In 2011, as the Japanese apparel retailer UNIQLO was preparing to open a Fifth Avenue flagship store just down the block from MoMA, representatives approached MoMA Retail to explore opportunities for collaboration. Bonnie Mackay conceptualized and spearheaded a joint product collection involving the Retail organization, the Museum, and UNIQLO. MoMA’s Chief Curator at Large Klaus Biesenbach selected the works of ten cutting-edge modern artists to be showcased in a limited edition T-shirt collection made available at MoMA Store and UNIQLO locations worldwide.
That initial collaboration has grown into a product line comprising hundreds of products including apparel, totes, umbrellas, and other accessories. In addition, the Retail relationship acted as a gateway to UNIQLO’s becoming a key MoMA partner, including exhibition sponsorship and underwriting MoMA’s Free Friday Nights program.
In the late 1980s Bonnie Mackay first discovered the Japanese brand MUJI in Glasgow, Scotland. Roughly translated to mean “no brand, quality goods,” Bonnie was initially impressed by the product line’s clean design, straightforward functionality, simplicity in materials and color palette, and low prices.
On her first trip to Japan for MoMA, Mackay brought MoMA curator Matilde McQuaid to meet with MUJI. Recognizing the perfect fit with MoMA’s design aesthetic and the unique opportunity of introducing MUJI to the U.S., Bonnie initiated a business relationship.
In 2002 MoMA Retail launched a carefully edited selection of MUJI products on five cube displays at the MoMA Design Store. Within two years the collection grew to become the MUJI at MoMA collection featured in all Retail channels and in two MoMA Store shop-in-shops. MUJI remains a significant revenue driver for MoMA, and the collection’s success prompted MUJI to launch its own standalone stores and e-commerce business in the U.S.
In 2002 MoMA Retail launched a carefully edited selection of MUJI products on five cube displays at the MoMA Design Store. Within two years the collection grew to become the MUJI at MoMA collection featured in all Retail channels and in two MoMA Store shop-in-shops. The collection’s success at MoMA prompted MUJI to launch its own standalone stores and e-commerce business in the U.S.
Bonnie Mackay brought her extensive knowledge of ornament design and production, along with her vendor relationships, from Bloomingdale’s to MoMA. MoMA’s acclaimed holiday card program was initiated in 1954 and each year features new card designs from artists and designers from around the world. Bonnie engaged Italian glassmaker SAVA to adapt a selection of the card designs into beautiful, hand-painted disk ornaments to be sold through MoMA’s retail and wholesale channels. The program proved to be a highly successful extension of the holiday card line.
Bonnie also collaborated with curators from MoMA’s department of Architecture & Design to present items from the Museum’s design collection as holiday ornaments. German glassblowers transformed iconic design objects ranging from the Valentine Portable Typewriter to a Volkswagen Beetle into engaging and collectible ornaments. Special ornament collections developed with designers Eva Zeisel and Robert Sabuda uniquely reflected each of their distinctive styles. These and other projects helped create a successful ornament program reflective of the Museum’s mission and collection.
Bonnie is a life-long collector of holiday ornaments and is currently working on a book showcasing the collection and the rich and meaningful stories that bring it to life. The New York Times published a feature story on her collection here.
The Museum of Modern Art’s groundbreaking 1998 exhibition “Structure and Surface: Contemporary Japanese Textiles” celebrated Japan’s rich, long-standing textile tradition and singular influence on modern fabric design. Taking inspiration from the exhibition and from her own passion for textile design, Bonnie Mackay led the ongoing development and presentation of Japanese textiles in the MoMA Stores.
Textile designer and innovator Reiko Sudo is acclaimed worldwide for her experimental and cutting-edge designs that are deeply rooted in Japanese textile traditions. Head designer and co-founder of NUNO Corporation, Sudo’s work was featured in the MoMA exhibition and she soon became a valued friend and collaborator of Bonnie’s. Together they created many best-selling, MoMA-exclusive scarves and accessories.
Bonnie Mackay and Senior Curator Paola Antonelli, from MoMA’s department of Architecture & Design, discovered the work of Italian designer Carlo Contin at the 1999 Salone del Mobile. Contin had established his own design studio only the year before.
