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June 12, 2013

Around the World with ProjectBly.com

By Chadner Navarro | Shopping

Around the World with ProjectBly.com
Courtesy of Bly.com

The new website ProjectBly.com is named after hardcore journalist Nellie Bly, who took a record-breaking trip around the world in 1889. Like its namesake, Project Bly champions wanderlust by bringing the streets—and the wares—of some of the world’s most electrifying cities to users in a thorough, discerning way.

Every two months, founder Rena Thiagarajan, a former San Francisco–based lawyer, reveals the inner workings of a featured destination via items (mostly home-decor pieces and accessories) and photography. She scours bazaars and flea markets for one-of-a-kind finds and partners with on-the-ground photojournalists to chronicle street style, food, art and architecture. The site launched with Mumbai, and La Paz, Bolivia, followed last month. (Kumasi, Ghana, is next.)

Thiagarajan talked with us about traveling the world and inspiring an adventurous spirit.

Q: Why did you launch Project Bly?
I’ve always loved design and travel and wanted to create something that brought them together. Project Bly is about adventure and travel, but it’s also about coming home.

Q: How do you choose the items?
We buy directly from vendors in the bazaars and craftspeople, and I choose accessories that would fit in a sophisticated home that seamlessly mixes antiques and vintage with contemporary pieces. I seek out beautiful textiles, art and objects that have stories and history and that will inspire people to go on their own adventures.

Q: How does the site differ from other e-commerce sites?
It’s not just a website that sells stuff. It’s an experience. We bring alive the bazaars and streets of a city through images taken by some of the world’s best street photographers. It is about putting objects in context and giving them story and history.

Q: How did you select the cities?
I started with Mumbai because it was a trip to Chor Bazaar, or “thieves market,” in Mumbai in January 2012 that resulted in my aha moment a couple of months later. The common thread that runs through all these cities it that they have been melting pots of cultures and important trading cities for centuries.

Q: What characterizes La Paz?
It is a city that really lives its life on its streets. I’m so excited about this collection, which includes vintage textiles as well as incredible silver and pewter objects that made their way to the streets of La Paz from a city called Potosí. Potosí was known as the Paris of South America in the 1500s and was one of the richest cities in the world because of its silver mines. Once the mines were depleted, many people migrated to La Paz in search of work, and I met many vendors in the markets whose families had come from Potosí years ago.