written by:
photos by:
November 24, 2010
Originally published in Young Americans

Will Robison and Jacob Krupnick believe that transforming basic transactions into “retail experiments” will change the rapport we have with what we buy. Subports launched in late 2009 as a techie, Brooklyn-based, text-to-buy business model—–a one-time online registration links your credit card information to your cell phone number, and purchases are made by sending an SMS—–but the implications of the service subvert the conventional add-to-shopping-cart experience. 

ViaPortal SUV
Subports is taking it to the streets with ViaPortal, their latest on-the-go venture: an SUV mounted with transparent display cases designed by Takeshi Miyakawa and Vram Malek. Jacob Krupnick (far left) and Will Robison (second from right) are joined by the director of client relations, Katie Rose (right), and cofounder Karl Conrad.
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Hidden flask inside a book
Robison hollows out used books for a variety of objects, including a flask.
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Plexiglas shelves by ViaPortal
ViaPortal’s Plexiglas shelves are purpose-built to show a changing collection: Miyakawa made this plastic model station wagon, and the Indigo Clutch by Article 22 was dyed and handwoven in Laos.
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Subcode polaroids
Polaroids are taken of each object, with the “subcode” written on the bottom.
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Log Desk Organizer by Aaron Linn
Stock—–like Aaron Linn’s hand-carved Log Desk Organizer—–can rotate as often as the meter runs out.
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Subports graphic
Ready to give it a go? Register with Subports here (it is super quick and incredibly easy!!), then keep clicking through the slideshow to check out Will and Jacob's top picks from Subports vendors. Each product is available via text—the subcode is written in quotes—for easy shopping once you're signed up. For loads more awesome products and cool temporary retail experiments, check out the Portal Mrkt. Have fun!
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Wooden Desk Organizer by Aaron Linn
Wooden Desk Organizer by Aaron Linn ($350.00 for one) text "AaronLinnDeskOrganizer“ to 767825 (portal) "Aaron is a goldmine find for Subports; he is truly a unique, under-the-radar craftsman. Aaron grew up working the land of the Oklahoma plains, and that farming sensibility plays into his wonderful handcrafted designs. No one else on the planet is doing the types of products Aaron is producing. Now based in Brooklyn, one of Aaron Linn's newest creations is a series of desk organizers from logs found in his NYC neighborhood (we know--trees here? Who knew). Each unit takes 4 weeks to hand-carve and features a lazy-Susan base and a built-in pencil sharpener. Looks great with his handmade Reclaimed Floorboard Scissors ("aaronlinnfloorscissors", $30.00) and the Trusted Sentiments Pencils from Et Al., Etc. ("etaletcsentiments", $9.50). Aaron's work is unbelievable and exclusive to Subports." photo by Jacob Krupnick
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7 / 20
Paper Alarm Clock by Joon&Jung
Paper Alarm Clock by Joon&Jung ($140.00 for one)text “JoonJungPaperClock” to 767825 (portal) "If you've never heard of Joon&Jung, please by all means research them. We have a soft spot for quirky sureal design objects, especially ones that pay homage to great Fluxist artists, and these guys nail down that aesthetic. This fully-functioning alarm clock is made from collected paper and is complete with labeled buttons and knitted cord. This product comes with a return envelope so that once the owner has finished using the clock, he or she can return it to be recycled and refurbished for a new owner’s use."
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8 / 20
PeaceBOMB Bracelets by Article 22
PeaceBOMB Bracelets by Article 22 ($38.00 for three)text "A22PeaceBomb3" to 767825 (portal) A special product with a special story. PeaceBOMB bracelets are crafted from the reclaimed metal of Vietnam-era bombs dropped on Laos during the United States' conflict in Indochina. Developed through a social enterprise that supports sustainable development through design thinking, its collaborators include Naphia spoon makers, Helvetas’s Rural Income Through Sustainable Energy Project and ARTICLE 22. These bracelets not only represent an opportunity for artisan families to generate income, but also tell a story about their makers and the legacies of a shared history. Buy the bombs back!"
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9 / 20
Holey Chair by Takeshi Miyakawa
Holey Chair by Takeshi Miyakawa ($800.00 for one)text “TMHoleyChair” to 767825 (portal) "This piece was designed and constructed by Brooklyn-based design-guru Takeshi Miyakawa. Takeshi, along with architect Vram Malek, built the Subports’ car-top store for our feature in Dwell Magazine. We often refer to Takeshi as Yoda. He never stresses out, and we have yet to see him measure anything which is mind blowing because everything he makes is absolute perfection. The 'holey chair' is an LED-powered light fixture, constructed from white acrylic realized in the shape of a chair frame. It can be placed on the floor or installed on the wall as the owner sees fit."
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Pencil Sharpener Ring by Monika Wyndham
Pencil Sharpener Ring by Monika Wyndham ($225.00 for one)text “MWRing” to 767825 (portal) "Over the summer I met Monika for the first time at a coffee shop in Brooklyn. Among other things, I asked her to be in a show we were curating at the time for SoHO's Partners & Spade. She said sure, and that she wanted to do a ring. She had not only never cast anything before, but she also had just two months to whip something up. What a champ. When I finally saw the finished ring, I was floored that she was able to develop such a perfect piece in so little time. These rings are fully functional, shiny silver and real heavy. Monika is the type of artist that will be making very strong work for a very long time. If you do purchase this ring, consider it an investment. I have no doubt that its value will increase once the world takes notice of the killer stuff that pops out of this woman's head."
