For Alex Dakoulas of Strange Ways, pins, pennants, & patches are more than accessories. They’re a complex expression of self.
Long before hyper-targeted Instagram and Facebook ads pushed you to buy everything from luxe home goods to uber-specific fashion accessories, Alex Dakoulas started a website where independent artists could sell their small works. Today, Strange Ways is a go-to spot for in-person and online shopping for premium patches, pins, pennants, and many other signature artist-made accessories. The site has been featured on Uproxx and Harper’s Bazaar to name a few.
Though most of Strange Ways’ sales still come from its online shop, Dakoulas is happy he expanded to a brick and mortar location on Whalley Avenue in New Haven. Having this kind of retail experience as an option for folks who are serious about their accessories seems apt, since Strange Ways customers are the kinds of people who often obsess over size, quality, and the feel of an object. “A lot of people love that we have a storefront and love that fact that you can come in and see all these pieces in person, touch them and browse,” he says
As a young ska punk kid turned graphic designer for companies like Puma and Converse, Dakoulas understands and shares his customer’s affinity for small bits of wearable, collectible, display-worthy artworks. “I love being able to curate and collect,” says the creator of the Flair Fair. “The things we wear, what you carry with you, and what we put in our homes is definitely an expression of ourselves. I think it’s very interesting to make something or carry something in the store and have someone else connect with it. It’s very flattering.”
Though Strange Ways features a wide range of artists and designs-for-purchase, an underlying aesthetic philosophy seems to link the works. Dakoulas cites Adam J. Kurtz’s work as an example. “It’s weirdly sentimental but also dark,“ he says. “Most of their stuff is a little playful, has a little bit of attitude.”
As a queer identified person, Dakoulas says he ends up carrying a lot of works by other queer people, too, which he believes adds more layers of expression and subversion to seemingly playful designs. Whether an artist like Danny Brito is examining gay angst through cutesy imagery, or Dakoulas is collaborating with Stephen McDermott to reimagine classic monster figures as male pinups, Dakoulas says, “There’s all these queer artists that are doing more nuanced, weird, dark art. That’s definitely more of the stuff that I want to feature and carry.”
Today Dakoulas doesn’t design as much as he did when Puma and Converse were his clients. But he says that’s okay. He enjoys facilitating the success of other independent artists and helping them distribute their works to an eager audience. “It’s fun to see what people gather, whether it’s in-store or online,” he says. “It’s like, ’Oh, I now know a bit about this person based on the five things they gathered together.’”