In Conversation With: Nadia & Alice of OH, WHAT A MATCH!
If you have a hobby of picking up matchbooks when you’re out at a bar or restaurant, you may consider adding “phillumenist” to your vocabulary. We caught up with our favorite phillumenists, Nadia and Alice of OH, WHAT A MATCH! to talk all things matches from their “wishlist” matchbox design to their new product launch.
Hi Nadia and Alice! Could you introduce yourselves?
"Hi! We are Nadia and Alice, a mother-daughter duo, founders of OH, WHAT A MATCH!, a community of people who share a passion for phillumeny, the hobby of collecting different match-related items such as matchboxes, match covers, and matchbooks, as well as a keen interest in design, art, travel, fashion and the hospitality industry alike."
What was the inspiration for starting OH, WHAT A MATCH! ?
"In the Fall of 2017 during my senior year of college, I had just started taking matches up for grabs at some of my favorite New York City restaurants and bars. When I traveled back home to Switzerland for Christmas, I brought over with me a few matches I had collected to show my family their awesome designs and my newfound hobby. My mom immediately remembered having stored in our cellar her dusty, forsaken tin box full of vintage matchbooks and matchboxes from her time spent in New York with my dad in the ‘80s. Little did I know that she also used to be a collector of matches in her New York years! Taken by the spur of the moment, we decided to retrieve the container and to empty out its content on the floor of our basement.
We went through so many memories of my mother’s heydays just by looking at her amassed collection of matches. MK, Café Orlin, I Tre Merli, Mezzaluna, Indochine, Florent. Some of her findings I recognized, other ones I didn’t and I’d let her reminisce about them for me. It was right there and then that we felt the need to start sharing both our collections on social media for all the world to see. We opened our @oh_what_a_match Instagram account five days after New Year’s with just a few photos of our matches snapped on backgrounds that would recall the restaurant, bar, or hotel they were taken from and that’s how OH, WHAT A MATCH! was born."
// Matchbooks and Matchboxes from the OH, WHAT A MATCH! collection //
You describe yourselves as phillumenists. What does that mean to you?
"The word “phillumeny” comes from the Greek verb ‘phil,’ which means to love, and the Latin word ‘lumen,’ which means light. A phillumenist is a person who enjoys collecting different match-related items such as matchboxes, matchbooks, and match covers. It is a fully-fledged hobby, referred to as phillumeny, which became especially widespread in the US from the 1960s until the 1980s when matchbooks were available and distributed by a wide range of businesses for advertising purposes. To us, being a phillumenist means to cherish and recollect memories from the past or present times thanks to these beautiful works of art called matches."
What is special about matchbook collecting?
"What’s very special about this hobby to us is that it can be so multifaceted. People from all walks of life get into matchbook collecting for different reasons. Some especially appreciate the design elements of matches, others love the symbolic meaning of memory keeping through matches, while others enjoy their decorative side or functional aspect over items like lighters. Matches are not just utilitarian objects, they are powerful storytelling tools able to merge together folks from all creative industries."
You just launched a new product, tell us a little about it!
"We are so excited yet oh-so-nervous! Today we launched our very first limited-edition line of see-through boxes and cylinders to safely store and display your collection of matches in.
Since growing our early collection of matches from only a few dozens to a few hundreds, we have been searching far and wide for cool yet durable transparent boxes that could nicely preserve and show off our ever-growing collection of matches in the best way possible. After an extensive market research, we couldn’t land on any good containers that would satisfy our needs as both collectors and aesthetes and as a result, we decided to create our own ones.
The Phillumenist Collection is comprised of two rectangular boxes—the Cyd small box and the Cyd large box—and the Fred cylinder, which you can stack up to three units. They are all emblazoned with the OWAM logo, handcrafted in Italy by a family-run workshop and made from 100% recycled and recyclable cast acrylic sheets."
Do you have a favorite matchbook in your collection and why?
"It’s so hard to choose a favorite, especially between me and my mom we can have very different picks based on design preferences or emotional attachment to the matchbook or matchbox in question. I’d say for me it would have to be the SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker matchbox as it will always remind me of that time I posted the photo on our Instagram page and Sarah Jessica Parker in the flesh commented on our post.
As for my mom, it will always be the Indochine matchbook. It was and still is her favorite restaurant in the city—food and vibes are immaculate to her. She remembers their phone number by heart to this day."
// The Phillumenist's Favorites //
Is there a matchbook that’s on your “wishlist”?
"Absolutely yes! We’ve been dying to get our hands on the Studio 54 matchbooks. Though we have always thought they were made during the disco years of Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, we have come to learn that they didn’t actually happen until the Mark Fleischman years in the ‘80s.
Still, we’ve been actively on the lookout for them through various sales channels and online auctions but we always seem to be late to the party, ugh. We’re very close to finding them though, we know it!"
// Studio 54 matchbook, ca. 1980, in the Collection on Culture and Entertainment. Museum of the City of New York. Accessed 02/16/2023. //
We have to ask, team matchbook or matchbox?
"That’s a tough one! We’d definitely have to go with team matchbook when it comes to feature matchbooks, design-wise they are the coolest.. but nothing beats a sturdy and well-crafted matchbox of any size, they could be so chic."
With a love for aesthetics, what are some of your favorite design elements?
"Principles of Gestalt are super important in art and design. Great color composition and retro, funky fonts mixed together by an expert eye are amongst our favorite design elements."
What’s a design element that makes you cringe?
"Cheugy fonts and weird spacing and color composition."
Lastly, what’s next for Oh What A Match! ?
"We have an array of new products and ideas in the pipeline that we hope will be well-received by our community of fellow phillumenists and beyond :) ."
For more striking inspiration, make sure to check out OH, WHAT A MATCH! on Instagram, TikTok, and their website. And, if you're a phillumist yourself, looks like you've found the perfect match in their new collection of boxes available now.
Thank you, Nadia & Alice!