Team Troika

One of the goals for our website is to show the process and people behind each of our products. We believe the story behind our locally made products is an important story to tell.

Given our past infringement dispute with Urban Outfitters, we figured it would be a good time to share with you the local vendors that we work with to make the Troika mirror.

We hope to help show the trickle-down effect of how an infringement can negatively impact small, local businesses, even if this particular instance may be on a small scale.

Photo courtesy of Anderson Plywood

Photo courtesy of Anderson Plywood

Our Troika mirrors were originally designed using my grandfather's century old barn wood. While the reclaimed wood option is still available, we also wanted to provide a more modern version.

We opted for sustainably harvested maple europly sourced from Anderson Plywood in Culver City, CA. Their staff is always very helpful and they carry a wide assortment of wood and finishes.

VISIT SITE

Our maple europly sheets are cut by Steve at Triumph Custom CNC and Laser Works, just down the street from our studio. Each piece is cut to size, the channel routed for the glass and then the edges are pre-sanded.

Steve is a wealth of knowledge and always willing to help problem solve design issues. Located in North Hollywood, Triumph CNC is only open by appointment only so be sure to call or email before you stop by.

VISIT SITE

Steve as he inspects our Troika cuts

Steve as he inspects our Troika cuts

Luis cuts a new template for our next order

Luis cuts a new template for our next order

Our glass mirror is provided by Armando's Glass in Hollywood, CA. This small, family-owned shop has been in business for 40 years! Today, their son Luis now handles most of the heavy lifting, while his mom, Yolanda runs the shop.

I'll never forget the time Luis delivered a 9' long custom framed mirror to one of our clients. He only had to unload it off his truck, but because of his generous nature, he and his brother carried the enormous mirror into our client's home, up a winding staircase and into their master bath.

VISIT SITE

Richard from Acorn Paper stops by the studio

Richard from Acorn Paper stops by the studio

When we first started producing Troikas, we were making our own boxes and foam corners for shipping. Eventually, we figured that our time was better spent making the Troika and not the packaging. We decided to invest in a large order of boxes and custom foam corners from Acorn Paper Products.

Our studio is probably one of Acorn's smaller customers, but our sales rep, Richard has been very accommodating as he understands that our business will grow and continue to need more packaging solutions as time goes on.

VISIT SITE

We recently put in the largest order from each of our local vendors because we were supposed to wholesale the maple europly Troika through another retailer. When we discovered the Urban Outfitters infringement, we notified our retailer in an effort to be forthright and transparent. They decided to postpone our contract and we're now sitting on 200+ Troikas waiting to be assembled and sold. If we can't continue to sell the Troika because of Urban Outfitters' knockoff, it not only impacts our business, but it affects each of our vendors as well.

Save the Troika!

Needless to say, we are beyond disappointed to find a cheap knockoff of our Troika mirror on urbanoutfitters.com and in their storefronts. The quality of Urban Outfitters' Pyramid mirror is an insult to our original Troika that we’ve been crafting and fine tuning since early 2013. We find it hard to believe that the design and dimensions (including the ledge for keepsakes) is a coincidence.

Urban Outfitters is not only infringing upon our Troika mirror design, but their made-in-china knockoff is sabotaging small business and the local economy to which the Troika contributes. More on that later.

"Troika" mirror (reclaimed wood) by M.F.E.O.

"Troika" mirror (reclaimed wood) by M.F.E.O.

"Pyramid" mirror by Urban Outfitters

"Pyramid" mirror by Urban Outfitters

These public outcries against Urban Outfitters continue to happen time and time again. A quick Google search for “Urban Outfitters steals designs” returns over 300,000 results! Is Urban Outfitters scouring the pages of Etsy and trolling through trade shows to find new designs to steal? Probably not, but their overseas wholesalers most likely are. Both parties understand that these strategic infringements continue to occur and yet they don’t appear to be doing anything about it.

They claim to support independent designers and some even make a point to carve out a corner in their stores to feature a selection of locally made products. One can’t help but wonder if this is just a marketing ploy to soften the blow of the negative press they’ve received. If they really were trying to champion support for designers and makers, wouldn’t these blatant infringements cease?

