Text Appeal

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By Jordan Kushins / Published by Dwell
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.

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.

Text Appeal - Photo 1 of 20 - 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.

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.

Why text-to-buy?
Text Appeal - Photo 2 of 20 - Robison hollows out used books for a variety of objects, including a flask.

Robison hollows out used books for a variety of objects, including a flask.

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
Text Appeal - Photo 3 of 20 - Polaroids are taken of each object, with the "subcode" written on the bottom.

Polaroids are taken of each object, with the "subcode" written on the bottom.

How has the service evolved since you launched a year ago?
Text Appeal - Photo 4 of 20 - 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.

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.

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."
Text Appeal - Photo 5 of 20 - 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!

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!

So you’ve been learning from the people you work with?