Harvey Molotch, a professor at New York University and author of "Where Stuff Comes From," says that consumers' connections to the narratives behind objects is not new. "Every object is story rich. Every object gives off information," he says. Businesses like Of a Kind are "simply taking advantage of that truth. They're trying to mobilize that fact to sell one item over another to a particular group. The phenomenon is not one they created."
It was exactly those types of stories that attracted Caroline McCarthy, a journalist for tech site CNET, who discovered the site via friends. Initially, McCarthy had trouble finding anything that fit her style or price range, but when a necklace from Erica Weiner caught her eye, she was hooked. It wasn't just the jewelry but the revelation that the designer spent time road-tripping to the same antiques market in Maine that McCarthy had. "It was this place I've been to a million times," she says of the write-up on Weiner's page on the site. "Thus far, I haven't connected with anything again, but I'm more attuned to what they're selling, because you never know."
But there's a danger as well to focusing on the narratives behind objects. "Sometimes people tell boring stories," says Rob Walker, author of "Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are." Not all creators are gifted storytellers, and an inability to communicate a good story could deter someone from interest in a given project. "The story always comes down to some variation on why [the creators] are awesome," Walker says.