martin cooper and karen suen-cooper
husband and wife team, co-founders of the punctilious mr. p's place card company, parents, fashion designers, lifestyle tastemakers, x-manhattanites turned hudson valley ruralists.
hello and thank you dear martin and karen for spending some time with us and getting salted!
- congratulations on your successes with the punctilious mr. p's place card co.! big question: why the place card? what made you decide to start your business with this item??
thanks michael and michael for bringing the “salt”! to quote the fictional mary bailey of it’s a wonderful life, “..salt, that life may always have flavor…” is a great place to start our visit.
we love the "flavor" that place cards add to the table. it's the personal finishing touch that sparks a smile with all our guests. we searched high & low for something chic, but always had to settle on a blank white card. with our years of collecting images, we realized that we had the makings of the holy grail of tabletop— that elusive 'something' to set the theater of your table and express your flair. out of necessity, our illustrated place card was invented. the bigger idea behind our place card is simple: find joy in the company you keep and celebrate these relationships. our place cards honor your tribe.
- you often talk of "The JOY Economy™" and this sounds wonderful to us! can you please elaborate on this concept?
The Joy Economy™ is both a personal compass and, we hope, an ethos to help people reframe their life-work integration. when you plug "joy" into the equation of enterprise, the decades of drudgery of the 9-5 becomes a new lease on life that is fueled by passion and flow. it’s the difference between snoozing the alarm clock in the morning, and greeting the day with zest.
we believe that joy is both the purpose and pleasure of commerce. The Joy Economy™ begins with us, the makers, creating products and services that bring joy to ourselves which ripples forth to others. at mr. p, it centers on the joy of celebration and all the makers brought to the table for this purpose. in effect, the farmer, the chef, the vintner, the florist, the silversmith, the ceramicist, the musicians and so on are all part of The Joy Economy™. ever stop to think how one meal supports so much talent and industry? in fact, we would say of thesalting that you're already a part of The Joy Economy™ with the exquisite point of view you offer your audience.
here in the hudson valley, makers are reclaiming pride and passion back into their craft and livelihood, inspiring pleasure in everything one presents at one’s table that really brings joy back into entertaining. our commitment to The Joy Economy™ sits at the center of everything we do. we are building a community and dialogue around this ethos, so much so that we had it trademarked.
- what made you both decide to go into business together? has this added to your marriage dynamic? .....we can only hope!
it’s interesting, as a couple for 30 years (this year) and so many creative projects later, this is our first business enterprise together! it feels right and it feels good. entrepreneurship is akin to birthing a baby, the long nights, the uncertainties and so much love. we mutually trust and support each other with complementary talents, so our enterprise is an expression of what we believe in and how we live our lives. as for the business/marriage dynamic, it's a living, evolving journey of life.
- how long have you lived in nyc? when did you decide to make the permanent move to the hudson valley?
we’ve had an adventurous whirl filled with travel while living in nyc and working in fashion for over 3 decades. we thought we would never leave. but when burberry brought us to london in 2006, we realized we could make a life outside nyc. we love the city like you do a fabulous bi-polar friend: spectacular highs, and lows of grounding struggles that build character.
weekends and summers in the hudson valley have been part of the recipe that grounds us. we’ve spent the last 15 years restoring b’ellow, our quirky federal style farmhouse here in old chatham. we have at least 15 years more to go to finish, just like bunny williams, who beautifully documented her 30 year passion project in her book, An Affair with a House. if living in nyc is about going out, life in the hudson valley is about the pleasures of staying at home. “mr. p.”, our enterprise, was born from the last 15 years of weekending and entertaining upstate during the restoration. we decided in the summer of 2019 to move upstate so we could raise “mr. p.” full time because the house and grounds is the marvelous world of “mr. p.”
- where do you see your business is 5 years?
the bigger vision for mr. p is to evolve into a fully-realized luxury home accessories brand using the place card as our jumping off point. we see ourselves moving fluidly from one product category to another because we represent not a single product, but an attitude toward life and living well from the hudson valley speaks to a newfound audience whose rites of passage has crossed into purchasing homes and entertaining on their own terms. they yearn for the nostalgia of gatherings at home and making memories with dinner parties that are experiential and transportive— taking them away from their daily digital world into an intimate physical world of gathering with friends and family.
6. you have both thrived in the design world in the luxury market. do you believe in the future of luxury?
we have both been blessed in that way, the luxury sector was the playground of creativity from a designer’s point of view. the shift in technology today is allowing luxury to touch more people’s lives. be it services or products that were once expensive, rare and exclusive, the current share economy is allowing a greater number of people to experience the allure of luxury. today luxury has a broader and less rigid context than 10 years ago making its definition a moving target. wherever the target moves, you will always find joy in the heart of luxury. in fact, we see joy as the purpose of luxury, replacing exclusivity with inclusivity. we will always be guided to create everyday luxury products that spark joy, evoking an association of pleasure with our branding, and supporting our mission of the Joy Economy™. unlocking the desires of the heart is the future of luxury.
- karen: 3 favorite movies that have inspired you?
I need 4: auntie mame, gigi, the biggest little farm and fantastic fungi...they each speak to transformation.
- martin: same question.
for me, I’m going back to 1977… star wars! my jaw was on the floor of the theater from minute one. that film completely changed the way that I saw the world and the ripple effect it had on my career as a fashion designer. i’ve always worked like a filmmaker— always trying to create an entire world and visual language around a brand. another movie of influence was the 1978 film, eyes of laura mars. it beautifully captured the glam and joie de vivre of the 70s! ironically, the director of that film, irvin kershner, would go on to direct the next star wars saga, the empire strikes back! my last film would be The Shape of Water. it was so poetic and emotive and the soundtrack was scored by my favorite composer, alexandre desplat.
- your tablescapes are quite inspirational to say the least. do you both cook?
we are a team when it comes to the planning of guests, menu, decor and diversion but when it comes to execution we divide and conquer. you’ll find karen in the kitchen and martin setting the dining room table and revving up the music with our son pax. pax comes into the kitchen now to help since he started chef camp at katchkie farm in kinderhook. with all the details required to host a gathering, everyone helps.
- we have to ask: please assemble a dream guest list for a dinner party.
our mirrored black dining room has a round table that seats 8 intimately. it would be a future summit including tech, pop, music, comedy, activism and a legend. there would be us of course. we’d seat elon musk next to coco chanel because the future is bleak without style and she’d have something to say for sure. billie eillish across from greta thunberg, because they represent the new normal and bring a perspective on a future we can’t even begin to imagine. coco would be bowled over by their sense of self. pharell on the other side of coco so he can catch her up on her eponymous brand. trevor noah from the daily show because he’s such a wit and a charmer. he would sit next to greta to make her laugh and entertain everyone.