This month’s Shopkeeper Spotlight shines firmly on Shoreditch lifestyle collective, Luna & Curious. Curated by three artisan makers: ceramicists Polly and Kaoru and jewellery-maker Rheanna, the store is proudly passionate about British manufacturing, sustainability and being part of the East End community.We spoke to the trio behind Luna & Curious to find out more…
When and why did you decide to open Luna & Curious?
The idea to open Luna & Curious was formed in April 2006. We opened in June 2006. Luna & Curious began as a collective of seven designers who got together to open a shop to sell their own wares. It proved very successful, the ‘day-a-week-each’ commitment soon grew and was too much for some, with a move to bigger premises needed, we took on Luna & Curious as a trio.
How would you describe the store’s interior style?
From the outset, Luna & Curious has been white, any foray with colour has always been short lived. Influenced by Martin Margiela, white provides a unifying background for a varied range of distinctive products.
You're passionate about British manufacture, why is it so important to you?
Luna & Curious began in a time where provenance was not thought about, an era of mass production and consumption. We created a manifesto stating our rally against this way of living. One of our original focuses was the ceramic industry in Stoke-on-Trent. A world class hub of knowledge and skills for hundreds of years was shrivelling at a rapid speed. Makers were considered factory workers not craftsmen. In 2008 we went with Polly to visit the place that was making her work (now closed). We met three ladies (whose names were along the lines of Marjorie, Margaret and Maud) and we watched in awe as the trio, using an array of unusual tools, transformed clay into the most detailed and intricate ceramic flowers. They had all been working doing this job since they were 14. They were now all 60+. One had retired twice. When we expressed our wonder at their skill, they brushed the compliments away, they did factory work, as did their mothers, sisters, aunts etc. They thought we were the talented ones as we had been to university and had our own businesses. So. to surmise a very long answer, it’s because of the history and skills of the Marjorie, Margaret and Maud’s of Britain that we seek out to continue this heritage.
How do you source your gorgeous stock?
Trade shows form a large part of our sourcing, we go to the main ones but also love a ‘rookie’ show. The more specific the better, this is where you will find the treasure. We also use every modern buyers friend, Instagram. Combined with trawling the internet for the minutest mention of traditional manufacturing.
Provenance is a enormous consideration for us. We will only sell jewellery and greetings cards that are UK made. However it’s not all British, we look to Germany for wooden toys, Poland for Christmas decorations, Portugal for shoes. Environment, sustainability and worker welfare are also factors, a product is truly scrutinised before being welcomed into the Luna & Curious offering.
As well as stocking wares from independents, what do you create in-house?
The independent shop thrives in East London and our neighbours and us were all competing for the same brands. We got a bit fed up with this and in 2016 as we celebrated ten years of Luna & Curious we pledged to return to our roots as designers and make many more products ourselves.
Since then we have made our own scented candles, with their ceramic pots made in Stoke-on-Trent, candles in Wiltshire and boxes in Hull. Our range of Scottish-made women’s and kid’s knitwear is growing year on year. Plus we have launched our own womenswear, which, you guessed it... is all made in the UK. Next on the list is our own children’s clothing!
You’re just about to launch your latest womenswear collection, which sounds very exciting… can you tell us more?
For our latest womenswear collection we have partnered with Making for Change Social Enterprise. This is a joint venture in garment manufacturing between London College of Fashion and HMP Downview, which provides training in fashion production skills and accredits participants with industry-recognised qualifications; offering a route away from re-offending whilst simultaneously addressing the skills shortage within the UK fashion manufacturing industry.
Which item is your bestseller? Why do you think that is?
The most sold product is a Hooray! card by Wrap. This is quite cheering, means there is plenty to say Hooray about! Our navy and orange spotted shirt dress went down a storm last year and we had to get more made fast. The Luna & Curious customer isn’t shy with their fashion, our candy pink rib knit is the bestselling women’s jumper.
Which is your can't live without product?
Kaoru: Our rib knit jumpers, they keep me warm throughout the winter.`
Polly: Our range of scented candles, it was really enjoyable to link up all the elements required to produce the items in the UK.
Rheanna: Holztiger wooden animals, my son’s collection is constantly growing (I say his! I mean mine).
What do you enjoy most about running Luna & Curious?
The people. We have fantastic women working at Luna & Curious which makes it everyday fun. Everyone works so hard, we are very fortunate. We eat well too!
What has been your career highlight (so far)?
Moving to Calvert Avenue in 2010. After two written proposals and a 90 minute interview, Tower Hamlets offered us the lease on these premises. In fact it was too big for us for a few years, but it offered us an exciting future with the ability to expand. In 2018, we officially ran out of space!
You have some rather lovely neighbours too, is community important to you?
Hugely. As a business based in the Boundary Estate, we believe we have an obligation to be part of the community, respecting the residents. This is echoed in many of the businesses on Calvert Avenue.
Luna & Curious is a founding member of the East End Trades Guild, a body that has come together to ensure a future for independent businesses in East London. The work done by the Guild in the face of rising rents and rates is fantastic.
Do you have any top tips/advice for those thinking of starting their own store?
It’s really dull...but do your sums. Do a REALISTIC cash flow, make sure that six months down the line there is still money in the pot. Plus don’t try and do everything all at once. We’ve seen many businesses come and go over the years and the overriding reason is that the initial financial outlay on the shop fit and stock has been too much and eventually it drowns the business.
Find Luna & Curious at 24-26 Calvert Ave, London E2 7JP.
Photography: Caroline Rowland