The maker movement has steadily grown over the past several years across the country. Etsy, once the standard-bearer for the modern craft movement, has inspired Amazon to found Amazon Handmade, an Etsy-like online destination for buying and selling handcrafted items. National home stores, such as West Elm and Steven Alan, have also jumped on the trend, carrying handmade home goods by regional makers.
While a return to traditional craftsmanship has become a national movement, it could be argued that it got much of its traction in Minnesota, which has a legacy of manufacturing. The late 2000s saw a revitalization of Minnesota heritage brands: In 2009, J.W. Hulme Co. was brought back from the brink of collapse after the debt crisis, as was the historic Faribault Woolen Mill Co., which was revived in 2011 after closing two years prior due to the recession. Around that time, other Minnesota heritage brands, such as Duluth Pack and Red Wing Shoes, began to thrive.
Enter: Northern Grade. Founded by Katherine and Mac McMillan in 2010, the brand got its start with a pop-up marketplace at Architectural Antiques in Northeast Minneapolis in September of that year. The market showcased handcrafted goods by a collection of modern makers and heritage brands hailing from Minnesota and beyond, including J.W. Hulme Co., Red Wing Heritage, Duluth Pack, Leather Works Minnesota, and Pierrepont Hicks, the McMillans’ clothing and accessories brand. Since then, Northern Grade has evolved into a roving marketplace, popping up in cities spanning L.A. to Moscow, with support from media partners such as GQ and Fashionista. And last year, it opened a brick-and-mortar shop in New York City and an e-commerce site, featuring a selection of brands that have appeared in its markets over the years.
While the McMillans relocated to New York several years ago, Northern Grade still makes it to the Twin Cities twice a year, popping up this past May at St. Paul’s City House. This holiday season, Northern Grade is making its debut appearance at Holidazzle, the annual European-style outdoor holiday festival held in Minneapolis’ Loring Park, for a two-day market.
“We have always loved Minnesota during the holidays,” explains Katherine McMillan. “Holidazzle approached us and we felt it was the right time to partner with such a great event, to really focus on bringing convenient local shopping to the consumer. That is what helps the smaller brands and ultimately that is our goal.”
The lineup features returning favorites J.W. Hulme Co., Krammer + Stoudt, Stormy Kromer, Woodchuck USA, and Concrete Pig, and offer a mix of women’s and men’s apparel, leather accessories, jewelry, watches, skincare, furniture, longboards and paddle boards, home goods, coffee, and artwork, plus cocktails from Duluth’s Vikre Distillery. Of the highlights at this year’s event, Katherine says, “Hawk + Hatchett’s Campfire candle is ridiculous. We cannot keep it in stock anywhere. Noah Marion is coming in from Austin and he has some very cool tech accessories. And our oldest, dearest friends at J.W. Hulme, who were with us from the beginning. It’s always a treat to work with them.”
The partnership with Holidazzle is a good example of how Northern Grade has evolved since its early days—particularly now that the maker movement has really taken off and craft markets are nearing saturation point.
“The Twin Cities is where it began, and when we first did it at Architectural Antiques it was really special and pretty intimate,” says Katherine. “That was seven years ago. Now, we are feeling like the whole pop-up market thing is very saturated. So, we want to do more partnerships with retailers, brands, and food and beverage folks who want to create something bigger and more interesting than just a maker market. It’s got to be more than that to keep the smart consumer interested. And it’s got to be convenient. We are always looking for new opportunities and exciting options for the brand to grow.”
After all, Katherine adds, “If you’re not changing, you’re not evolving, right?”
Full Northern Grade: Holidazzle vendor list: Byrd & Belle, Hawk + Hatchet, Weiss Watch, Tradition Creek, J.W. Hulme Co., Atelier & Stone, Stormy Kromer, Winter Project Artist, Shane Garron, DC Ice, CleverHood, Anywhere Apparel, Ace & Everett, Woodchuck USA, Sea Legs, Noah Marion, Krammer + Stoudt, Honour Essentials, Country Kubb, Locally Grown Clothing Co., Concrete Pig, Madison Leather, and Shore Boards. Northern Grade’s Holidazzle edition takes place this Saturday from 11 a.m.– 9 p.m. & Sunday from 11 a.m.–7 p.m. @ Loring Park, 1382 Willow St., Minneapolis, northerngrade.com
In addition to the Northern Grade market, this year’s Holidazzle event also features shopping from vendors including Faribault Woolen Mill, My Sister, Cooper & Kid, Fair Anita, Hagen & Oats, Hippy Feet, Love Your Melon, and more, plus craft beer from Fulton Brewing, Spyhouse Coffee, hot and prepared food, appearances from Santa, free film screenings, and an outdoor skating rink. Holidazzle takes place Thursdays to Sundays through December 23. Thursday from 5-9 p.m., Friday from 5–10 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m.–10 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m.–7 p.m. @ Loring Park, Minneapolis, holidazzle.com
Here’s are some maker highlights from this year’s event:
Weiss Watch Co.
