We’ve written before about the distinctly non-Brighton character of a lot of new local retail outlets, so it’s good to see a shop offering local designers a decent return on their endeavours. We spoke to Lynne Davis and Kirstin Stride from Handmade cooperative’s management team.
The shop only opened last April, and it seems to have become the go-to outlet for local designers.
We get the odd outsider approach us but we do try and keep it local, yes – there’s so much talent in Brighton we don’t need to go elsewhere really. The artists have complete control in what they sell and how they display it. They decorate their own spaces and control their own pricing. The shop’s business model is that we rent them the space and they do what they like with it.
That must free the designers up to be more creative.
Yes, they get to learn about how to place their products, how things sell when you move them around and display them differently – they basically have a shop within a shop. It makes it affordable for the artists. There’s loads of galleries in Brighton that take 50 or 60% which makes it really unaffordable for people to buy, as the artists have to put the prices up to make any margin on it. It just makes it unachievable for both the artist and the customer – the only person who wins is the gallery.
It must be a tricky business model to convince a landlord with.
Well, we didn’t tell them! I originally had it as a sweet shop on my own and wanted to do something different. Kirstin was doing the seafront market and craft fairs, and we brought the two together. It’s been compared to the Open Houses – they’ve been really popular here – it’s like that but a shop on the high street, which the tourists get to browse.
And you keep costs down by working for free as a co-operative.
Yes, there’s a core management team who all do a day each in the shop, but then we all get a space to display in the shop in return. It’s a nice balance; we’ve all got other jobs and things that we do.
There seems to be a good balance of permanent and passing designers in the shop.
Yes, there’s a bit of a waiting list but it depends on what they do – we like to keep it varied. If it’s the same people all the time it could get a bit dull. We do half spaces now – it’s £60 a month for a space and £30 for a half so you get people just trying it out, but there are a core of six or seven people who’ve been with us since the beginning, from the Handmade Fair days at the Komedia.
Not relying on physical sales yourselves must allow more creativity in the ranges you stock.
When you’re filling a shop with stock you need to sell you tend to be quite limited with what you select, sticking to guaranteed items. We get things in we might not buy ourselves, and some sell really well – that’s the exciting thing about it. Some people don’t sell that much but they like the space to keep trying new things. So far, a year in, it’s all working really well – we’re selling to people just out of uni up to a lady who must be getting on for 90. People get what we’re doing, and here in Kemptown they’re just glad we’re not another coffee shop.
IN CONVERSATION WITH
WORDS BY NICK COQUET
ILLUSTRATION BY HANDMADE’S YANNIK EILERS AT THEADMIRALSPISSBOX.BLOGSPOT.COM