Bargain Hunting in NYC: Peter Miles & Leigh Johnson's Supermarket Towels
When we interviewed
art director Peter Miles
in 2010, he told us how much he loved the signs at New York's Key Food supermarkets. Peter has collaborated with Juergen Teller
, Sofia Coppola
, and Phoebe Philo at Céline, but something about the weird typefaces and weirder foodstuffs on display at the quintessential NYC chain stuck. For a year, Peter and artist Leigh Johnson (who work together under the name Piccadilly) collected posters from the Alphabet City store
, near Peter's East Village studio. These towels are the result of their project, and we love the loud colors, louder letters, and strangeness of lying on a giant "KRAFT SINGLES" in the park or on the beach.
We asked Peter and Leigh for the details and where they're going to be toting their towels this summer.
Pick up a Piccadilly
Alice Newell-Hanson: When you spoke with Rory back in 2010, you were already thinking about Key Food. What was it about the signage that spoke to you?
Peter Miles: The signage was brutal, direct, and impossible to ignore.
Leigh Johnson: I liked the way everything is thrown onto the posters, like there could be no other way.
ANH: What's the best deal you've ever seen? Do you have any advice for shopping at Key Food?
PM: The deals look worryingly good to me. Ashamed to admit that I've only bought bottles of water.
LJ: I used to shop at Key Food when I was at NYU but the deals were for food I never wanted to eat. The best deals are at 4th of July.
ANH: How did you translate the posters into your own work?
PM: The posters were collected every Friday for a year from the Key Food on Columbia Street. They sat in my studio for about six years, and recently all 750 were photographed.
LJ: When Peter visited New York in 2002 he urged me to find the store manager's number. The piece of paper with the manager's number stayed in my wallet for four years.
ANH: What typeface is it?
PM: An abused version of Helvetica.
ANH: Peter, coming from England, do you think you notice the funny, trashier bits about New York more?
PM: I'm always surprised by how big you make things here, all thumbs and no fingers.
ANH: Leigh, what do you see as a New Yorker?
LJ: Unfortunately, I'm noticing the funny and trashier bits about NY quickly disappearing.
ANH: If you led a tour of New York signage, what would your other stops be?
PM: Time Moving & Storage
, Chair Up
, Marly Building Supply
, Block Pharmacy
, all of Coney Island, homemade signs in crap delis, Papaya King
ANH: If you could redesign any New York institution, what would it be?
PM: The New York Times
LJ: I'd try to keep the good things from being redesigned
ANH: Why did you decide on towels? And where are you hoping to use them this summer?
PM: I think it was a combination of Pitt Street pool and Brighton Beach.
LJ: Hoping Italy, but probably on my terrace.
ANH: What other projects are you working on right now?
PM: I'm about to start work on Sofia Coppola's new film. I don't know that much about it yet, other than that it's called The Bling Ring
and stars Emma Watson. I'm still playing around with type for the title sequence.
LJ: Filming the lights flicker on along my long corridor.
ANH: What is your dream collaborative project?
PM & LJ: Seeing what Piccadilly can turn into.
Pick up a Piccadilly