Portland, Oregon: Table of Contents
Words by Joanna Han Photographs by Michael A. Muller
Find clothing by Henrik Vibskov, furniture from Artek and hard-to-find magazines such as 032c and Elephant at Table of Contents.
Initiated in 2008 by the multi-talented couple Shu Hung and Joseph Magliaro, Table of Contents began in Berlin as a series of short-lived experiments with street vending: They set up single tables in public locations in the city and presented objects for sale. TOC eventually began operating as a design studio with services including art direction, publication design, interior styling and branding, and an official shop finally opened up in Portland in September 2012. We caught up with Shu and Joe to learn more about the refreshing new addition to Portland’s retail market.
Tell us about Table of Contents. What’s the story behind your shop?
The goal of Table of Contents is to present an evolving collection of clothing, objects, furniture and media that represents our interests and occupations. In a sense, we’ve tried to create a kind of three-dimensional publication with TOC. Our editorial processes highlights our aesthetic interests, but is focused through a different theme each season. For Spring/Summer ’13, we explored the notion of “a piece of cloth” and featured innovative uses of material from designers such as Issey Miyake, Hussein Chalayan and Chiyo Takahashi. For Fall/Winter ’13 we’re looking at the notion of “play” for inspiration.
Among the sea of Portland’s chambray shirts, selvedge denim and tan leather belts, TOC stands out. What has the reception been like this past year? Is there a big market in Portland for the kind of products you sell?
We’ve been really happy with the way TOC has been received in Portland. Although many of the designers we carry appeal to niche audiences, there’s definitely a growing local interest in the kind of clothing and objects that we showcase.
What’s your favorite part of running the shop?
We’re really interested in the concept of publication—in the sense of presenting ideas to a public. The shop gives us a platform to present our projects and those of people we respect and admire to anyone who walks through our door. There’s a great statement from the Italian/Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi that captures this idea well and adds to it a kind of sociopolitical imperative, which we like:
“The city is public space, a great exhibition space, a museum, an open book offering all kinds of subtle readings, and anyone who has a shop, a window display or any showcase of this kind has to assume a moral responsibility which requires that they stop ignoring the fact that ‘their’ window display might help to shape the taste of city dwellers, help to shape the face of the city and reveal something of its essence.”
Name some of your favorite products. What are your best-selling items?
Right now, we’re obsessed with the kasuri totes by Crazy Wind, Comme des Garçons’ three-button blazers and hand-dyed and sewn T-shirts by Correll Correll. The perfume and wallet collections by Comme des Garçons, Hope trousers for men and women and Reality Studio cork clogs have been quite popular this summer.
Which designers, artists, cities and cultures inspire you?
We think of inspiration in very pragmatic terms: We’re inspired by the rhythms of wherever we happen to be living. The scale of Portland has had a huge impact on the projects we’re able to take on, and the way our days are structured. The spaces that surround us and the interiors we create within them provide the necessary conditions for productive research and creation. Of course the history of places and cities we’ve occupied—New York, Beijing, London, Berlin—have left their trace on the way we approach the shop and other creative practices.
What do you hope to see in Portland’s retail scene in five years?
A Muji might be nice?
Any exciting plans for the future of the store?
We’ve always intended for TOC to be a kind of multi-dimensional space that can adapt in format to allow for experimentation with different interests. We’re planning to do more participatory events in the near future, and—no promises on this—but we’d love to introduce a food-based component somewhere down the line!
33 NW 4th Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97209