Tania Enriquez is the type of person who everyone just knows. She's both a creative, a curator, and a visionary. Just shy from being an impresario (due to not owning a gagillion dollars), she cultivates her deep resources of friends to connect the LA arts scene through Space 15 Twenty (a urban creative space built by Urban Outfitters), while also quietly working on her unique one-off jewelry and objects. Here, she tells us her story of how she became the tour-de-force creative for Space 15 Twenty, how she managed to get King Krule booked before he got big, and what her process was to making her jewelry. What's next for her in the coming years? We'll just have to wait and see.
You've been with Space 15 Twenty / Urban for a good part of the decade. Working first in Philly and then moving back home to LA. You've been a huge part of the creative arts scene here in LA. How do you see yourself as a facilitator of that?
I think it's nothing strategic, I mean everything that happens is (almost) just (because), if you love the culture and you love the people that are part of it you're just kind of naturally engaged, it's almost like you're magnetized by it, I don't really see myself as a facilitator in that sense but I think I'm a facilitator by default, but really I'm more just like a copper wire, there's an energy transferred to me and I just transfer it to something else. I'm just the connector, more than a facilitator.
How do you use Space 15 Twenty as a platform for that?
I'm really fortunate to have the space, it's an amazing resource for me as a platform, knowing so many friends that are creative, like you guys [Freeways Collide], or I have a lot of friends that are musicians, etc. To have something for free to offer them and also having not only just the space but the social media outlet to be able to put them out there, and give them a voice that's more than what they have. I'm very lucky to be able to have that job. It's really helpful to be able to connect with my friends on a creative level and not just to hang out—"let's actually do something! I offer you this!" I'm grateful for having the space for that, that opportunity. That's probably the number one thing I'm really grateful for.
How did you get into the position as the event curator?
It's really interesting, I was a buyer for Urban Outfitters and I was working in Philly in the home office and the creative director Sue Otto, she's kind of like my mentor, I just look up to her you know? It's because of her that I ended up in the home office. It's a really fun story. It's kinda long but I love it.
I was a men's manager in Pasadena at Urban Outfitters, and we were doing a walk-through with the store manager and district manager, they told everyone to dress cute. I was kind of new in my position and I never really had done a walk-through before and I was nervous and l didn't know what to wear. I remember my whole outfit though: I was wearing this A.P.C. micro corduroy top dress, some A.P.C. denim and these Marni flats. During the walk-through I kept calling Sue ‘Bridgette’ and she was like, "oh I'm the other one, I'm the loud one" and I kept apologizing. And finally, after the walkthrough, she goes "I love you're shoes what are they?" I was embarrassed to say "oh they're Marni, but I had bought them from Yoox for like $89." I didn't want her to think I'm buying really expensive stuff. So I tell her they're Marni and she said they're awesome, then she said "I just broke my foot what size are you? I'm gonna send you a couple of Marni platforms."
A week passes and nothing, I didn't really wait for it. Two weeks later I get a package at the store and everybody is talking about it "oh Tania got a package from Sue". And I opened it and she did send me two pairs of Marni platforms. After that she would always email me, and I went to a store opening in Las Vegas and told her what I wanted to do, she just talked highly of me. We talked about fashion and she was just surprised that I knew a lot. Because usually at the store level even the managers, they like fashion but not the way we do. We just love it that's our passion, and she saw that. That was how we first connected, she asked me "would you want to help us conceptualize the space in LA?" and then they hired my first colleague, she is a taste maker in LA and she knows everyone. I was really fortunate to work with her and we partnered up. We planned everything and then we opened it together. It was basically Sue's idea to put us on board and we all just pitched in, and being part of that changed a lot of things. She then asked me if I wanted to move to LA and I said yes. I just needed something more than what I was getting in Philly as a buyer. And that was 4 years ago. That's how I became a part of it.
That's more of an amazing story than I ever imagined it to be. So you were pretty much part of the brain children to set up Space!
No, Sue is definitely the master mind, we were her disciples. Our team, there were 6 of us and most of us didn't know what everyone else was doing. Most of it was the logistics, but all the event planning was just me and Ann. Ann was the one leading it, she was definitely my senior, she knew a lot and we worked well together although we were so different.
How do you see the Space as a part of yourself?
As a part of myself, I see it as more of an alternative side of me. Being creative is not only to be able to express yourself, being creative is also being able to remove yourself and knowing that it's not about you but about that subject matter or whatever it is. It's about problem solving. It's about connecting the dots, you know, figuring it out. It's still Urban Outfitters so in a way we have to brand it kind of very close to what Urban Outfitters is, catered to that customer, so half of the program has to cater to that, the sixteen year-old to the mid twenties. They're very much the now, current, relevant type-of-group of kids. You have to understand where they're coming from—it's not necessarily very me, it's not essentially who I am but to have an understanding and an overview, and just to be a great observer.
