Lining up for an estate sale at 8am might not be your cup of tea, but for designer Meg Moorhouse, vintage treasure hunting has been a beloved "sport" since childhood. It makes perfect sense though, as soon as you see the vintage-inspired barware and gifts she designs under her brand, Love & Victory, and even more so when you meet Meg in person - she's fashionable with a throw-back edge, and sweet with a touch of snark. If you've ever walked through the housewares section at Anthropologie, or scoured the Internet for the perfect engagement gift, you'd likely recognize (or already own) her whimsically hand-etched glassware. This week, we looked beyond the glass of Love & Victory and spent an afternoon with Meg in her bright and airy Brooklyn home, where we talked design inspo, old Spencerian handwriting, and what it's like running her own business - along with some useful cocktail tips.
You come from a background in fashion and graphic design – what led you to start designing glassware?
I was working in the art and design world until 2008, when a friend opened up a restaurant in Fort Greene and I quit my job to help manage the restaurant – it was something I always wanted to do. I had Love & Victory at the time but I was only designing jewelry. As I got more immersed into food and cocktails, I started to think about what could be really cool to gift in that realm – we're always trying to nail the perfect gift for people. I think I was looking around at vintage barware when I thought I saw something that looked like it was a "his/hers" decanter set, but it wasn't, and I decided I was going to design that. So I sourced the base product and someone to do the hand engraving, and started making the his/hers/ours decanter set (also available in his/his and hers/hers). That was the very first glassware product we had. And it's done so well for us because it's such a good wedding or engagement gift. People will literally buy like six at a time when it's wedding season!
Is it your most popular product?
At this point, we sell so much of our other glassware too – like a ton of the custom-engraved glasses, and the ones with cities on them. I have two factories now, and sometimes I feel like I'm stressing them out, but it's an awesome problem to have. We also did a Bloody Mary set – doing the graphic design for that one was super fun. I think it just makes it such a better presentation in the store, with the design and including a recipe on it. For Christmas, that's been doing so well. We have so much stock, but we're selling out of it – it's been really, really good.
So what's the story behind the name Love & Victory?
I was just looking at old Spencerian script handwriting samples –
That's so random.
Haha, it totally is! But they're the inspiration for a lot of my tattoos. I have a tattoo of a bird that was made with old handwriting script-types of strokes. Anyway, one of the pages of handwriting I saw was covered with the words “love and victory” and I was like – that’s awesome. That’s what I’m going to name it. It turns out that it’s vaguely religious... which is not what I was going for! Oh well.
How would you describe the overall aesthetic of Love and Victory?
I’m always going for a bit of a nostalgic, vintage influence but with a little more modern look. I'm really into vintage stores and wish there were more of them in the city – that's what I miss most about New Jersey. I'm always hounding thrift stores for old barware and a lot of what I see and collect inspires me. I've been collecting glasses with engraved stars for like 15 years, and we just started doing the Galaxy glasses. A lot of the products are also a bit tongue-in-cheek – I think that definitely reflects part of my personality. Like the Seven Deadly Sins set – I think it’s really funny to give them out at a party.
You're really committed to working with domestic artisans and manufacturers – how do you find them?
It's so hard. It's so hard. But we really try adamantly, and the only thing we don’t make here are some of the decanters. Everything else – all the hand engraving, printing – is done in the states. People can be hard to find - people don't always have websites showing what they do, or they’re not in New York. There’s just not that much industry for glassware here. For one of our current factories, I literally had to stalk the woman. It took a while but I finally got a call back, and now we have a great relationship.
What's the best part about running your business?
The coolest thing, for me, is that it’s glassware – so it gets broken, and people will contact me five years after buying something, asking if they can buy just one more glass. And I’m like, I LOVE that you’re still using that! That’s the biggest compliment to me.
Do you have a personal favorite in your collection?
I really love the cocktail deck. We did that last year. Doing that really scratched my graphic design itch but also my love for cocktails - even though it was such a process. Like finding someone to print the cards, in the U.S., and then designing each card, and then coming up with recipes for all the cards. I mean there's 52 of them. Actually, 54 with the jokers. The whole process from start to finish took about 5 months. But it really hit my sweet spot – and we sold out. We ordered a thousand and we sold out in five weeks. It was amazing.
We know you love experimenting with seasonal cocktails, but what's your go-to drink?
I’m always a total sucker for a Manhattan. At our wedding, we cringed when we were told that we needed three readings – that seemed kind of cheesy and excessive. So a friend read the recipe for a Manhattan instead, off the back of a bottle of bitters. And then as soon as we exited down the aisle, they had a Manhattan and a Rob Roy, which Willy loves, waiting for us. Anyway, I feel like I’ll always go for a great Manhattan, or a Negroni. I’m all about whiskey and gin.
What do you think are the makings of a really great bar cart?
I think you can go really pared down and have just as good a bar cart. If you have a good bottle of gin, rum, tequila, and whiskey, you’re good. Beyond that, I think one of the most important things in terms of serving cocktails and beverages in your home is making them accessible. There’s nothing worse than going to a party and not being able to get yourself a drink mid-party. We’re known for throwing big whopping parties, so I'll set everything up on the bar cart, mix up some batch cocktails and label them so everyone can help themselves. We do that a lot with Negronis and Boulevardiers – so we'll have signs up saying here’s whiskey, here’s gin, and here’s the sweet vermouth and Campari mix. So all you have to do is pick your booze and put two parts of the mix, and you've got a cocktail. Also, you really only need one or two signature cocktails. If you make the best daiquiri there is, then let it be that. Or you don't even have to have a signature cocktail. You can just be like, hey, here’s an ice cube in a glass, and pour some really good whiskey in it.
Do you have any tips on how to culivate when it comes to cocktails?
I feel like a pretty garnish can change your experience of a cocktail for sure, especially in terms of the aroma you get as you sip it. Get a really good Y peeler to make a nice garnish or twist for your Negroni. It also looks good. I mean, I have a 6-year old, so I try to step up my game at home and enjoy it when I can. Oh yeah, and put those glasses in the freezer beforehand – chilling your glasses first will really change your experience.
What lies ahead for Love & Victory?
I don’t want to grow it into a business with twenty or fifty people. I like that it's just a few of us – it’s so gratifying to be involved in all parts of the business. Once in a while, I get rid of the products I'm not loving doing anymore so that I can focus on the newer ones, or new ideas. Sometimes I’ll find a manufacturer that’s making something cool, and I’ll figure out what I can do with them. So it’s not always coming up with the idea first – sometimes you need to understand what their capabilities are and then design around it. Some of the worst experiences I've had is when I approach them with a specific idea in mind, and the manufacturer's like – no, we can't do this, we can't do that. So I just have them tell me what they can do, because I know I can totally cater the design to that. I feel like a good designer can design within constraints – and sometimes it makes it easier for me, to know what my options are.
Studio Snapshot - Meg Moorhouse
Achilles heel for productivity: lately, articles about politics.
Design quirk: I have to organize my entire space before working – visual chaos kills my productivity.
I can't live without: my computer – it connects me to the outside world!
I never touch: my desk chair – I hate sitting at a desk so I usually sit in a cushy one. The pleasures of being self-employed.
Photography by Anne Z. Chen.