kids that put themselves through that school, those are the creative kids” Even now at 65 years old Nancy can relate to choosing passion over money. As an owner of Brat she wouldn’t call her career choice an overwhelming financial goldmine but she absolutely loves what she does and has no thoughts or plan to retire anytime soon.
Brat clothing will set you apart from the mass market. While affordable, accessible attire is desirable from the likes of Forever 21 to Urban Outfitters, Brat is the place you can go to to spend similarly but with the bonus of having a look that’s all your own.
At Brat you will see outfits pre arranged suggesting an entire ensemble to purchase but Nancy may only suggest a smaller item like suspenders, a cardigan or hat to perk up your wardrobe. Nancy isn’t a sales person. She will never try to up-sell you. She’ll let you explore on your own or assist you in making a purchase that fits you and only you. To her you’re not simply a consumer to be sold to.
This is what I love about Brat and mostly, Nancy Hunt. I feel like I am walking into her home to say hello to one of the friendliest people in the neighborhood and oh, she also has cool stuff for sale! Every time I go to Brat I not only find at least one thing to purchase but I also have a pleasant conversation with Nancy while enjoying the vibe and browsing. She keeps her store products fresh and updated.
Among all of the amazing items at Brat, Nancy supports her friends event by selling tickets at her store for the infamous and popular burlesque wrestling extravaganza called Lucha Vavoom.
If you would like to support local small businesses and want unique gifts or clothing items for men, women and babies then I highly suggest popping into Brat. Click the links below for more information.
Hours: Daily 12-6 310-452-2480 1938 14th Street Santa Monica
a child, typically a badly behaved one.
Throwing On The Wheel
When you picture a homemade potter you probably imagine an old hippie woman in her garage at a potting wheel surrounded by gardening supplies and various half finished crafts with incense smoke in the air getting ready for the next local fair. You’re least likely to imagine my friend Matt, a young guy in his 30s who skateboards and drums in a badass punk rock band, Velcron. No, Matt Heauser isn’t a stereo type of pottery in fact, I learned that the stereo type of pottery is quickly changing as pottery becomes more popular with younger, “hip” people, and Matt leads the way with his amazing work and years of commitment to the craft.
He started messing around on the wheel when he was 4 years old. His great grandmother started in the pottery business in 1953. His grandmother then passed down this love of pottery to his mother and then naturally onto him. Though his grandmother was the one to give him his first lesson he really didn’t find a passion for it until his summer breaks in college in Seattle. This is when he started to make it his steady course of income.
“It’s been my main source of income since I graduated college…I’ve never been able to get fully into something else” -Matt Haeuser
During his early years in Seattle he started with small projects like magnets and ornaments where he could master using glaze. Glaze, I learned is how you add the color. It’s a mix of chemicals, clay and metals and depending on the temperature that the piece is fired in the glaze reacts and changes color so some prediction is required in advance to the final product when it comes to design. “So you might have something that looks pink”, Matt explains, “but when you dip it but turns into something that looks green”.
By 2004 as he got better at “throwing” as he puts it, which is a phrase that refers to making pieces on the wheel. He decided he could either sell these items or get a low paying 9-5 gig. He took the obvious choice and decided to make a living off of his creativity. He had an advantage since his family owns and operates Orcas Island Pottery. This gave him a place to sell his creations easily so he never had to worry much about the sales end. The issue was that the shop was in Orcas Island and Matt was still living in Seattle at this time. Luckily his brother was also in Seattle so he was able to use his brothers’ garage studio. He would make bisqueware first, where you fire the piece in the kiln for the first time and it becomes stone. He would then take an hour and a half drive and a ferry ride to Orcas with what he had on the bisque square and finish the glaze and give to the family pottery shop,
In 2009 he moved to LA, a lot more than just a short drive and a ferry to Orcas. Like most of us he struggled with the “How am I gonna make a living here” dilemma. He had friends, fellow Orcas Island transplants, the band, his drums but now there was the challenge to continue to make and sell his work which was becoming more and more of a passion for him. He was able to find a space to create his pieces and still traveled to Orcas about 3 times a year. “I would stuff my Honda full of pottery box after box, full of stuff.”, says Matt.
Mugs were his specialty for a long time. They are always in demand. It’s that perfect gift for the boss or co-worker. In my cabinet I have about 3 favorite mugs that I prefer to drink my coffee out of so I understand the attachments to a favorite mug. “People love mugs”, Matt says. He’s probably made over 10,000 mugs to date. Most days he makes standard shaped mugs but some days he’ll feel more creative and make about 100 different mugs all unique.
Eventually Matt wanted to sell locally. LA offers so many merchant and art festivals, markets and boutiques so he tried a few shops but the demands for 50% of all sales wasn’t too profitable. He settled on selling at some farmers markets and some of his items are currently displayed and for sale at Good Dirt LA, where he also teaches. Good Dirt is a hip spot to learn pottery, unlike smaller towns where the pottery is more geared to the older crowds, young people in LA seem to be drawn to getting their hands in the clay. “There are a lot of younger people that come in (to Good Dirt)” Matt explains, “I think its more to get back (to being) connected to the earth and do something with your hands because of a lot of people work in tech or graphic design and they love doing something where they can see the final product and it’s real”
His creativity is growing past bowls and standard mugs. He’s experimenting with various sculpture. He’ll just throw a piece and modify and sculpt it after, going with the feeling and adding to it. Currently he’s been making detailed tiki mugs and creative octopus designs on mugs and sculptures.
Matt will be leaving LA real soon so join one of his classes at Good Dirt LA asap. You can order or commission work from him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or the links below. Get your POT on!
Matt Haeuser on INSTAGRAM
GOOD DIRT LA CLASSES