I don’t mean to discount the maker movement being featured in big box retail stores. In fact, we’re currently participating in one and it’s been a great experience for us. However, it shouldn’t be treated as the ultimate solution to a larger systemic problem.

Troika mirror (maple ply) by M.F.E.O.

Troika mirror (maple ply) by M.F.E.O.

Pyramid mirror by Urban Outfitters

Pyramid mirror by Urban Outfitters

When we begin working on a new concept, we start with some research to ensure that our idea hasn’t already been realized by another designer. After searching online, there have been occasions where we find a product that is too similar to what we were envisioning. Naturally there’s an “aw shucks” moment, but inevitably it challenges us to push our design even farther which is a welcome part of the process.

So why can’t big box retailers adopt some of this same due diligence? Retailers, specifically ones that have been consistently accused of design infringement, should be proactively researching the market before they carry new products from overseas wholesalers. We're simply asking Urban Outfitters for "proactive authentication" to eliminate the undermining of independent designers and makers.

Until then, the most any of us can hope for is that the accused big box retailer will agree to pull the counterfeit product from their shelves, assuming we all make enough noise. We have our voice and more importantly your voice. How many infringements will it take before our voices become more powerful than their profit margin?

If you’ve made it this far, then we sincerely thank you for your time. Whether you’re a customer, colleague, friend, fellow maker, family member or simply consider yourself to be a conscious consumer, we ask that you show a deeper, more impactful show of support and help us fight against infringement by participating in this important conversation.

We need you to bolster our voice so it doesn’t potentially fall on deaf ears. We’ve provided some social friendly images, hashtags and links for you to share as you see fit.

SPREAD THE WORD

Hashtags: #savethetroika#fightinfringement #troikamirror #urbanoutfitters

Please tag us (@wearemfeo) in your posts so we can see all your support.
Also tag @urbanoutfitters if you'd really like to help us get their attention.

We’ll be posting additional blogs in the coming days, including a post on all the local businesses that help us make our Troika mirror. We think it’s important to share the negative trickle-down effect on our local economy when our work is stolen from us.

Thanks for your support.

Sincerely,
Aaron & Claire

Co-founders | M.F.E.O.®
@wearemfeo

UPDATE

We're so happy to announce that Urban Outfitters pulled their Troika counterfeit from their website shortly after we shared our story, Had it only been our post, they would have not likely responded. But because many of you choose to share our story, the volume was to loud for Urban Outfitters to ignore. Thank you so much for supporting our cause!

 

Troika in the Desert

When the city starts to feel like it's closing in around us, one of our favorite escapes is Joshua Tree national park.

Joshua Tree isn't just an escape from the city, but it can often feel like an escape from reality. From dinos to martians, as you enter the park it's easy to imagine yourself teleporting to another place and/or time.

We find ourselves frequenting the park for its camping and climbing. So on our last trip we decided to pack a Troika mirror with us. It's hard geometric lines draw a perfect juxtaposition against the organic shapes of Joshua Tree's dramatic landscape.

I don't pretend to be a photographer, but it's tough to snap a bad picture in such a beautiful place.

 

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"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks." — John Muir

"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks." — John Muir

“Bewilderment increases in the presence of the mirrors.” ― Tarjei Vesaas

“Bewilderment increases in the presence of the mirrors.” ― Tarjei Vesaas

"A desert is a place without expectation." — Nadine Gordimer

"A desert is a place without expectation." — Nadine Gordimer

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If you'd like a Troika mirror of your own, we offer them in rustic barn wood and modern maple europly.

Our Stop by Ojai

Ojai is one of those special places that while just a short drive from Los Angeles, feels like the polar opposite from the hustle and bustle of the city. Friend and talented photographer, Puno Dostres, recommended a quick stop into the Ojai Rancho Inn. Genuinely quaint and kitsch, it was perfect place to bring some of our small designs for a impromptu photo shoot.

