No stranger to spearheading a start-up, Bradford Shellhammer felt he had unfinished business after his departure from fab.com—the online marketplace for independent design items—which he founded in 2011. As Fab scaled successfully, and tacked direction, Shellhammer went on a soul-searching mission before finding himself as the CDO of Backcountry, where he still remains as an advisor while debuting his brand new endeavor: Bezar. Bezar can be summed up by its name, which calls to mind both bazaar and bizarre. A carefully hand-selected sales hub featuring independent designers, Bezar harks back to Shellhammer’s original intent: to introduce the world to interesting, emerging designers and their products. Only this time, he’s doing it with far more informed eyes and a team he built personally.
“I’m not doing the same thing over, but I am doing the same process again,” he shares with CH. “The vision is different than Fab, though they are intertwined. The idea is to be the place—to be the platform—for emerging designers, where we showcase special things, unique things, handmade things. It’s supported by a curatorial aspect that doesn’t exist somewhere like Etsy.” Shellhammer has already locked down 60 brands that will be selling products through Bezar, including home and fashion design firm Zuzunaga and scarf-makers Necklush. Additionally, Shellhammer plans to house new debuts and collaborative projects from the more established, iconic brands in the sphere—such as sex toy innovator Jimmyjane. “The idea is to have this design-hungry audience who looks to us as the arbiter of what’s cool or what’s next,” all the while presenting it in a fun way, where a consumer can easily sort through items you can’t find elsewhere.
Behind Shellhammer’s vision stands a lesson he’s learned from experience: “this doesn’t have to be a gigantic company to be a successful company.” Motivated by a desire to share what he uncovers and loves, he shares, “I do think there is a need to help the independent designers keep the lights on at their businesses.” Whereas, Amazon has become more of a tech company, Bezar aims to stick to the retail sector, avoiding business school jargon and the win-or-take-all mentality. This is something Shellhammer likens to independent publishing. “In media there are so many different outlets, big and small, where people chose to spend their time with content. It’s the same with retail.”
In addition to being the founder and CEO, Shellhammer also wears the hat of Chief Curator, and his aesthetic tastes will define the pop-up space, where every day, a “shop” will open across four categories (art, house, jewelry and accessories) with one featured designer in each. For insight on what draws his attention, Shellhammer says it’s “colorful, modern, irreverent, racy, in your face. It’s sometimes sophisticated. But altogether it’s coupled with this whole world of designers in fragmented communities.” The team will seek out work if the designers “are smaller, if they are niche, if they have an authentic voice and are tight in their mission, aesthetic and quality.” He believes this is the only way to be successful in the world of Amazon.
Furthering this, Shellhammer is taking it back to basics. “This is just old school retailing 101. Any great store that you know and love, this is how they were founded. They started as a passionate merchant who put together an assortment of products under a roof and sold to a loyal audience. The secret is the connection to the makers,” he concludes. Authenticity, heart and passion drive Shellhammer and will infuse Bezar—and an exclusive look at some of their launch products, from Albers foundation work to the Moroso + Diesel collaboration, affirm exactly that.
Bezar will officially launch in the second quarter of 2015. For updates on access and availability, people can sign up on their homepage. Much like with the launch of Fab, members will receive spending money back for purchases made by individuals they’ve invite to join the service.
Images courtesy of Bezar