Bonnie was particularly impressed with his Satellite Bowl, a truly original bowl design based on a circle of wooden spokes, pinned together, which twist open to form a simple, dramatic open bowl shape. Contin produced the first order for MoMA in his garage. The Satellite Bowl has been produced in multiple sizes and colors over the years and is a signature product of the MoMA Stores and MoMA’s Wholesale line.
In 2011 Bonnie led the development of the Architect’s Project product line for the MoMA Stores and MoMA Wholesale. Collaborating with MoMA’s department of Architecture & Design, a diverse group of established and emerging architects were invited to develop products for the home and for personal use. They were challenged to apply skills generally associated with the conception of large, immobile spaces to the design of durable, portable items that could be produced en masse at a reasonable cost.
The result was a collection of thoughtful, engaging, and innovative home products that encourage exploration of architecture’s key themes, including structure, spatial organization, and materials. Notable in the collection were the Architect’s Cubes by John Bennett and Gustavo Bonevardi, and the Terrain Vase by Stephan Jaklitsch.
The Museum of Modern Art featured acclaimed designer Issey Miyake in its groundbreaking 1998 exhibition “Structure and Surface: Contemporary Japanese Textiles,” and examples of his work are represented in MoMA’s design collection. Bonnie Mackay introduced his distinctive Bao Bao Bag to the MoMA Stores in 2005. Adapted from his signature pleated designs, the bag was an immediate success and was soon featured on a MoMA Design Store catalog cover. When Bonnie visited a Pleats Please boutique in Tokyo Midtown, she was pleasantly surprised to see the MoMA catalog featured prominently at the entrance! The Bao Bao Bag’s popularity has led to a successful, ongoing collection of Miyake designs at the MoMA Stores.
The Museum of Modern Art’s acclaimed holiday card program dates back to 1954. The most successful card line by far has been the ongoing collaboration with best-selling pop-up book creator, illustrator and paper engineer, Robert Sabuda. Launched in 2002, Sabuda’s pop-up holiday cards are top sellers in MoMA’s retail channels and a highly successful wholesale line sold throughout the world.
To celebrate the tenth year of the collaboration, Bonnie invited Robert to design an oversized tabletop pop-up, which has now become an annual favorite as well. Sabuda’s delightfully intricate designs require sourcing sophisticated pre-production, production and quality control resources.
The Museum of Modern Art has been a long-time licensee of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, responsible for collaborating on the development, production, sale and distribution of a diverse collection of home products and personal accessories. The line is a top retail and wholesale revenue driver for both MoMA and FLLW.
During the collaboration Bonnie Mackay had the opportunity to work with Bruce Pfeiffer, an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright. He generously shared much about Mr. Wright and his legacy by introducing her to the Foundation archives and touring its complex in Scottsdale, AZ. The result of this close collaboration is a relevant and contemporary product line that meets the high standards of both organizations.
The Bubble Necklace is another item introduced to the MoMA Stores by Bonnie Mackay that has become a signature product. Bonnie first came across the necklace in a small shop in Milan and then sourced it back to its designers in Venice.
The delicate appearing but highly wearable necklace is designed and produced by sisters Marina and Susanna Sent on the island of Murano. They come from a family of Venetian glassblowers but launched their own business to integrate their contemporary aesthetic with the region’s ancient techniques. Unusual for the area, most of the company’s glass blowers are women. Bonnie’s ongoing relationship of more than 10 years with the Sent sisters resulted in a series of best-selling and MoMA exclusive products.
As the Operating Vice President, Fashion Director for the Home Fashion office at Bloomingdale’s, Bonnie Mackay was responsible for trend direction and product development, including Bed, Bath, Tabletop, Trim-A-Tree, Stationery and Table Linens. Bonnie collaborated with key vendors and designers to create exclusive Only at Bloomingdale’s introductions and products.
Kaleidoscope was a successful quilt and bed ensemble based on a tent patchwork Bonnie designed with Indian quilt maker Kitu Bhandari. Bonnie also discovered the Baccarat pendant ornament in a chandelier at the Baccarat chateau. It became the first dated crystal annual ornament, which started a worldwide luxury ornament category.
A career highlight at Bloomingdale’s was Bonnie’s opportunity to partner with legendary designer Ward Bennett to create a Bloomingdale’s 100th Anniversary tabletop collection. As a result of the collaboration Bennett became a close friend and mentor.