Unique L.A. brings culture and community

“Unique” seems like a logical word to use when describing an event that brings together a gaggle of Los Angeles locals specializing in everything from crafting wooden neckties, to creating jewelry out of guitar strings, to practicing modern-day herbalism. That word is incorporated in the title of what is now the largest independent design show in the country, “Unique L.A.” The festival, which first started in December of 2008, celebrated the fourth anniversary of its annual spring show with a two-day shopping event at California Market Center downtown last weekend.

The event featured over 325 local designers, restaurants, craftspeople, and artists selling their wares, as well as a number of free workshops, and a photo booth where attendees could use an array of props and pose for a free picture, compliments of Oh! Snap Studios.

On the event’s website, founder Sonja Rasula states that her mission is to “bring modern made-in-America design to the masses,” and to “help small businesses grow and become sustainable, to support the local economy, and to teach shoppers the value of conscious consumerism.”

The site also stresses the event’s emphasis on community. In the past, Unique has partnered with a number of local environmental groups, including Heal the Bay and Friends of the Los Angeles River. Last weekend’s show supported 826LA, a local organization that provides creative writing workshops and after-school tutoring to students in the community.

Local designer Juliana Hung, who sold her ceramic jewelry and plant-holders at this weekend’s show, says that there is a sense of community at the event.

“It’s great,” says Hung. “Everyone is really nice, and we kind of help each other out and learn from each other.”

Hung says she enjoys the dynamic nature of the show’s patrons, and draws from her background in industrial design to create something “fun and unexpected” in her ceramic and leather jewelry.

“There’s a really big diversity of categories, and all different crafts,” she says. “It’s really interesting to see the energy.”

Though the show is over, there are several upcoming events presented by Rasula and her team. Unique will present its first annual San Francisco show on the weekend of June 30, and also reportedly has a New York City event in the works. Rasula also curates a monthly movie night at L.A.’s Echoplex, which includes pizza, a movie, and drinks for $10.

The next movie, the 1955 film noir classic “Kiss Me Deadly,” will be screened on May 21.

Visit stateofunique.com for further details.