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Alleged Party Hats by Heather Grace/Alleged
Alleged Party Hats by Heather Grace/Alleged ($200.00 for a set of 5) text "AllegedPartyHats" to 767825 (portal) "I (Will) recently had a small dinner party with 5 people in my tiny Brooklyn apartment. After we ate, the single malt mysteriously filled up in our wine glasses and these amazing party hats sprouted on our heads. What was supposed to be a quiet dinner with friends turned into a rager of a party, and it was all due to these amazing hand crafted hats. Each set of 5 is different. You never know what you'll be getting when you order these from Heather. They take about 4 weeks to be crafted and sent out. Worth the wait and the party!" photo by Jacob Krupnick
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Brownstone Desk Organizer by Aaron Linn
Brownstone Desk Organizer by Aaron Linn ($55.00 for onetext "AaronLinnBrownstone“ to 767825 (portal) "Aaron Linn has hand crafted these very heavy note pad holders from authentic Brooklyn brownstone. For those of us who cannot own our very own Brooklyn brownstone apartment, we now have a chance to own a tiny piece of one. Very sturdy and well made." photo by Jacob Krupnick
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On Kawara Stamp Kit by Et Al., Etc.
On Kawara Stamp Kit by Et Al., Etc. ($135 for the set)text “EtAlEtcStampKit” to 767825 (portal) "At Subports we make it a point to send hand written or adorned mail whenever possible. Just the other day we sent a ransom note styled envelope containing a check over to our friends at Vena Cava. We are still awaiting for our own On Kawara stamp kit to arrive from Japan, and when it does it will definitely put to good use. The On Kawara stamp kit includes seven holds (1-5 line, one oval, one round), a black stamp pad, and 4mm (upper/lowercase and special characters) and 6mm (upper and special characters) letters organized in seven small cases. An empty case is included for letters that stray. An homage to Japan’s most notable conceptual artist and his series of “Date paintings”. Made in Japan in 2010 by Tokyo design firm, Et Al., Etc."
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Captain Smith hand-printed wallpaper in Promenade by Grow House Grow
Captain Smith hand-printed wallpaper in Promenade by Grow House Grow ($5 for one sample)text “GHGcaptain” to 767825 (portal) "Based in Brooklyn, Katie Deedy of Grow House Grow creates narrative inspired hand-printed wallpapers that are uber paste-worthy. Sold both by the roll and by the sheet, they look great framed, papered on an accent wall or hung across an entire room. Each pattern has a story, which makes these wallpapers a unique conversation piece. Thinking of updating your decor? Order a sample of Captain Smith (created for the first and last captain of the RMS Titanic) in our favorite colorway, “Promenade”." photo by Jacob Krupnick
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Bangle by NEIVZ
Bangle by NEIVZ ($65.00 for one)text “NEIVZBangle” to 767825 "Neivz (pronounced ‘knives’), is a popular and irreverent jewelry line by LA-based artist Steven Shein. We love his art work. We love his furniture designs. We now love his new jewelry line. These pieces sell out quick, so hop on it."
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The Book of Stamps by Cabinet Magazine
The Book of Stamps by Cabinet Magazine ($23.00 for one book)text "CabinetBookofStamps" to 767825 (portal) Another great product for adorning letters is the Cabinet Magazine Book of Stamps. This treasure trove of artist made fake stamps is perfect for messing with the USPS or weirding out your recipients. This book is an absolute steal--we have two!"
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Coat Hanger Art by Colgate Searle
Coat Hanger Art by Colgate Searle ($120.00 for set of three)text “ColgateDogs” to 767825 (portal) text “ColgateDog” to 767825 (portal) $50.00 for one "At Subports we're on a daily mission to simplify who and what we are; it can be a struggle, and it's all in an effort to get to the heart of what our core message is. The act of stripping away and getting to that core message is one that every great artist has perfected. In our opinion, someone who has achieved this art of simplification is Colgate Searle. Anyone who can turn a mundane wire coat hanger into a work of art gets our highest respect." Photo by JJ Sulin.
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The River EP by CFCF
The River EP by CFCF ($10.99 for one LP)text “omlpcfcfriver” to 767825 (portal) "We can't get enough of this new CFCF. We've been playing it on repeat in the Subports office--it is the best music to work to. Not only do we highly recommend the River EP, we love just about anything the folks at RVNG Int. put out. The River is inspired by Werner Herzog's absurdist epic Fitzcarraldo, the second album by twenty-two-year-old Montreal native Michael Silver. Text “?cfcf” to 767-825 (PORTAL) to check out a free sample before you buy. This LP is brought to you by our friends at Other Music--an independent music store located in Manhattan. Shop independent, pweeples!"
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Anno Domini by Stanley Ruiz
Anno Domini by Stanley Ruiz ($1,200.00 for one)text “StanleyRuizCalendar” to 767825 "This divine and interactive perpetual calendar--created by one of our favorite designers, Stanley Ruiz--is based on the Gregorian Calendar. Keep your days straight, even after 2012. Dimensions: 40 x 75 x 1.5” D (4.5” with pegs, included)."
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ViaPortal SUV
Subports is taking it to the streets with ViaPortal, their latest on-the-go venture: an SUV mounted with transparent display cases designed by Takeshi Miyakawa and Vram Malek. Jacob Krupnick (far left) and Will Robison (second from right) are joined by the director of client relations, Katie Rose (right), and cofounder Karl Conrad.