What: Finely crafted, heirloom-quality field watches with leather and canvas straps that you may have spotted at North Loop’s Askov Finlayson.
Who: Master watchmaker Cameron Weiss founded Weiss Watch in L.A. to help revive U.S. mechanical watch manufacturing, which long ago headed overseas, using centuries-old techniques.
For more: weisswatchcompany.com
What: Stylish, functional, and high-quality urban rain capes for adults, kids, and pets.
Who: Owner and founder Susan Mocarski, an artist and graphic designer, was inspired to create better rainwear for cyclists and walkers alike after a rainy trip to Copenhagen. In 2010, she founded Cleverhood in Providence, Rhode Island.
For more: cleverhood.com
Winter Project Artist
What: Handcrafted, minimalist, classic backpacks featuring heavy canvas, solid brass hardware, and buffalo leather trim.
Who: Sarah McNerney—a creative director and the co-founder of Minneapolis design and branding studio Very, Inc.—creates the backpacks by hand in her home studio.
For more: winterprojectartist.com
What: Modern, functional, and one-of-a-kind furniture that is industrial and rugged in material yet stoic and elegant in form. Its unique approach to furniture design combines the clean lines of molded concrete with steel and wood to form unique pieces. And some have flexible uses: The Harlan modular side tables can be flipped on their sides or pushed together to form a coffee table.
Who: Established in 2013 by Minneapolis maker Keith Wyman, Concrete Pig’s statement-making pieces are right at home in either a North Loop loft or a Minnetonka bungalow.
Gets cool points for: Wyman is donating 10 percent of all sales through the rest of the year to nonprofit Harvest Pack, packing meals for the needy.
For more: concretepig.com
What: Convertible, multi-use clothing inspired by a traveler’s lifestyle that is as versatile and practical as it is stylish.
Who: During their travels together, husband-and-wife founders Kelly Koster and Nick Hansen of St. Paul had always struggled to find technical travel clothing that was also style-conscious. When they realized there was a gap in the marketplace, they set about creating their own, so they launched Anywhere Apparel in 2016.
Gets cool points for: its Stowaway men’s jacket, which converts from a travel jacket made from technical wool to a cross-body shoulder bag with a hidden liner pocket.
For more: anywhereapparel.com
Byrd & Belle
What: Sleek wool and hand-dyed leather covers for iPhones, iPad, MacBook, and Kindle
Who: Angie Davis is the designer, maker, and studio runner of Byrd & Belle, which was founded in Minneapolis in 2008. She has a degree in architecture and practiced for several years before starting the studio. She also owns Adavis, a product and process design studio specializing in U.S.-based manufacturing with an emphasis on cut-and-sew design development.
Gets cool points for: working with the accessories team at Room & Board in 2012 to design an exclusive line of storage goods and table textiles.
For more: byrdandbelle.com
Krammer & Stoudt
What: Double-breasted wool overcoats, fur-trimmed leather and wool bomber jackets, 1950s-inspired polo shirts, and striped tees that tip their hat to vintage SoCal greaser muscle-car culture.
Who: Krammer & Stoudt designer Michael Rubin and business partner Courtenay Nearburg combines Rubin’s California roots with New York tailoring for his contemporary menswear line, which has been manufactured in New York City’s Garment District using imported and domestic fabrics since 2012.
Gets cool points for: melding the subcultures of surf, skate, punk and rockabilly with polish and panache.
For more: krammer-stoudt.com
What: A line of Bemidji-made coats, jackets, flannel shirts, and vests, as well as outdoor accessories.
Who: Tradition Creek was first founded as an online retailer by Afghanistan War vet Shawn Murphy in St. Paul in 2011. Since then, it’s expanded to sell its goods at nearly a dozen stores throughout Minnesota and the Midwest, plus New York, London, and Tokyo, and moved its operations to Norwood Young America, Minnesota.
Gets cool points for: military-informed craftsmanship—the company uses melton wool, the same type of wool used in U.S. Navy pea coats.
For more: traditioncreek.com
All vendor images courtesy the vendors