Arriving at The Space NYC, we are greeted by two good-natured, handsome men: Max Polgia and his director of marketing, Caleb Fechtor. Despite an inherent hipness, their graciousness and lack of pretension means they immediately feel like old friends. They’re both proud and joyful to showoff the newly opened Bushwick showroom slash creative space, which features a communal workspace, pool table, and a mix of handcrafted Poglia products like knives and bags. In the back, a workshop space is filled with specialized tools and works in progress are visible behind glass windows. The thoughtfully assembled space brings to life Poglia’s creative vision—one that revolves around authenticity and craftsmanship, yet is hard to put in a box.
“In the beginning, we used Instagram as a fun way of sharing our world,” explains Poglia of the brand’s early days when social media was integral for sharing both their products and their story. “But now, we’re taking it a step further with this space. It’s a really beautiful thing to be able to physically share the world of our brand—it’s alive.” Sitting at the communal table in the spacious, airy front room, Poglia is telling us about the organic evolution that led him to where he sits today. Originally from South Brazil, he lived for several years in Milan before moving to New York just under a decade ago.
Though he barely spoke English when he arrived, Poglia quickly found a niche for himself, working with local restaurants on everything from branding to contracting, and he helped extensively when Jodie Williams of Buvette opened her now-well-known spot. He also worked closely with Richard Gere on his upstate escape, The Bedford Post Inn, one of the first places to sell his knives. Of the origin of the brand itself, Poglia explains, “During those early days, I used to live by Central Park, and my wife Cecilia and I would go all the time with our dog. We wanted the perfect blanket, the perfect corkscrew and knife, the perfect bag to throw it all in. The idea was about this lifestyle you could literally pack up and bring to the park for enjoyment.”
Always resourceful and crafty, he started creating these objects himself. “The whole process started by going back to Brazil and knocking on doors, meeting artisans who could teach me. It was all about connecting. I wanted to make knives, so I simply asked for help. It always starts with custom-making something for myself—figuring it out,” he says. His first batch of four knives sold out in a day, so the next time he made eight. Never intending to create a brand, Poglia calls the process that led him there “so organic that it’s hard to put into words.” Even his logo came about when a friend in Paris simply wrote it out, one time, and it’s been used since.
“I began to realize that people in New York and the States so much appreciate the things that I had easy access to back at home,” says Poglia, who’s grandfather ran a hardware store in his hometown. “I never realized the value of these things. For example, people in New York always talk about local food, which is something I never even stopped to think about in Brazil or Italy—it’s a way of life there. I realized more and more that people here appreciate these things that I used to have at my fingertips.” As a brand, Poglia bridges together the feeling of connection, craftsmanship, and quality learned in Brazil and Italy, and combines them with a lifestyle and attention to style and detail.
One thing is certain—people connect to the idiosyncrasies and personal touches of his handmade knives, which are forged from carbon steel blades with handles usually made of wood, bone, horn, or a mix of all three. The fact that they’re not stainless steel means the blades develop a unique patina over time. “All the marks on the blades are original, and that includes the serial numbers from the steel, etc. Clients who collect our knives really value that and look for it,” he says. “Also, in a beautiful house where you have everything, and you have these unique pieces, it’s a conversation starter.”
The custom, exclusive collection for Barneys features a selection of knives, including a pocket knife and steak knives, as well as cork screws. They’re all started in Brazil and finished in the New York workshop at The Space NYC, blending together tradition and past with the present. “People now are appreciating the process and the story behind something. They long for a connection with a product, so that they can understand it and are more aware of how they spend their money. They want an experience. We are transcending the product and offering a whole lifestyle.”