The Brush Factory is moving back to its roots.
After a year in Oakley retail space, the designers and makers of casual, eclectic sportswear and accessories are returning to Brighton, a pocket of industrial history within Cincinnati's West End neighborhood.
"Our hearts belong to Brighton," admits Hayes Shanesy, co-owner of The Brush Factory
. "When I first moved here, I couldn't believe a place like this still existed." Vestiges of the community's rich history – its canal traffic, streetcar line, and industrial architecture – give the past an almost tangible quality to Shanesy.
"If you squint, you can still see it."
Both he and his partner Rosie Kovacs draw inspiration from the neighborhood, once a center for furniture manufacturing, meat-packing and distillery operations in Cincinnati. The design shop's 120-year-old building, at one time the workshop and showroom of the Cincinnati Brush Manufacturing Company, makes a fitting home for the designers' interests, his industrial and hers fashion. In the building's garage and upstairs workshop, Hayes focuses on 3-D forms in design, handcrafting wood furniture and restoring motorcycles and old sewing machines. In addition to her tailoring business, Kovacs creates her clothing line downstairs, where design patterns and hand-woven fabrics make each item unique.
"Nothing is shipped out and our hands touch every part of it," Shanesy says.
The closing of the Oakley storefront will allow the designer-craftsmen time to expand their latest creative endeavor, melding their two worlds of soft and hard materials through a new line of accessories and bags. Without the demands of a retail operation, they say they can now concentrate on their wholesale business with boutiques here and across the country.
Christopher Dam, The Brush Factory's director of men's and women's sales, believes that Shanesy and Kovacs' vision, inspired by the high-quality products of the past, is a response to America's growing rejection of mass-produced quantity. The Midwest lags behind fashion centers like New York and Paris in embracing this quest for quality and uniqueness, but Dam sees great potential in Cincinnati.
"With wonderful neighborhoods [in the city] like Oakley and Northside, we know the customers are out there."By Becky Johnson
Photos courtesy of The Brush Factory