Holstee’s mission has always been to encourage more mindful living, whether that meant enabling consumers to proclaim their principles boldly on a graphic poster or to purchase with a purpose. Originally finding its niche in apparel and then in poster design, Holstee has again pivoted, this time landing in fine art with the launch of the Reclaimed Frame project — a subscription service that sends subscribers new prints every month to be rotated in and out of a frame made of wood from Detroit’s 78,000 abandoned structures. We spoke with co-founder Michael Radparvar to find out what’s behind the move and how Holstee is bringing mindfulness, sustainability, affordability and beautiful design to the world of fine art.
Is Reclaimed Frame a sign of Holstee's move into the sustainable design space?
Definitely. The goal for us is to make high-quality art that’s accessible to the mainstream, so we’re pivoting away from physical products and focusing on beautifully designed printing. We see a growing market of people who love art, who would love to own art personally but aren’t really able to spend huge amounts of money on it. We’re hoping to cater to these folks that love beautiful design and are as passionate about craftsmanship as we are. Craftsmanship is something we’re pursuing on all fronts: We work with the best letterpressers in the country who move type by hand into the bed of a press, which requires no energy and minimal waste. The ecologically sound aspects of our production are also really important to us.
What led to the refocus of Holstee's mission?
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We’ve always had this desire to be hyper-focused and do one thing very well. We started doing that with shirts, then the Holstee pocket, accessories, hats, dresses and prints. Finally, we found the opportunity to deliver high-quality items in print. We got excited. We’ve always had great relationships with letterpressers and love the idea of sharing art: Every month, subscribers get a new print, so they take the old one out and give it to someone or send it to someone. So focusing on art makes sense for us. Our goal is to be the first place people think of when they’re starting out in a new space — a house, a café, office — and we want to help introduce a new aesthetic.
How did you decide on Detroit as a wood source for Reclaimed Frame? What is your relationship like with Reclaimed Detroit and how did it start?
It was really consumer-driven — we had so many inbound requests for frames to go with our prints. So we started looking to create frames and looking for people to partner with in manufacturing. One company kept coming up on our radar, Urban Ashes, which seems like they were doing everything in such a great way. They were the lynchpin that brought everything together. They helped with design, production and sourced their wood from Reclaim Detroit, an organization that diverts materials from Detroit’s 78,000 vacant buildings from landfills. We proposed the idea for a different kind of frame: a raw, glassless design with no moving parts. Urban Ashes also provides transitional employment to help formerly incarcerated people get back on their feet, get job training and have an income.
It was wild that we reached our funding goal in less than 48 hours. We didn’t know what to expect, really, and we were worried we weren’t going to raise the money we needed. We ended up with $50,000 in the end. It definitely encourages us to be more experimental going forward. Kickstarter was such a great place for us because it reduced the risk for us in trying something new — we weren’t sure what kind of reception the Reclaimed Frame would have. Right away, we saw an interest and a group of people that wanted to back the project, so we knew it was worth going for. Now, we have a much nimbler attitude in trying new things, which is really freeing.