By Liz Peters
Last week The Stylist Co-op celebrated their Launch Party at Blank Studio, run by sisters, Marni & Willa Blank. The space, located at 457 Broome Street, is a bright, sun-filled space with lots of character, has a beautiful high-ceiling brick wall, and a view of the iconic soho neighborhood.
I spoke with them after the party to get to know a little more about how their space came to be, the backgrounds they came from, and what they love about NYC.
Where did you grow up? If not NYC, how did you end up in the big apple?
Willa: We grew up in Stamford, CT which is about 45 minutes outside of the city. Most of our family lives in or around NYC so it was a natural move for both of us. Marni moved to the city after undergrad to attend Brooklyn Law and has been living in Brooklyn for that last 13 years. I moved to the city after graduating from RISD to pursue a career in fashion design (and did so for 10 yrs before the conception of Blank Studio)
Did you ever work together on another work project? What roles do each of you play in the business?
Willa: We had a lot of “businesses” as kids (lemonade stands, sold rocks off a boogie board on the beach, sold trees and beaded bracelets outside of a grocery store in the Adirondacks where our grandparents lived, etc) but never in our adult life! We definitely couldn’t have predicted this, but somehow this business blends our skill sets perfectly. Marni runs the operations end of the business and I take care of all things design and maintenance of the physical space. We both field customer service and split just about everything else. Its a collaborative effort and we really try to hear and support each other to keep things professionally and personally on the up and up.
What did each of you do before collaborating on Blank Studio NYC? How did these jobs influence your current career?
Marni: I call myself a recovering lawyer. I practiced for almost 5 years and just didn’t feel it was the right path. After quitting my job and taking a 7 month backpacking trip, I came back refreshed and ready for something creative and new. Willa worked as a womenswear designer in her former life, for companies including Marc by Marc Jacobs, Trademark and JCrew. The idea for the studio came to her while working in a truly sad/bare bones studio in the depths of Bushwick with zero amenities. She knew she could do better and that people in NYC have everything but space. After asking around and doing some research on existing studios, she enlisted my help to start searching for a unique space (my side hustle continues to be commercial and residential real estate). I think another driving force for us both is that we come from an extremely entrepreneurial family. We are inspired by their example and value the flexibility to allow time to create the work/life balance we want.
What has been a favorite client or project that you’ve seen happen in your studio since you’ve opened?
Willa: One of our favorite shoots was our very first one, with Rag & Bone. The studio was still under construction, with literal holes in the wall and building material everywhere. One bathroom was literally put in the night before and finished at 7am the morning of the shoot. It was a crazy shitshow, but it was exactly what they wanted for the concept of their shoot, and it meant we were now a legit business.
What else happens at the studio outside of Photoshoots?
Marni: We have clients who host corporate off-sites, meetings, year end reviews, product launches, showrooms, etc. We also host our own series of workshops and speakers at the studio for our growing community- which we are really excited about! The concept for the 2018 series was built around the idea of “getting your shit together.” It includes talks and workshops in the areas of love and relationships, career, personal finance, and health and wellness. We post these on our social channels as well as through marketing emails you can sign up for through our website.
When you’re not at work, what is your favorite thing to do in NYC?
Marni: I love to explore the city. Even after all these years, I am still in awe. I will say that I tend to gravitate towards Brooklyn. Often I’m just taking long walks around the hood or hanging out Brooklyn Bridge Park and people watching. I’m also a big fan of taking baking/pastry classes- baking is my stress reliever and I often bake for our clients :)
Willa: I spend a lot of time hanging out with my dog Otis in our little garden at home, when I’m not working. I am working on earning a green thumb, but i see it is years in the making (i chat with my grandma often about shade plants). We both also put a huge emphasis on travel- we make sure we split our time running the studio so we can each have the freedom to take trips when we can.