91 reunites with Jacqui Martin- owner of Reste, a natural homewares store on England’s south coast.
When 91 hosted our first pop-up market held at Tottenham Court Road’s West Elm store, guests were first welcomed by Jacqui Martin and her range of useful, beautiful and naturally-inspired homewares. Wooden cleaning tools sat happily alongside soy candles, with texture and warmth from wool blankets and soft linens. Reste began as an online destination in 2015, and opened its doors as a bricks-and-mortar store in the summer of 2017, and throughout that time the product range has varied little. ‘Everything I source for Reste is beautifully made, and designed to be used and cherished for a long time,’ says Jacqui. ‘There is a reason and provenance behind all the products, encouraging shoppers to buy more carefully - I hate throwaway consumerism.’
This isn’t Jacqui’s first foray into the world of online retail, however. As the mother of two daughters, Jacqui used the online market to open a partyware website around 15 years ago, which she ran from home. The business sold exclusive party bags, filled with unique handmade products at a time when partyware was very much focussed on the mainstream shopping outlets. ‘I’m incredibly risk averse, so I built my business slowly but it eventually became huge,’ explains Jacqui. ‘I became quite disillusioned with the throw-away, mass-produced things I was stocking and the growth of the competition, so I decided to sell the business in 2014.’
A move to Hastings along the south coast of England followed, but Jacqui soon missed her online business. ‘I missed buying and sourcing products, I missed the photography aspect, and I missed the connection through social media,’ continues Jacqui. ‘So I decided to create something less commercially-driven, and didn’t really plan ahead too much- I just knew I wanted to stock items where I knew the origin of everything.’ Jacqui’s approach to curating her stock is often more ad-hoc than other independent stores. ‘I don’t follow trends, and I only visited a trade show for the first time a month ago!’ laughs Jacqui. ‘A lot of the producers are small artists and makers that I’ve found through Instagram, and others I’ve found through my love of window shopping and lifestyle photoshoots,’ she adds.
A keen traveller, Jacqui often finds products that are specific to a geographical area, such as the natural wooden cleaning brushes. ‘These are produced in a small factory in Sweden, which is known for its brush-binding,’ she explains. ‘They’re made by visually-impaired people, so it keeps them in work and also means that both the makers and the shopkeeper (me!) benefit from my selling the products.’ This ethical approach to selling is really at the heart of Reste, but it has its challenges. ‘The value of the pound and Brexit is posing challenges- I’m limited in what I can import from Europe and even from the US,’ sighs Jacqui. ‘However, I love to support local makers and relish the small batches of products they’re able to produce. There’s room for everyone if we support each other.’
Reste opened its wood and glass doors in June of 2017, when an unexpected opportunity arose. ‘I hadn’t necessarily planned to open a destination shop, but my husband was looking for a local office space and we chose a site with a retail area that I could use for workshops as well as an office for him,’ recalls Jacqui. 'Hastings is an area with masses of cultural heritage, and the population of artists, illustrators and musicians are really beginning to spread themselves across the retail part of the town,’ Jacqui continues. ‘The shop space here had previously been various take-away food outlets and had a reputation for being cursed- the French restaurant that occupied the space before me never even opened!’ After applying layers and layers of white paint to the space, Jacqui began to source her furniture and fittings as cheaply as possible. Reclaimed scaffold planks hung with nautical rope provide shelving as well as a nod to the seaside location, and a wax pasting table provides the ideal display area for the shop’s ceramics and plants. Like the stock, the space itself is natural, fresh and purposeful. ‘The most surprising aspect is how supportive my local community has been- opening the shop has really made my feel part of the town, I feel so rooted,’ Jacqui smiles.
The shop floor has also provided Jacqui with an opportunity to display another of her loves- antique and vintage finds. ‘There’s lots of vintage bits in the shop that aren’t available online,’ says Jacqui. ‘I try to source things with real provenance regardless of whether they’re collectable or not; for example, the Balkan ceramics I love to buy from antiques markets have been surprisingly popular and are often hard to part with!’ Other favourites included the Scandinavian ceramics, which Jacqui admits are probably the only things she stocks that are purely aesthetic.
2018 is an exciting prospect for Jacqui, as she looks ahead to buying seasonally and enjoying her first spring and summer in the shop. ‘I tend to buy small amounts often, especially when buying wholesale from small makers,’ she explains. ‘I’m beginning to learn what sells quickly, and the limitations of a small space- it certainly keeps my job interesting.’ With a select, ethical stock range that places emphasis on provenance and practicality, it’s no wonder that Jacqui is excited about exploring the possibilities of Reste in coming year and beyond.
Reste, 3 George St, Hastings, TN34 3EG