Sonja Rasula is the mastermind behind UNIQUE, a project designed to bring “Made in America” back to the masses. It first began in LA in 2008 when Rasula decided that she wanted to bring local-made design and art to the masses while helping to grow and support the US economy and small businesses.” Since 2008, Rasula has partnered with local artists, artisans, designers and businesses to hold shows in L.A., San Francisco, and New York City.
UNIQUE NYC graced the streets of Chelsea for the first time in November of 2012; hopefully, it was the first of many to come. Just following the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, UNIQUE NYC brought in about 4,000 shoppers in just two days, once more giving life to streets that had been practically empty since the storm (other than cleanup crews).
“It seemed like an obvious thing to do,” Rasula said, recalling the moment when she first conceived of UNIQUE. Working with the local communities means bringing together likeminded individuals that share her vision and goals. Rather than using mass-produced materials purchased from companies overseas, most participants use purely local materials—bough or found.
Besides helping the economy, those who purchase goods from such local designers and artisans also receive something unique in return. Stéphane Hubert participated in UNIQUE NYC in November; he is a furniture designer and made several projects from downed trees and building scraps that littered the streets after Sandy. By doing so, he creates something beautiful from what would normally just go into the dump, thus minimizing his impact on the environment.
“The money is going back into the immediate society they’re involved in,” said jewelry designer Penelope Rakov of UNIQUE NYC. She believes that art should be a form of communication between maker and purchaser, speaking to both. “That’s important to me.” With shows like UNIQUE NYC, artisans, artists, and designers will be able to connect with and impact even more people, making Rakov’s ideal a reality.