I see Space 15 Twenty as my other type of creativity where I'm a problem solver and a dot connecter. I just piece the puzzle together. So that's how I see it, my role there is to be able to understand what Urban is about, and it's good, because having worked at Urban for such a long time and starting as a sales associate, becoming a buyer and just really living that life, understanding the customers and what sort of division it is of the company, and being so close to the creative team and understanding the creative director and understanding the division. All that balled up together, you know, jam packed into one part of your brain, you just kinda get it—it has become instinctual to me. I can just tell if something is Urban or not, never am I not sure. I can see when something will work or not. It's not for my personal taste it's not for my ego sense, it's just more of a very objective sense. It's detached from me personally. It could be 300% detached or it could also be when I do things with my friends, so when I do things with Freeways Collide, or my music friends etc. I can still be as involved and personally connected to it as I want to or I can completely be detached from it.
So I think that's an amazing balance you can have in that kind of work... And that's how I see myself as part of Space 15 Twenty, it's just like my impersonal creative outlet. It's more about piecing the puzzles and understanding the brand. And that's important cause you know sometimes people get caught up with what they like and what they want and this is cool, and yes but at the same time you have to understand what works, cause you can't just ignore the customer of the brand.
I want to get kind of more into the music scene in LA, the creative scene which i guess we’ve been neck deep into already. With some of the stuff you’ve been referencing and describing.
As far as the music scene goes, LA is so diverse. As far as my favorite moments, I think it was when Warpaint played at the Space when they were newish, for free. One of their band leaders I think she plays guitar, her name is Tania too—I don't know how we ran into each other but I had a Blogger Shop Day and at that time blogger was big, not tumblr. When they started the whole outfit of the day crap and all that bullshit. I thought, I'd like to do this blogger thing and I never heard that happen before, I wanted all these bloggers together and have them do that market and sell their clothes.
That actually brings a good question, so for a while you were organizing the music at Space 15 Twenty. What were some of the favorite bands that you saw play there or even your favorite stories that happened?
Well my favorite story and moment is when King Krule came, because actually Kyle is the one who told me about him. I saw that he was playing at the Echo and it was sold out and I wondered if he can play and it just so happens that True Panther Records, Dean Bein directs that guy. Typically we work with Amoeba. And when they can't do an event—lets say [because] they're already booked—they hit me up and ask if they can do something at Space 15 Twenty. […] And they had a great time, he loved the way we hosted them. So when I hit him up I was like “Hey dude I see that King Krule has a sold out show. We'd love to host them at the space. If you guys would ever need a show for like 18 and under or just for fans or have a signing”. At first I didn’t think they were gonna go for it cause he was really getting big, but he wasn't that big in the States yet. But he was obviously, cause he had two sold out shows at the Echoplex. So he said let me check with the other people, cause he's the label, so he checked with the PR part of it and then they said OK. They asked if I had a backline budget, but I said no. But he still did it. Typically, they would expect you to get the backline but we didn't have any money. So I thought that was awesome. You never know how big, his label just blew up in the past 2 years. It's just good to just work with people. Just make sure that you always put your best foot forward. People will remember you and that you treat them specially even if they aren't big. Just how I like to treat people, you always want to give good host and even though some people are not the best people, that's still your job. Keep your pose no matter how shitty people are, that's on them. And that probably was one of my favorite gigs, they were amazing.
What's one of your favorite events?
Just the usual, the small ones. You know the ones I get to hang out with my friends. Actually, my favorite would probably be Kyle's Field Study. I met Kyle at Space 15 Twenty when we had an art show, I remember he was wearing these crazy red felt Birkenstock clogs and I was like "nice shoes bro"—I was wearing these burgundy Wallabees and he was like "nice shoes" [too]. So then I said "oh you're like my twin." And we just liked each others style—"If I were you I'd probably wear your clothes." I'm sure he thought the same way, cause you know, I don't dress that girly. So we just became friends and then he told me out his brand. [Tania said] "you know we should get you into Urban," and he wanted to get into Urban. So I told him I'm gonna talk with my friend Colby Black, he was the senior men's buyer for Urban. So they bought some stuff. I told him to check out this guys clothes, it's really dope and that's just how it happened. Then I was like "dude, you should have your own pop up!" And he did. I took my laptop and worked in there, it was like a little fun thing. We merchandised ourselves, it was crazy, it was very fun. It was so wabi-sabi, it's not by any means completely thought out and Kyle is crazy I just did all this shit for him. That was probably one of the funnest one because that is the one that resonated to me the most, as far as style and people, it was fun.
You're super big in the arts and crafts scene, and quality handmade goods. How do you think that’s growing in LA?
