Brighton's Brush Factory opens new retail operation in Oakley

In Cincinnati's historic Brighton arts district, a West End haven for young artists and designers, Rosie Kovacs and Hayes Shanesy make and sell their designs in an old brush and janitorial supply factory. They call the studio The Brush Factory.

In their showroom they display spice-dyed shirts, handmade dresses and repurposed vintage jackets alongside wooden jewelry, accessories and home furnishings. Resting on shelves and racks that were crafted in a bygone era, and surrounded by the smell of antique wood, the goods seem permeated by the peculiar magic of that factory's well-preserved history. But despite the fine aesthetic, the location has a major drawback - a lack of customers walking past.

"In Brighton, we weren't getting much traffic at all," Kovacs said. "So we had to make a move."
The two young designers will open a retail store at 3227 Madison Road in Oakley on September 3 with an opening reception from 7 to 10 p.m. The Brighton location will become a design and production space, open to the public only for special events.

The store in Oakley will focus on women's fashion and wooden home furnishings, eventually carrying clothing labels from New York and San Francisco but opening with the Brush Factory and Undone/Re-done labels that Kovacs designs and fabricates in her studio. The lines reflect Kovacs' fascination with the chemistry of natural dyes, and the simple cuts inspired by Japanese pattern books, she said.

"Handmade doesn't have to be kitschy and ugly, it's supposed to be simple and elegant with garments that have a real story behind them, that are affordable," she said. "I'm always looking for something that doesn't look like anything else, and by hand-dying something you get a color that you won't find in any store."

Kovacs decided shortly after graduating from UC's DAAP program in 2009 to produce her own designs, which is uncommon for a young designer. She worked as a tailor at Nordstrom's to fund the idea and gain the experience necessary to open the Brush Factory in December, 2009.

"I don't have any money so the only way it was going to get done was if I did it myself," Kovacs said. "And I think it makes more sense, as a whole, to have the capabilities and facilities to make clothes from scratch in one place, instead of shipping everything around."

The move to Oakley will bring her clothes to an established shopping district that has plenty of room to grow, but doesn't yet have a personality that would cast any pre-conceived notions on her store, she said. The neighborhood's main square is currently undergoing a major renovation.

"Oakley doesn't really have a look or a vibe or a character about it yet," she said. "But I feel like something is starting there."

Writer: Henry Sweets
Photography by Scott Beseler