So, Barb, your shop is based at the Marina, how did you end up here?
I’ve been here for six years. Before this, I used to run a Fair Trade and Farmers’ market, at the Quaker Meeting House. I wanted to do Fair Trade and local produce together, because I know that farmers here often have a very hard time making ends meet, and I think the two things seemed to be pretty linked, that people should have the right to some kind of livelihood. I did the market for eight years, and as result of that, they asked me to come here, to the Marina. I source clothes and jewellery from about sixteen different suppliers, most of them exclusively, and since I started, I have sold products to over 100 different shops nationally, many of which take the Kenyan jewellery.
How is business going? Who are your customers?
A lot of them come from east of Brighton, from Seaford, Rottingdean, some from Eastbourne. A few come from Worthing and places like that, but I would say, probably a lot of people are not actually from Brighton, just either side. There are quite a lot of people from Saudi, Kuwait, and other English tourists. If people have been here once, they tend to come back.
Part of the challenge of being in the Marina, I think, is that it’s pretty full of outlet shops, and that makes the pressure quite high to sell at a low cost. I have a bit of sympathy with that though, because I would like Fair Trade to be available to most people, though obviously it’s quite a challenge to be able to do that. Some things are amazingly reasonable, and some are a bit more expensive, but hopefully, there will be something there that people want to buy.
So do you have any male customers?
Yes, we’re a bit low on shirts at the moment, but we have quite a few people that seem to like them, especially the hand woven shirts, which are really really reasonable. .
How is your business model different?
The free market is horribly wasteful and bad for the environment. A lot of it relies on waste, and it’s not sustainable. I think part of the solution is trying to wean people off the idea of ‘having that, having it now’. There’s the Slow Food movement, and to some extent Slow Fashion also exists. The idea that, actually, it’s really good to wait. You’re waiting for something that is being made, for ‘you’. You are going to get something that you want, that someone’s making for you, and that’s great!
So you have an idea to put this into practice, isn’t that right? You’ve designed an app for men to customise a shirt which will then be created bespoke for them by tailors in Nepal?
Yes, well it’s in its initial stages, but the app exists, and won the Sussex Innovation Award. The idea came to me because I was wasting a lot of stock. I’d come to the end of the line, and then I’d still have something like six small, no medium, two large, no extra large and a couple of XXL, and people would come in and want the one that you didn’t have, and you can only keep it out for so long, so the ones which you only have a few left in, there’s no point in having them out, other than on the sale rail, because people will say, ‘I want that in medium’. It feels logistically, as if it’s almost impossible to guess the right number of sizes, the right colour, and that’s where the tailoring idea comes it.
It’s a great idea. It’s demonstrating something which is in opposition to the high street retail model, which is – walk in to the shop, there’s every colour, every size, pick it off the rail, and if they don’t have it, they’ll get another one in the next day. This is the other side of the coin which is that, in order to achieve those levels of stock, people in factories have to work through the night to meet deadlines, and the deadlines are constant. Factories are being demanded to produce for these shipments with no turnaround time. You’re doing something which is at the other extreme, which is to say, that this product is available in your size, but you have to make the commitment by paying for it first, which brings the whole process into focus.
The challenge of Fair Trade, is how to deliver it, so that there is a spectrum, with something between the exploitative model, with waste built in, and the high end ethical retailers with something that is affordable to most people.
Can you talk me through these designs, my favourites, they are so contemporary and so versatile?
Yes, these are one-size hand-loomed cotton tops from Nepal. They come in five different designs, including a classic shift dress shape, three variations on smock tops, with and without pockets, and an open cardigan. I have an idea for these as well, because I have quite a lot of extra fabric, and can source more. I’d like to get women in Brighton creating their own garments, as they are quite basic templates and perfect for someone who is learning to sew. That way, the consumer will also be able to tailor their design to their own taste, and have the satisfaction of having made something themselves.
The fabrics are really beautiful, and great quality.
Yes, they’re hand-dyed as well as hand-loomed. This is a purely rural industry, where the weavers can work from home, sharing the loom work with their family.
We’ll keep in touch and let people know where they can go to create their own garment. Otherwise, pop into Love That Stuff, we’re open Thursday, Friday and Saturday 10-5pm and see if we have a style that suits you.