Specialists in Mid-century and Postmodern marvels, the experts at Catch My Drift Vintage approach vintage design with an impressive pedigree. Co-founder Aliza Rand is an artist and photographer (check out her work throughout this story), with a BA in art from UCLA and an MFA from UC Berkeley, while husband and co-founder Joel Kaipainen is a PHD academic and art critic. But most importantly, they have a powerful creative passion for exquisite design and restoring the beauty of pieces from the past — all while ensuring a sustainable vision for the future.
We spoke with Rand about the creation of Catch My Drift Vintage (along with their clothing business that launches later this month), as well as her personal fascination with iconic pieces of design, particularly the Postmodern gems we’re seeing more of these days. See what she had to say, and be sure to shop their superbly curated selection available on Chairish.
First and foremost, how did you launch Catch My Drift Vintage? And where does the (excellent) name come from?
Catch My Drift Vintage began with a true passion for incredible design and art, and with the yearning to explore the intricacies of great, rare designer pieces. Once I left San Francisco in 2010, I moved to Madison, Wisconsin, with my husband and now business partner, Joel Kaipainen. I quickly realized that the Postmodern, Mid-century, and Scandinavian design sourcing opportunities there seemed tenfold; I was in a “candyland” of sorts. My Madison studio became an incubator for me to carve out my own business, following my own passions. Fast forward to today and as a small “mom and pop business,” we now work with designers and collectors all over the country.
And thank you about the name! We came up with the name Catch My Drift Vintage while talking “thrifting” with friends, about the random and awesome vintage things we have found and purchased by chance. Then there was a sudden, “how about ‘Catch My Drift?’” “That’s it!” We really liked the multiple meanings. For us, it represents the concept of throwing each true “catch” with its story and meaning out there again for someone else to catch and continue. It also means, “if you know what I mean,” and we really try to curate a specific style with our collection. Design taste is very personal and many of our collectors will say, “I will know it if I see it.” The name is a mission: In the same way that our pieces have drifted through time, we are here to make sure they will continue to be reused and loved.
Sustainability is a big part of your business, with regard to restoring and reupholstering quality pieces. That’s very much part of our ethos at Chairish… tell us a bit about that.
It is rare that a new design can really knock your socks off. Therefore, we like to look back at what major mind-blowing designs already exist from the past and got the job done well. A collection should have some old and some new, that certain something; a perfect recipe. Whenever possible, we aim to keep a piece in its original form. However, when a piece is 40-70 years old, it sometimes needs new upholstery and gentle restoration. There is also a special kind of satisfaction in investing the time and energy to successfully breathe new life into an original and even give contemporary context to it, simply through exciting, relevant upholstery.
Importantly, this also encourages less waste in our world today. For us, sustainability and decorating with vintage furniture go hand in hand. We continue to be astounded with the quality and craftsmanship of the designer pieces that were made in the 50’s-80’s. We work with some very talented designers who are enthusiastic about textile sourcing, which in and of itself is a true art, and we have skilled upholsterers on hand, also true artisans, that are excited to work on this process with us. Enthusiasm for high-end design and for preserving our environment for future generations is also at the heart of our sister company, Pikku Takki, which we are about to launch at the end of January.
You have excellent photography, which can honestly sometimes be a rarity when it comes to antiques and vintage pieces. Why is it so important to you, and how do you make it happen?
Thank you! I am a professional photographer with 20 years of experience under me. For Catch, we want to make sure to photograph each piece in order to showcase the designer’s attention to detail, functionality, and choices in the materials and execution. These are all aspects we would like the viewer to see in photos as well as we can in person. Our studio has two 20-foot-tall walls of windows with natural light streaming through them. My main goal as curator and photographer is to show how the piece itself is a work of art. Once we have showcased all angles of a piece, we like to create exciting sets and vignettes that show how the furniture can live among other pieces and in a specific color scheme in a space. We hope for our clients to imagine possible settings for their future piece, but also to embrace the movement or period that they are from.
Who are some of your favorite makers or designers, in terms of your own inspirations?
We feel design and fine art belong inseparably together. To list a few: Milo Baughman, Paul Evans, Terje Ekstrom, The Vecta Group, John Mascheroni, Adrian Pearsall, Markimekko, Bauhaus dancers, Vladimir Kagan, Kwok Hoi Chan, Massimo & Leila Vignelli, Max Lamb, Raffael Raffel, Superstudio, and David Byrne.
