Author: Jacob Took
Photography: Kyle Pompey
Currency Studio’s space on North Avenue is more than a store. It’s an exhibition, an experience, an experiment. The exterior windows tint red, so colors seem to morph as you enter. Products from fiance co-founders Michael and Erica’s Currency Studio brand are displayed on interior concrete walls alongside a curated gallery of local art. They call it the 0520 Concrete Project.
The red comes from Currency’s signature logo, a red-white-red stripe. The bare concrete speaks to Michael’s affinity for natural materials – concrete is solid and balanced, while natural woods are all unique, qualities he aspires to embody. He’s proud, he says, to have a space to display work from local artists.
“Art’s always inspired me,” he says. “Having a physical presence for artists and their products is huge.”
Michael traces the unique flavor of the space to his memories of shopping with his father, who owned an urban apparel line and took him to high-end boutiques in search of quality vintage products. He was taken away by the atmosphere at these shops, which were nothing like typical department stores.
The first t-shirt Michael designed during his freshman year of high school featured the slogan Respect Your Wealth. It sold well, thanks in part to blossoming online platforms like MySpace and Tumblr. The slogan is both empowering and cautionary.
“I’d seen people with certain wealth, certain success, who didn’t really respect it,” he explains. “Respect your wealth came from this idea that you are your most valuable currency.”
Currency Studio opened its first store in Fells Point in 2008, but Michael found himself leaving the city a few years later, first to Las Vegas and then to New York City. He was attending expos and trade shows, seeking out boutique stores, hitting up gallery openings on the daily and going home to design shirts to sell online. Eventually, wanting to nurture a flagship Currency Studios store, Michael and Erica returned to Baltimore.
Scouring the city, they found a studio in Greektown which helped them build out the brand, providing a space to invent, experiment and grow as artists. It wasn’t until they got in touch with Made In Baltimore staff that they found their current space, the site of Made In Baltimore’s 2015 pop-up. Michael said that while the space is almost right, they’re still looking for the perfect spot for a flagship store, driven by a vision for what creatives can help Baltimore become.
“I’m Baltimore born and raised,” Michael says. “I’m willing to take risks because I want to see artists, brands and retail flourish in this city.”
To learn more visit: currencystudio.us