Tariq Dixon, the co-founder of online design destination TRNK, saw a gap in the marketplace catering to a new design-conscious generation looking to create spaces for themselves that reflect their personalities and values. Tariq gives FvF and NOMOS a tour of his home and workspace, and talks to us about how bringing care and consideration to these oft-neglected areas can create a greater sense of wellbeing.
“We lived these fleeting and transient lives as young people in New York City and never spent any time at home, and that became exhausting,” Tariq Dixon says about the process that lead himself and Nick Nemechek to found TRNK, a online retailer that capitalizes on evolving trends in e-commerce to reach a new, design-conscious generation looking to building a home.
“As we were entering our late twenties, we really wanted to invest in a space that gave us a sense of peace,” Tariq explains while sitting on the leafy stoop outside his quiet, meticulously considered Brooklyn apartment. However, he recalls that assembling a living space did not prove easy. “There wasn’t anything out in the market that we were inspired by and that reflected our tastes and personalities. When we had to go and do it ourselves it was an enormously time-intensive process.” Canvassing showrooms, flea markets, antique stores, and other purveyors in order to find just the right pieces “was a job, so we made it into a real job.”
Both Tariq and Nick had worked as buyers for major menswear brands, so selling design-centric home goods to a similar demographic wasn’t a huge leap. But while TRNK is technically a retailer, it aims for something a bit more comprehensive: to help their audience navigate the process of creating personal spaces that speak to who they are, and how they think about themselves.
Bridging the gap between what’s aspirational, and what’s accessible and applicable, is a major part of the strategy behind TRNK. Tariq is Harvard educated, and has the considered speech and gestures of someone who organizes his thoughts (and everything else) with care. “Integrity” is a word he uses constantly. But what defines integrity is malleable given the context of a marketplace that is offering everything from sofas and light fixtures to coffee mugs, and aims to do so at a variety of price points.
“Fair labor standards are important,” Tariq explains, but qualifies that not every product TRNK sells is “handcrafted” or “Made in America” to coin two of the buzziest taglines in the conscious consumer landscape. Rather, TRNK aims to do the legwork of juggling design, production quality, and price concerns on behalf of the customer. If something comes at a hefty cost the materials and craftsmanship should reflect that, but there is also value to something that is beautifully designed but not built to last a lifetime, and thus might be less expensive. The goal is that people will trust TRNK’s curatorial judgment, so that the brand will stand out in an increasingly populated e-commerce landscape where there is, generally, “a growing level of comfort with consumers for shopping higher-ticket items and more permanent investments online.”
The growing emphasis on e-commerce has several advantages when running a business like Tariq’s, from the educational to the operational. One is that it creates a new channel for brands to communicate their identity and values, helping to foster the sort of trust that is integral to securing those big-ticket purchases. The editorial material that peppers TRNK’s site is a function of the online model: there, you’ll find guides on how to style under-considered areas like coffee tables and bookshelves, and stories that invite visitors into the homes of the sort of urban creatives and entrepreneurs that reflect the brand’s customer base. The site also allows consumers to learn more about the nitty-gritty of where TRNK’s products come from and how they’re made, highlighting the brand’s commitment to quality and integrity. “You can produce content that tells the backstory, the origin, the construction of a product—that cannot be communicated in an in-store experience,” Tariq explains. “No store associate can show you the factory where it’s made, right?”
An increased emphasis on online purchases also has considerable operational and economic benefits, which is why even traditional retailers are starting to cut back on stores in favor of a sort of online/offline hybrid model. The department store Nordstrom has recently launched Nordstrom Local, a series of outlets that allow customers to try on clothing and even consult with stylists, and then make purchases that are shipped to them from elsewhere. Tariq explains that models of this sort allow retailers to forgo in-store inventory management, which is a massive drain on operational resources. For TRNK, their online model allows them “to onboard new products much quicker, so if we see something in market that we really like it can be a matter of just weeks, or a couple of months, to get it live on the site the customer to purchase. In a traditional store, the operational considerations are a lot deeper.”
TRNK, however, is one of a handful of brands that started exclusively as an online retailer and more recently branched out to provide consumers with an offline experience. This online/offline model dovetails nicely with Tariq’s philosophy, which is that the way things live in space has a measurable impact on our quality of life. This is where the TRNK showroom comes in—an inviting, light-filled loft in Manhattan’s trendy NoHo neighborhood that is set up like an apartment, but also serves as the company’s office. TRNK often host casual events in this unconventional workspace because “we want people to actually interact with the products, and use them in a way that you can’t online. To sit on the sofa and enjoy it and have a drink, as opposed to a store experience where you just plop down for a second and then feel pressure to leave.”
In keeping with this goal, the showroom mirrors many of the design principles that guide Tariq’s approach to his own home. Located on the ground level of a brownstone in Brooklyn’s Bed Stuy neighborhood, high ceilings and soaring windows give the place an enviable sense of openness, while original details like crown moldings and wood paneling contribute a classic character. Both the apartment and the showroom feature a neutral palette; larger furnishings placed to create a sense of partition; and objects like books and glassware clustered to make the space seem active and lived-in, but not cluttered.
Source fvf newsletter_blog