You’re probably familiar with the concept of a holiday fair. Gingerbread-house competitions. Ornament vendors. Toddlers screaming bloody murder as their parents force them to take a photo on some strange old man’s lap.
Take all that, remove literally everything but the space, and replace it with whiskey tastings and more than 80 guy-friendly brands hawking everything from watches to denim to tailored suits, and you get American Field, the two-day pop-up shop returning to DC this weekend (December 14-15) at Union Market.
For the unacquainted, think of AF as a roving department store that shines a spotlight on local makers and entrepreneurs who sell unique, quality, often handmade products.
“[AF] is really all about giving consumers a completely different experience than we’ve now grown accustomed to with online shopping and big box retailer shopping,” says founder Mark Bollman, who also presides over sportswear brand Ball and Buck, which will be in attendance. “It’s just a very disconnected, uninspiring transaction versus an ability to learn, engage and share the passion with entrepreneurs and creators that are making these amazing products.”
And Here Is the Best News of All …
While American Field is a ticketed event, Bollman has been nice enough to extend all InsideHook readers free entry. All you need to do is Insidehookdc at checkout before Friday at midnight (tickets here).
Here’s what to expect inside …
What you can buy
The type of brands you’ll find at AF the gamut from food to menswear to home goods; you can even find gifts for the lucky pooch in your life with sustainable pet products from Piggyback Treats.
Companies apply for the chance to display their wares at the event, and each one is hand selected by Bollman and his team. He tells InsideHook that the process also includes the consideration of having an equal number of sellers in each category of goods, ensuring that you won’t come in to find a jewelry booth shoulder to shoulder with five others like you might find at a more “crafts”-based fair. He also points out that despite AF’s more male-leaning reputation, you’ll find great options for anyone, regardless of gender.
One of the brands Bollman is most excited about for DC’s upcoming event is Join or Die, a local company that hand-forges knives in Richmond, Virginia, and also offers classes on knifemaking. He tells us that he also owns a leather jacket from one of the other brands in attendance, Delikt. And don’t miss out Red Land Cotton, an Alabama-based company that makes bed sheets, bath towels and home linens that you can feel good about buying.
What you can do
Not just for shopping, AF will also feature a whiskey sampling experience from Angel’s Envy that includes on-site hickory smoking under a glass cloche. After those emboldening sips, consider taking the plunge on purchasing some custom-fitted clothing (read about the importance of a tailor) from the small-but-mighty Ratio Clothing, who will be offering on-site measuring and fitting.
For the philanthropist in your life, check out Baskets for Education, a program led by the Kisseman Children’s Foundation. Each of their baskets is uniquely handwoven in Ghana, and their coop pays the highest wages in the Bolga region, guaranteeing that weavers get a fair wage for their artistry. Proceeds from Baskets for Education go directly to the Foundation, making it possible for children in Kisseman Village to receive an education.
Why it’s better than a shopping mall
“You get retailers and people broadcasting the messaging to not wait till the last minute to do your holiday shopping. We kind of say do wait,” jokes Bollman. “Because here it’s the best stuff all under one roof. It’ll seem like you spent a month going to all these different stores and doing all this research, because we’ve brought [all these brands] together for you.”
“It’s gonna feel very special and personal, like you put time and effort into finding [your gifts]. These are brands that you don’t see all the time. It’s the intentionality and the stories that you learn — they’re transferred from these founders to you when you purchase something at our event.”
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