Arts on the Square Spotlight: Meet Chika Michieli of Mercato in New York City

Sunday, July 6, 2014
Chika Michieli was born in Tokyo, lived in Paris and now runs her business, Mercato, from New York City. A regular vendor at Real NYC Market, 6th Borough Market, and many other fabulous NYC festivals, she is bringing her gorgeous vintage-kimono style headbands, photography print bags and accessories to Arts on the Square.

Tell us about the origin of the name Mercado and why you started your business.
My company name "Mercato" means "Market" in Italian. A market is where people meet, find something, share information etc. I wanted my company to be "Market". I used Italian because my husband is from Italy.
I started Mercato in 2009. I had a lot of fabrics from my friend. One day, I grabbed some fabric, wrapped it on my head then went out. Since I had never wear head accessories before, I felt pretty.  Then these fabrics became headscarves.

Can you tell us a little bit about your product line and process.
I have spring/summer head scarves, headbands, winter headbands, hats, scarves bags and more.  Choosing fabric is my favorite part; especially vintage, from cotton to silk to wool. I have my hidden vintage kimono store in Tokyo where I go once every 2 years. I work in my home studio with an assistant who help with sewing during the busy seasons.

How has your business grown and changed since Mercato’s inception?
I started Mercato with only one style of headscarf. I opened and Etsy shop with 7 of them and attended street fair with a very small 4 foot table. Now I have 10x10 tent can be filled up with my products. Meanwhile, I startedto make more original item as using my photography. Since I worked in photography before this venture, I was always wanted to use my photos for post cards and gift cards but I made fabric. I am so happy that I could connect photography and sewing. I will produce more photography items in the future.

You have traveled and lived all over the world. How does that inspire your work?
I have lived in Tokyo, Paris and now I live in New York. Since I am from Japan, I often go back to Tokyo where I always find something new, exciting; time is always moving. Paris, I feel nostalgic, time is moving but keeping good memories. Now, New York is my life. I am not consciously using these inspiration to my work, However, it might be…

You are a regular on the fabulous NYC arts market scene. What brings you to Arts on the Square?
 I have continuously been part of a weekly market in New York for 5 years. I was always in NYC where there are many markets, shows and festivals. After participating for so long in NYC markets, I'd like to try my products elsewhere.  Arts on the Square is my first challenge!

What’s your favorite part of doing festivals?
As a vendor for festivals, market and shows, honestly, counting the money at the end! Empty inventory and full wallet means lots of people are interested in my products and style.

Do you have any tips to share with someone who may be vending for the first time?
If it is the first time, just enjoy it!  Enjoy talking to customers, their reaction for your products. If you still have time, go look around.  Enjoy the festival!

Follow Mercato:
Twitter: @mercatostyle

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