Freight in Lewes, UK
A little while back, I came across Freight – a boutique that sells homeware and clothing designed by the shop owners and made by craftsmen in the UK. I was immediately drawn in by the simplicity and quality of their wares, and how they transport you to a simpler time. I am starting to have an aversion to home decor that is mass-produced, there's something "cheap" about it, even if the price-tag doesn't reflect it. And as someone who has taken up pottery, I have tremendous respect for those who are able to produce something beautiful with their own hands. Since it's not every day that one can get to Lewes, you can shop their homewares either through their site, or with worldwide shipping on Trouva.
Here's the interview that I had with Adele – she co-owns and runs the shop along with her mother, Helene.
How big is your shop and how long have you been open?
We are currently in a very small shop space which we are rapidly outgrowing so we are in the process of looking for new premises to ideally move into in 2018. We launched the Freight brand on November 5th 2014.
It’s such a beautiful space, it must put Lewes on the map! How did you find the space, did it take a long time? Was there something in particular you were looking for?
This was originally only going to be a temporary home for us so we did a very swift turn around on it. Within two weeks we had built a wall to divide the flat entrance from the main shop space, built shelving from salvaged wood, fitted marquee coconut matting for a carpet and painted the walls. It was very much a temporary fixture, or so we thought at the time! We often make adjustments to the space we are in now to adapt to the products we have. However we would ideally love to find a permanent fixture where we feel we can settle and make it just right.
You design your own product — do you collaborate together, or is one of you the mind behind the designs?
We work together on all design aspects when we are evolving a new product. There are often a number of trials before we come to final piece that we are both happy with. My mum, Helene, is called the “Editor” — her eye is always on what can be removed to really simplify a design. I am trained as an architectural designer so my skills come in when it comes to design tweaking and doing the drawings.
Your aesthetic is so sophisticated. What inspired you to create Freight?
My mum had a shop in Lewes for over 10 years before Freight came about, called Adamczewski. She closed for two years due to family commitments, however when I finished the second part of my architectural masters I felt driven to collaborate with my mum and to work on ideas that meant we both had entire control over the design, and weren’t making sacrifices due to only being able to buy what was available on the wholesale market. So we started Popinski, a pop up shop, that was launched in November 2013. This was a trial run to find as many UK-produced products as we could – the furthest we sourced from was within Europe. This really kickstarted our desire to design and build our own brand, and to produce only goods that we felt would work well together as a collection.
How has Freight evolved over the years?
Working on the production of our own goods directly with manufacturers has been a huge learning curve. We no longer go to trade fairs to source our goods. We drive up to Stoke on Trent to work with our potter, or to the midlands to work with our knitwear manufacturers. We have had to learn the finite details of how every element is made so we have an absolute understanding of the process. We still have a lot to learn, but we are now at the stage where we are putting Freight products out to the wholesale market which will open more doors and be a whole new learning progression for the brand.
You work with local makers, can you share with us an experience you had working with them?
We really went in as total greenhorns to the manufacturing experience. It started with us leaving early one morning from Sussex to drive to Stoke on Trent and we worked our way around the process of how to get a product made. We knocked on the door of a contact we had picked up from a phone book. Mark answered the door of a normal looking terraced house in Stoke which was stacked to the rafters with plaster of Paris – it was white all over, including Mark! He was the start of our production chain.
This had us visiting four other workshops in the process to pin down how we could start work on our products. The potter is at the end of the chain but there are three other steps that go before him. Little did we know when we drove there how complicated the chain of production would be. The guys who we now work with regularly, were fantastic at helping us to form this network. But there was a lot to learn in a short space of time. We would be lying if we said it had been easy. There are technical hitches that we have had to overcome with each manufacturer and certainly there have been times we have wondered if we have taken the best route.
Since you are both online and have a brick-and-mortar shop, what are the benefits and challenges of having a physical store?
Without a doubt having a physical shop space has huge benefits. You get to meet your customers and understand what people want from the products they are purchasing. We like to learn from our customers, we discuss designs with them and how they might like variations, in particular when it comes to the knitwear. Of course, we are known for being quite minimal and color does not occur often on our shelves. However we like to test run colors and see what the response is like. Recently we introduced jade green to our knitwear collection and it has been one of our best-selling colors in the range.
All of your designs are beautiful, is there something new coming out soon that you can share?
Although direct production can be a slow chain we always have products in the pipeline that are being sampled, tested and ideally then manufactured. Currently we have three new pieces being produced in Stoke on Trent which includes a bone china wobbly bowl, a cutlery drainer and a tea mug. The moulds for these are currently being dried out in the kilns at our potters so he can start the production line.
Alongside that we also have a new knitwear range being sampled which should be arriving for approval this week after they have been completed at the finishers, this includes men’s and women’s Shetland wool jumpers, scarfs, hats & wrist warmers. Some of our biggest selling items are our fantastic Alpaca socks - we have to order over two tonnes of yarn a year to produce enough to keep everyone’s feet warm and comfortable year round.
How has Trouva been instrumental in growing your brand?
We launched our own website in June 2015 so we have been online for a while now, but we struggled with marketing and finding the time to get marketing and press done. So joining Trouva has been fantastic for the coverage they enable with regards to this. But also the support you get from the team at Trouva is fantastic. You really get the sense that each boutique they work with is important and that they will support you in any way possible to ensure a great working relationship.