This month 91 Magazine talks to Charlotte Martin, owner of lifestyle store Cuemars – a verdant oasis of beauty and calm tucked away on London’s Brick Lane.
How would you describe the essence of Cuemars?
Cuemars is an attitude. We curate with a conscience, and eschew trends in favour of a more timeless style. Our philosophy is founded on conscious curation and aesthetically-engaging designs. At the heart of Cuemars is the old adage, ‘buy less, buy better’. We house many independent brands that produce durable and culturally-relevant pieces – be it clothing, lifestyle, or homeware goods. We also love plants and all things botanical, and this has become a distinctive feature of Cuemars.
Where does the name come from?
Cuemars is a Persian myth. In the tale, everything is created from Cuemars, and everything has a bond with one another. We wanted to have a name that creates the vibe of things being inter-connected - nature, our lives, our time…
How did Cuemars come about?
It started with the vision that every purchasing choice can make a difference. We are committed to honest sustainability through our supply chain, and we seek to create a positive buying experience. From sourcing to distribution, we scrutinise every process and every supplier before it reaches our customers.
What’s the ethos behind your business?
We pursue cultural significance, driven by a belief that good design is not synonymous with trends or fashion. Our focus is based on our conviction that nature is universally influential in what good design should be; a symbiosis with the environment. We see our name not as a product, but a story, and our designs are inspired by history, natural and organic forms.
What inspires you?
Our sources of inspiration are many! We love the ancient world of mythology, antique art, nature, contemporary art, mathematics, geometry, music and literature.
How valuable is the online community to your work?
Social media tools offer great potential to reach and connect with an audience. It’s great to be so directly involved with our community.
How did you go about designing and styling the store?
Our first shop was on Hackney Road, where we stayed for two years. In August 2018, we moved into the vibrant Brick Lane, in the heart of Shoreditch. Our new shop is in the Truman Brewery, which is a great spot for us as it brings both locals and tourists to see the street art and vintage market.
The space is not as big as we really needed, so we had to be creative and use it in a clever way. We chose an adjustable shelving system that we can modify (which is great as our range tends to change during the year). We also have an outdoor courtyard, which is visible from the main street, so that is used for display and allows us to attract people into the shop.
How do you source your products?
We don’t have a fixed system for this - we browse on Instagram, Pinterest, design fairs, and we contact independent makers that match our core values of sustainability, design and production with a conscience.
What are the joys of working as an independent retailer – and what are the challenges?
I really enjoy being an independent retailer, the best bits are meeting and collaborating with talented people and being part of a local community. Our daily tasks are very diverse, we never get bored! The challenges include often wishing to have more hours in the day (it’s hard to get everything done and we often run over time)!
How do you juggle an online business with a physical shop?
Our 2019 resolution is to get better at the online side of things - at the moment we find it a bit difficult to get the traffic we would like. We use, for example, the online platform Trouva, which allows us to reach a wider range of clients.
How do you approach marketing and PR?
At the moment, we mainly contact bloggers that match our ethos and style, in order to develop our community and expand our audience.
What are your favourite products or bestsellers?
We have many! But our three bestsellers are: our collection of botanical prints, our jewellery made from recycled sterling silver, and our plants are very popular.
Any advice for aspiring independent store owners?
Always try to plan your day ahead as the tasks are usually multiple and very varied. You will never get bored, but you do need to be organised!
Before you go, are there any future developments in the pipeline?
As plant-lovers, we are excited to be opening our new oxygen room next month - it’s going to be a room just for green plants, located next to the shop.
Find Cuemars at 91 Brick Lane, London E1 6QL
Photography: Caroline Rowland