Although my background is in fashion design, I've always been fascinated by wider trends in how we buy, what motivates us to buy, by our conscious or subconscious reasons for buying, and the who, what and where of our style references.
So I've got a clear vision of what this brand's DNA will be and the kind of childrenswear brands I'd like to align it with. I'm also clear about what I don't want it to be. Yes, there is a 'crafted' element to the make of many of my products, but I don't want to be seen as 'crafty'. So maybe think less Kirsty Allsop at a WI and more Grayson Perry at a potters wheel!
When I was approached to join some other small south-west London brands to do a touring pop-up shop, I knew they had to be the right brands. The idea for the collective is that of former art teacher Wayne Cullum who now runs CraftedLondon, a fantastic open space dedicated to art classes for kids but with soft play and a cafe too. Like many of my new entrepreneur friends, Wayne had decided it was time for a new challenge and one that would fit with being a parent. He completely gets the 'juggle' we all do on a daily basis (his wife works full time). When we talked through the idea of the collective, he also understood when I said that I felt there should be a selective element to the group, that it should be 'curated', and voila, we had our name!
To launch the concept Wayne organised a 'Curated by Crafted' summer fair at his CraftedLondon headquarters. I went in with modest expectations, just as I had with the first school fair, knowing that this would be more of a marketing opportunity than a retail bonanza. The space is located on a quiet residential road so you really have to know where you're heading to find it. Our goal would then be to do one pop-up shop a month starting in September and to target high footfall areas, initially around south west London. Well, I say this, but we're as yet to have our first 'board meeting' (most likely to be a chat about logistics over a jug of Pimms in the local!). But this has really got me thinking about how other retail spaces become so much more affordable and attainable if you're part of a collective. We've just entered the Evening Standard competition for a pop-up shop space. We could pop up in malls, county fairs, London markets to name a few ideas. The logistics of this are so much easier when you can share transport, man each other's stalls and divide the costs of setting up between you.
With such a rapidly changing retail environment on our high streets, small businesses have to come up with ingenious ways to get their products in front of customers. In my local area I've seen a stream of small retail businesses close down, mainly because the cost of rents and business rates are so prohibitive. I've spoken to local shop owners who are paying almost double their rent in business rates. One local shop has an outlay of over £1,000 a month before they've even opened the door, turned on the lights, or paid any of their staff. Now for me that would be a whole lot of T-shirts!
So I'm excited about this first meeting and the opportunity to get to know some of the guys and gals from the other small businesses. This has lots of potential to be a great retail adventure!