Sarah with the Proost wine caddy and Jungalow planter. Photo: PUNODOSTRES. Styling: J Fraiche

Sarah with the Proost wine caddy and Jungalow planter. Photo: PUNODOSTRES. Styling: J Fraiche

As we continue to build our small design business, there's always new skills to add to the repertoire. In this case, it was to begin learning how to paint a picture around our designs and help our customers visualize our products as part of their own personal story.

Happy hour with Sarah, Jax and the Fryslan tray prototype. Photo: PUNODOSTRES Styling: J Fraiche

Happy hour with Sarah, Jax and the Fryslan tray prototype. Photo: PUNODOSTRES Styling: J Fraiche

The picture we wanted to paint was a girls' getaway. Along with our photogenic friends Sarah and Jax, we seeked to portray our products as accessories for a fun filled weekend.

Poolside with our caddy and tray prototypes. Photo: PUNODOSTRES. Styling: J Fraiche

Poolside with our caddy and tray prototypes. Photo: PUNODOSTRES. Styling: J Fraiche

Telling a story without distracting from the product can be a real challenge. The shoot provided us some great insight in regards to staging, composition and much more.

Sarah with the Jungalow planter, Troika mirror and tray prototype. Photo: PUNODOSTRES Styling: J Fraiche

Sarah with the Jungalow planter, Troika mirror and tray prototype. Photo: PUNODOSTRES Styling: J Fraiche

Ojai Rancho Inn has so many beautiful spots that it was difficult to choose from all the potential vignettes. The trailer threatened to steal the show in all its retro glory.

Inside the Rancho Inn house, Sarah accompanies our Rups chairs. Photo: PUNODOSTRES Styling: J Fraiche

Inside the Rancho Inn house, Sarah accompanies our Rups chairs. Photo: PUNODOSTRES Styling: J Fraiche

The Rancho house provided a perfect backdrop for our Rups chairs. After some rearranging in the living room, we were able to stage this shot in front of the vintage flag.

The Troika mirror and Fryslan tray join Sarah for breakfast in bed. Photo: PUNODOSTRES Styling: J Fraiche

The Troika mirror and Fryslan tray join Sarah for breakfast in bed. Photo: PUNODOSTRES Styling: J Fraiche

After a long day of shooting, we treated ourselves to a delicious feast at Boccali's Italian restaurant. We had a wonderful time and learned many lessons we'll be able to take along with us to our next shoot.

We owe a huge "thank you" to our beautiful, talented and gracious friends.

Photography: Puno Dostres
Wardrobe styling: J Fraiche
Model: Jackie Tranchida
Model: Sarah West

Social Shelter Club: Chris Sewell & Kenny Osehan

It Begins With A Barn

We discovered early on that when passion coalesces with intuition something extraordinary happens; synchronicity. Doors open and opportunities become available. Milestones and challenges alike present themselves when most appropriate.

As is the case of our grandfather's century old barn.

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When we decided to begin our small design venture we knew that we wanted our pieces to be made from eco-friendly materials. Quality craftsmanship and a sustainable production process was our main objective. Shortly after, a visit home to Oregon led to a conversation with my brother who casually mentioned that our grandfather was planning to knock down the old barn on his dairy farm.

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The 100+ year old barn was original to the farm, but had become so dilapidated over the years that it was becoming an issue of safety. I was unsure how to raze a building, but I knew immediately that we had struck reclaimed gold. With the help of my dad and eldest brother, we carefully dismantled the 4000 square foot barn in August of 2011.

We began by removing the the aluminum siding, followed by the original wood siding, then the roof and finally the flooring. As we continued to dismantle the barn, I gained a deep level of respect for how early homesteaders designed and built their structures by hand. Mortise & tenon and hand hewn beams tout their fortitude and craftsmanship.

After three weeks of gleaning as much barn wood as we could, we decided that the safest way to raze the remaining structure was too simply pull it down with a tractor. Note the jovial "yeehaw!" coming from off screen... that would be my brother from behind the wheel of the tractor.

After some site clean up, we transported the rescued lumber to our parents farm where we power washed, treated for pests, and finally stacked it in a retired greenhouse. Our studio is located in Los Angeles so from time to time we hit the road to restock our supply of Grandpa's barn wood.

One day, the wood will run out and we'll have to find another building with another story.