Are there any dream pieces you’d love to have for yourself? Is there ever anything that you source and think… maybe we’ll just hold on to that…
Ha! That happens a lot to us. At the moment we are hanging on to a Terje Ekström lounge chair in its original blue textile, an extra-large OG 1970’s low rider Milo Baughman sofa sectional which we plan to reupholster with Studio Rosha, an Alby Cactus floor lamp, a red velour Vecta Group chrome sling chair, an artifort kids chair, a Richard X Zawitz tangle sculpture, a couple of 70s Herman Miller Soft Pad Aluminum Group rolling office chairs, and a chrome and glass Milo Baughman extending table which we use as a desk. The four pieces from our art collection that we would never bear to part with are a Cindy Sherman photo piece from her college years, a photo by William Christenberry, a Chris Johanson collaborative piece, and a Richard Shaw original ceramic work. The last thing we can’t quite shake is in the centerpiece of our living room: the most incredible 1980s marble and iron pedestal dining table — it’s just too perfect to make homemade pasta and cookies on!
How have digital avenues influenced your business and the way you sell now?
Digital platforms like Chairish are what allow us, as a small business, to connect with a vast audience of designers and design lovers from around the world with unprecedented speed and reach. Getting our pieces safely into a client’s hands and space is a whole other piece of the puzzle that we are passionate about solving daily.
Many of our objects pre-date the digital era, though finding pieces and clients for them is an excitingly fast and ever-evolving affair. Everything is a text, DM, or email away with everyone… and we are able to communicate with our collectors on a constant basis. We can text photos back and forth and we even have collectors that will FaceTime to show us their entire collections. Likewise, digital photography allows for smoother turnarounds and having many ideas come to fruition. Although, as a photographer, I sometimes feel nostalgic about analogue — doing everything by hand and of course, the magic of the dark room.
How did sourcing change as a result of the pandemic? How have you pivoted over the last two years?
Sourcing has changed completely, as it is now mostly all online, and new networks have formed. Actually, it has become a bit harder in the sense that people don’t want you in their house. We still make the occasional trip to view pieces in someone’s garage in the freezing cold. The pandemic has put a damper on social interactions in so many in person realms; it’s intense! We are careful because we have a three year old who can’t be vaccinated yet. We have luckily been able to rely on our collectors to help us find pieces and work with us to trade things in and we in turn help them to locate other pieces.
Have you noticed a difference in the types of products that are selling for you now vs in the past? What trends are you seeing these days?
The trends are always shifting and both we and our customers appreciate seeing the hand of the maker in furniture. Things like handmade Zellige tile, one-of-a-kind ceramic pots and plates, and beautifully crafted wood joints in millwork… We currently have a 1980’s Postmodern Flexsteel sofa that, even as a modern piece in the 80’s, had to be handcrafted. I love seeing the skillful details, and even imperfections. It gives it a human touch, and in this modern world of mass production, it gives me a sense of clarity to know that something was built by hand. Mid-century modern has always been in demand, for good reason, but it’s fun to see people start embracing 80’s and 90’s Postmodernism for all that it has to offer.
Are there any styles or trends you’d like to see disappear in the design world right now?
The ebb and flow of design trends are of course a constant point of discussion and sometimes light-hearted contention around the dinner table and with the designers we work with. Our dear friend and close collaborator, Jason Rosha, Principle at Studio Rosha, has expressed well how we also feel about the contemporary moment: “I do think that design is cyclical, and the current trend of California farmhouse modern has hit its zenith! I still love a milky white museum wall, but the blonde oaks and black steel can give way to richer tones. I actually foresee a renaissance of cherrywood and teak!”
What exciting things do you have in the works for Catch My Drift? You’re also launching a designer clothing line as well, correct?
At Catch My Drift, we are coming through with a new line of “smalls” that are highly curated and small batch. Joel is working on a very exciting line for this… Stay tuned!
And yes! We are launching our sister company, designer clothing label, Pikku Takki, just a little later this month. Pikku Takki means “little jacket” in Finnish, and we feature limited runs of one-of-a-kind fashion for babies to adults. Each piece is thoughtfully and sustainably produced. Our “First Run” is unisex, sustainable, and high fashion, and we aim to bring to life some of the unique voices, stories, and histories of our cross-cultural world.
For textiles, we use culturally rich African Wax materials that were internationally sourced in Kaduma, Paris, and London. The clothing is designed in Switzerland and uniquely handmade by a collective of artisans in New Dehli to last for life. Pikku Takki believes in environmental and social responsibility, and we pay our workers fair wages. We are currently wrapping up this first production and are sewing up the last stitches of the 1,105 pieces.
All photos by Aliza Rand except for the portrait, which is courtesy of Catch My Drift Vintage