It’s been ten years since Poketo burst on the scene with a line of cheap, cheerful, and highly collectible vinyl wallets emblazoned with art by the likes of Gary Baseman, Tim Biskup, and Jillian Tamaki. “Having a Poketo wallet is like having a traveling art show with you at all times,” say founders Ted Vadakan and Angie Myung (pictured), whose thriving e-store and Los Angeles shop now offers an ever-changing assortment of must-have goods, from colorful pens and perfect planners to apparel (we suggest the socks) and homegoods (check out the Japanese enamel saucepan). As they packed their Tyvek totes with the latest and greatest Poketo wares to show at NYNOW, the home and lifestyle tradeshow that opens Sunday at the Javits Center, we asked Myung to tell us more about the origins of the company, memorable moments, and what’s been flying off the virtual and physical shelves this summer.
1. How did Poketo come to be?
We really didn’t mean to start a business when we started Poketo in 2003. It was a total accident. We didn’t come from a business background. Ted was a filmmaker and I was going to school for graphic design. We were throwing a lot of art shows with friends who were artists in San Francisco. They were always a lot of fun but none of the art sold as we just couldn’t afford them. So, one day, we decided to make something that was affordable, and that’s when the Poketo Artist Wallets were born.
We had another art show and along with the original art on the wall, we sold wallets with the same artwork. The wallets were an instant hit and we totally sold out that night! We walked home that night with butterflies in our stomach and couldn’t wait to release another series. Gradually, Poketo took up more time. In the beginning, we worked different jobs and it wasn’t until two years later that we were working on Poketo full time.
2. How did you come up with the name “Poketo”?
Poketo (pronounced poh-KEH-toe) got its name through my Korean grandmother’s mispronunciation of the word “pocket.”
3. If you had to describe the Poketo aesthetic/philosophy in just three words, what would they be?
Fun, colorful, and modern
The outside and inside of one of the Adventure Time wallets, featuring the work of Jesse Ledoux.
4. What Poketo product has been flying off the shelves this summer?
We recently collaborated with artists Martin Cendreda, Jolby, Jesse LeDoux, and Nathalie Roland to make wallets for the TV show Adventure Time. When we took them to Comic Con last month, people really loved the creative designs. Even online, the Adventure Time wallets are selling really well.
In addition to the wallets, our pens are always very popular. They’re the perfect thing to turn any office a little sunnier with their playful designs and bright colors.
5. Tell us about some of the new products you’re excited about showing at NY NOW.
We’ll be showing a new line of stationery and accessories. The planners, notebooks, and pens epitomize Poketo’s unique style since they’re simple, functional, but really beautifully crafted, which is what we’re all about. We’ll also have iPhone cases so that you can carry a little bit of Poketo wherever you go.
6. What do you consider your best or most memorable design encounter?
In 2010, we collaborated with Target to launch a line of 52-piece accessories collection that was sold out nationwide. We also worked with Target again in 2012 and 2013 to create a stationery line. All three of the collections gave us great exposure and we are truly grateful for these incredible opportunities. Our friends and fans sent photos of the mostly emptied out and bare racks at their local Target stores!
7. What do you consider your proudest Poketo moment?
Our greatest milestone was opening our first brick-and-mortar shop/gallery in June 2012 at the Arts District in Downtown Los Angeles. The shop carries all of Poketo’s goods and features exclusive products that can only be found at the store. We’ll continue to have art shows with local and international artists, in addition to workshops and other unique public events. We were recently named as one of LA’s top stores by Elle.com, Refinery 29, and Racked and are now even featured in Wallpaper* City Guide! That’s a notable achievement for us, considering how new our brick-and-mortar store is.