Oh it's so massive and crazy cause you know all that stuff, indigo dye, ceramics... But of course, maybe I only see it from my point of view. I did the whole flea market every week for a year or so. That's how I met a lot of people too, facilitating the market right. And through that, that's how I met people who make handmade goods and shit like that. The very first one, which I think was more catered to that, was the holiday pop-up where I met Nikki and then she was selling her indigo dye stuff and she had ceramics too. And you know the LA vibe is so casual, and we like that sort of handmade vibe. And it's so accessible. There’re so many schools out there that teach all that stuff. So yeah, I mean it was just natural that people were gravitated towards that. People have been doing this in LA for a long time. I think with the blogs and instagram and all that, that's how it spread like wild fire.
How did you start making jewelry?
Someone told me about Barnsdall Art Center and I just happen to live down the street. The school where I take my classes is an art park but they’ve been teaching there, it's been around for a long time and people have been going there for 10 years. I thought I would check it out and look at their curriculum. [She thought] "Oh this is cool, you can learn how to make jewelry," and at that time I was having trouble with my boyfriend then. And I was just "fuck I can't be so distracted, I need something, let me find something creative to do so I'm not going crazy to keep myself busy”. People go crazy cause they're bored. I went over there and took a class and it was like alright, the first was like okay cause you learn the basics, so I'm glad that I gave it another chance. I then realized it was actually cool and my teacher kept telling me "oh that's good”, thinking I was like this child wonder but I think it was because of the clothes I wore. So I was like "oh man that's so cool my teacher encourages me, I can tell that she thinks I'm gonna be something good!" And so, I was encouraged by that, I just love being with a bunch of older women, they love that shit! So, I thought I’d have a knack for it so I just kept doing it. I've only been really doing it for like a year and a half. It started with just making stupid rings to give out to my friends, and now I'm actually starting to have so many ideas that I’m thinking I really want to pursue this. People love it so that's always encouraging.
You have some of your jewelry work in stores at the moment. Where?
The main store I’m in is RTH on La Cienega, it’s really awesome. The guy that runs it is Rene Holguin, those are his initials. I met him cause I was shopping there. And he said “I like your rings” ,“oh I make them” and from that point on. At first I thought he was joking around, but then I thought he’d probably be serious so I went back in there and he was like “Hello, I've been waiting for you” and I was “Oh snap I didn’t think you were serious!”. Right now I have a couple of things we're working on, like hooks. He does leather goods and he has lots of amazing stuff, he uses vintage military fabrics and turns them into awesome clothes and they’re unisex, Japanese love him!
Rene was one of the creatives at Levis before. He's just been in that whole scene for a long time, he's well respected and his store is amazing. He has two stores now, on the same block. The first is the original RTH and the second one is the art and object one, he does a lot of handmade artisan work there. I have my burners at Assembly New York right now, and I'm working on some stuff for Lauren Manoogian who’s opening an online store. That's it really. Oh, and I have some stuff at Weltenburger, just my basic rings and bracelets but most of them are all gone. I don't have a lot of retailers, I'm still new at this whole thing, I do it all by myself and I work full time so it's not realistic to fulfill orders, I mean I can do some but not that much. By the time I'm getting home it’s 6:30 and I'm tired.
What's the next step for your jewelry line, are you gonna expand, are you gonna try to get into more stores?
I'm not the type of person who's going to have a collection, I'm very sort of a free flowing person. I don't necessarily like to repeat the same things, so right now I just wanna like the next step I'm really curious to, maybe that's my next challenge maybe I will do a collection. Maybe I will do something conceptual. Actually, I have an idea, there's this Japanese technique called Kintsugi. So basically, you know when ceramics or porcelain have a crack and they fill it with gold? So I thought "I love the way that looks, I wanna be able to do that with just metal, instead of doing full gold!" What I would do is use the solder and then the solder would act as the gold. I wanna join metals in that system. That's the one that I've been wanting to try but I need a full weekend to make that.
So what do you see happening in the future for yourself?
You know what, I really want to get into sculpting someday, I like metal forming because it can be whatever you want it to be, if you heat it up it can bend one way or another, depending on how much heat you apply, and it's never the same. Unless you have a super monitored space, but that's not us. It can go either way. I was making one of these zine holders and, all of a sudden, I wanted to make rings cause I was sick of making this stand. As long as you’re making something and you're constantly applying yourself there's always this covery of a new something. So who knows! I think you just gotta keep on doing it, it will just lead to other things that you never even fathom and I think that’s the beauty of creating. I love working with people, I love to interact but having experienced the tangibility of creative expression and having something so tactile and something you can touch it makes you just change your perspective on creativity too. It's more a sort of “in your face” result, so the satisfaction is instantaneous and it lasts for a long time. I wanna explore more of that and I wanna travel and I want to work with artisans, I wanna go to the Philippines and explore. Whatever I learned from what I’ve done here and from dealing with the people and artists and the process in which I organize the events and bringing people together, all that skill is universal. It doesn't just apply to Space 15 Twenty, it can apply to a gallery, a school, a museum, it can apply to business.
The world is our oyster; it’s a buffet, it’s a Las Vegas buffet; there's so many options. We're so pressured to pick out one thing. It really depends on the person. I wanna try everything or at least the areas I can definitely excel at.