Goods are available online at the Subports PortalMRKT, but Robison and Krupnick’s respective roots in performance art and photography have instigated a series of unconventional pop-up shops, which maximize the convenience of on-the-fly buying: At one, a clairvoyant helped customers select gifts; at another, goods were stashed inside hollow books to meet the restrictions imposed on street vendors in New York City. Coupled with their commitment to independent institutions—–the current crop of over 130 partners includes music venues, boutiques, bake-sale organizers, even yoga studios—–texting for treasures takes on a sense of adventure that you just can’t get from a trip to the mall.

Why text-to-buy?
Jacob Krupnick: It’s not designed for bulk buying at Walmart. You can only get one item per text message (except for event tickets). By making buying a more considered act and by working with independent businesses, we are encouraging more informed, susta
How has the service evolved since you launched a year ago?
JK: We’ve gone from speaking to a handful of friends who are making things that we like to contacting more established creators to screening vendors who are approaching us pretty regularly. It’s exciting to have people become familiar with Subports and say, “Wow, I want to be a part of this. I can imagine ways of using this that could be totally fantastic.”

Plexiglas shelves by ViaPortal
ViaPortal’s Plexiglas shelves are purpose-built to show a changing collection: Miyakawa made this plastic model station wagon, and the Indigo Clutch by Article 22 was dyed and handwoven in Laos.

So you’ve been learning from the people you work with?
JK: All the time. Every new function that we’ve added has been in respon­se to suggestions someone has put on a wish list or thought might be helpful. The best thing we can do is learn from the people who are using what we’ve designed.
Log Desk Organizer by Aaron Linn
Stock—–like Aaron Linn’s hand-carved Log Desk Organizer—–can rotate as often as the meter runs out.
What’s been the hardest part about getting Subports started?

Will Robison: Growing pains.

JK: For any small business—–and espe­cially one with our ambitions—–it’s a challenge to develop at a rate that’s viable while preserving the values that are important to us.


Do you find yourself texting-to-buy often?
WR and JK: All the time.

WR: I think I’m the biggest customer for [Subports vendor] Other Music. I collect vinyl, and now it’s easier to buy than logging into iTunes, which is strange to wrap your head around. Other Music does a weekly email blast with a Subports code; I text it in, and the next day I have the LP.

JK: I buy a lot of gifts for people, especially around the holidays.


What’s the best part of your job?
WR: Thinking about ways of destroying retail and then rebuilding it. Taking mundane things—–like customer service—–and making them unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. I tell people that I’m a retail experimenter.
What’s next for Subports?
JK: The technology has a freedom to it that’s inspiring a lot of curiosity. WR: Everything we’ve been working on so far is just an example of what can be done. Once you have a code, you’ve got this renegade way to sell. All pathways are open.

Ready to give it a go? Register with Subports here (it is super quick and incredibly easy!!), then click through our slideshow to check out Will and Jacob's top picks from Subports vendors. Each product is available via text—the subcode is written in quotes—for easy shopping once you're signed up. For loads more awesome products and cool temporary retail experiments, check out the Portal Mrkt online. Have fun!

For more, check out the slideshow

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