Since celebrating its official launch in October, Unkosher Market has attracted significant popularity with its clever and openly hipster T-shirts, inscribed with funny Jewish puns like “Totes Koshe,” “Kiss My Tuchis,” and “Shvitz It Out.” It’s also received a fair bit of media attention from outlets like Pop Sugar, Times of Israel, and the Guardian.
While the company, established by Shiran Teitelbaum, Alice Blastorah and Glenn Feldman, is based in Los Angeles and carries a certain California aroma, it may surprise some to discover that it’s also equally Canadian.
Speaking to The CJN, Teitelbaum explained that while she was born and raised in Los Angeles, she has dual Canadian citizenship as her father is originally from Montreal. During her post-secondary education, she attended McGill University and then eventually moved to Toronto where she lived for five years while working for an advertising firm.
A Toronto native, Blastorah attended the Ontario College of Art and Design and subsequently began working at the same advertising agency as Teitelbaum in Toronto. “We originally worked together as creative partners at BBDO Toronto – she’s an art director and I’m a copywriter,” said Teitelbaum.
It was just about a year and a half ago when the two creators moved together to Los Angeles to work at a prominent advertising agency when, by fluke, Unkosher Market was born.
When she and Blastorah’s friend was converting to Judaism, the two organized a party to celebrate the milestone. The theme of the party was ‘Jewchella’ (of course), a spoof of the iconic Californian music festival, Coachella, and a smorgasbord of Jewish food was served, including bagels and smears, Israeli pickles and gefilte fish.
As souvenirs, they made clever T-shirts labeled as “Already Chosen,” “I Choose to be Chosen,” and “Not in the Tribe But I Dig the Vibe.” Following the party, many of their friends began posting photos of themselves wearing the shirts on Instagram, which elicited feedback from fellow Jewish users. It was then when the creative duo began developing other funny phrases and puns, printing them on shirts and selling them on the popular merchant’s website, Etsy.
The items warranted several positive responses, garnering dozens of sales from individuals located in the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and Israel.
Everyone, don’t shvitz! We’re restocking your faves end of next week. #shabbatshalom #jewish #fashion #unkoshermarket #shvitz #shvitzitout A photo posted by Unkosher Market (@unkoshermarket) on
After the T-shirts generated considerable recognition, Teitelbaum and Blastorah were approached by Glenn Feldman, founding partner and CEO of Landfeld Property Investment group, and senior partner at Feldman Rolland Law Offices. Feldman believed that they were onto something big and wanted to get involved.
Inspired by simplistic Toronto style
According to Teitelbaum, the motivation of the business is to create a brand that targets those individuals who identify as culturally Jewish. They want the products to be rather minimalistic, which is primarily inspired and influenced by the simplistic Toronto style and fashion scene.
Teitelbaum explained that the name of Unkosher Market was formed with an indicative purpose.
“The name Unkosher Market seemed to capture the spirit of our brand – transgressive sayings that straddle the line of appropriateness,” she said.
The funny Jewish phrases have mainly derived from the creators’ backgrounds. While Teitelbaum did not grow up religious, she was raised culturally Jewish. With an Israeli mother, she spoke both Hebrew and English in the home.
“I’m able to draw from Yiddish as well as my Israeli background when writing the sayings,” Teitelbaum continued. “Alice isn’t Jewish. She’s not in the tribe but digs the vibe [and] Glenn had a more traditional upbringing in Montreal.”
In order to remain environmentally friendly, Unkosher Market primarily manufactures its products locally in Los Angeles. The pre-washed cotton jersey fabric of the shirts is also sourced from the Californian city, and it is this combination of factors from the production process that contribute to the cost of the garments.
Priced at USD$48.00 per piece, the shirts are only sold on the company’s website, but the creators have been discussing featuring the products in a number of boutiques in New York and Toronto.
While the company has currently launched seven styles of shirts, they are hoping to expand some time in the future.
“We’ve had dozens of emails demanding the same shirts for men. And even Orthodox women reaching out asking if we have long-sleeve shirts,” said Teitelbaum.