Five years ago, when Kristin Spear’s then-second-grade son decided he wanted to make his first communion, the Portland stylist—who has worked with Esquire and, once, with Janet Jackson for a music video—faced a problem unrelated to theology. Though she hunted tirelessly for the perfect outfit for her son’s big day, Spear couldn’t find anything she liked.
“I was going to these Christian and Catholic websites, and everything felt cheesy,” says Spear. “It’s amazing how every first communion shirt comes with a zip-on tie.” Finally, after three months, she happened upon an English retailer that sold a red tie elegantly embroidered with a chalice—appropriate for the occasion and tasteful. High-quality, spirituality-inspired products shouldn’t be that hard to find, Spear thought. When other parents quizzed her about where she’d sourced her kid’s neckwear, she realized she was right—and ready to fill a gap in the market.
Next, she designed some modernized challah covers for a friend who had converted to Judaism. Then Spear decided to go bigger. Raised Catholic, she was used to being surrounded by friends of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds. She also loved having global merchandise at her fingertips, and wanted to translate the multicultural markets of New York and LA to a national audience.
This revelation spurred Spear to create FaithHaus, an online marketplace for contemporary, faith-based products that she launched this past July. Strewn about her cozy—and impeccably decorated—home office in Hillsdale are items FaithHaus sells: “activewear” hijabs, silver-gilded tarot cards, halal nail polish, and soy-based yahrzeit candles, along with the ties that started it all.
“Going to the website is like going to a bazaar,” says Janet Rosenthal, director of operations at FaithHaus. “Kristin has this eye for really unique handcrafted items.”
Many of Spear’s customers are shopping for their own religious needs, but she says she also wants to create a destination for, say, someone who has no idea what gift to get for the host of a Diwali celebration. (On the site’s blog, The Vibe, which has 1,500 subscribers, Spear recommends a monetary offering for the goddess Lakshmi or a sweet treat made with coconut, an auspicious symbol in Hindu culture.) “I want to honor these faiths in the appropriate way, but also make these products accessible,” she says.
FaithHaus sales have grown by double digits every month since launch. For now, most of Spear’s customers shop from East Coast metropolises, and she says she would love to open a store in New York one day. Meanwhile, she hopes Portland—a city noted for its low rates of engagement with organized faith—will nurture and support a business that celebrates religious diversity. After all, we live in a time when hijab-clad models rock the runway at New York Fashion Week and world-class athletes, like US Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, are seen competing in modest athletic gear. And if you’ve ever tried to buy Shabbat supplies at Albertson’s, the site’s clean aesthetic and navigation are minor religious experiences in their own right.
“There is a general consensus that shopping for these things is not fun, and I wanted to change that,” says Spear. If it works, FaithHaus could demonstrate a larger truth: divisions aside, great accessories remain universally revered.