You want to transform an empty unit into a perfectly tailored pop-up shop, complete with a hand curated selection of Liverpool’s best art, craft, prints and jewellery? Of course you do, but you just haven’t got the time, right? Work’s been just murder?

As is ever thus in this city of wild ambitions and hot-air promises (did you see Joe Anderson’s ‘vote for me’ manifesto last week?), if you want to get something done, ask a busy person.

Not content with running one of the city’s busiest – and innovative – interior design companies (Bold Street’s Team a go-go) Kate Stewart (pic r) is a woman with a mission. A passionate advocate of the city’s burgeoning art and design cottage industries, Kate was the driving force behind the al fresco art and craft fairs in the Central Village cut through (is this the only bit of Central Village we’ll see completed in our lifetime?), and a busy stall at the Threshold Fest, but she’d always hankered after something a little more controllable – something she could put her own mark on. Well, she is a designer. It figures.

So, in between winning contracts to redesign schools across the country, making her own line of made-from-Meccano jewellery (Factory Floor Jewels), and bringing up a family, Kate fitted out Made-Here in under a month, and it’s open for business – and doing just great. It’s open for another month, so get down there soon (We love the lime and bergamot soap – lovingly made in Great Sutton – a bargain at £3!)

“If I had an itch I didn’t scratch I think I’d be more difficult to work with,” she tells SevenStreets.

Made-Here, is now open, next to Tie Rack, in Keys Court. And it’s more than holding its own amongst the big boys. This is her story.

Made-here has been established to satisfy a hunger for gifts and accessories with ‘soul’. As the name suggests, everything in the shop is produced by talented designers, artists and makers from around here.

In December 2010 I set up the website to sell the work of local artists and designers – initially because I wanted to see if I could do it, and because I have a background in business support to the creative sector, and lots of friends (and staff) who are talented producers of unique items that needed an outlet

Whenever I have had stalls, I found people asking – where can we buy this stuff next week? Whether they were at the Made-Here Arts Markets or the great Stalls in the City events in Liverpool ONE organised by Open Culture, I found a real demand for locally made gifts. I started market testing the idea with visitors to our own fairs and was pretty convinced it was needed and would be supported.

The Business Development team at Liverpool ONE have been fantastic to work with – all really lovely people who ‘get’ what we are trying to achieve and the reasons behind it too. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner to work with and hope to explore some longer term or other short-term solutions with them. We gave ourselves three weeks to get the shop open once the site had been established – quite a tall order, but I was determined to get it open for the GEC week as I wanted to demonstrate the talent and enterprise culture of the creative sector in Liverpool.

In some senses, doing something quickly is the best way – although physically it did nearly destroy me and the friends and family that helped – I had thought that I would write ‘the diary of a pop-up’ but there really wasn’t the time to fit that in too! The task list was immense and I had set a really high bar in that I didn’t want the shop to look temporary – I wanted it to look like a Liverpool ONE retailer and to hold its own among that community. I think we have achieved that (SevenStreets does too!)

I really believe that visitors to Liverpool should leave with something actually made here rather than a symbol of the city made in china or elsewhere.

It’s really important to get the right mix of products, and also not just to stock items I would wear or buy. We had 120 applications to sell work in the shop and obviously there isn’t room for all of them. I have to say that the standard was really high and in the majority of cases that were not successful it was because we needed to ensure a variety of stock or didn’t have the space.

The content will also evolve over time and I am quite clear that if a product range isn’t selling it obviously isn’t right and we would be better offering that space to a new type of stock or supplier.

The response in the shop is great – it really does prove that there is a desire for something this independent and local, customers are so enthused by the concept that 100% of their money stays in Liverpool. I would say we have two kinds of customers – those that come in because they have heard about the shop – or stood and read about us in our window display and who want to support the ethos behind it, and those that simply spot something beautiful through the window and stride right in a buy it without a moment’s hesitation! I love them both.

Limited edition prints and Jewellery are selling really well, as are some of the smaller fashion accessories like stitched or crocheted brooches, bags and personal stationery such as notebooks, but our whole range is selling, homewares, childrens’ gifts, organic soaps and scrubs

There’s definitely a demand for something more permanent, but the price and location factor has to be right. As an entrepreneur I understood my risk of this venture because it is time limited, and I hope it will prove it is viable, but the location and rental mix has to work to keep it so. So many retailers, large and small, are either closing or moving at the moment throughout this city and others, it’s vital that creative solutions are forged to our high street crisis in this country. One in seven stores across the UK is empty – there’s some great examples out there of innovative projects and Made-Here is just one of them. And, with the name Made-Here, the project is scalable, allowing us to think about other cities too…one day!

I love the practitioners we work with – for some of them this is their full time occupation and only income, for others, they also have part or full-time work. They are a real mix of ages and backgrounds and each one of them has a different story and a different reason for doing this. We are just in the process of introducing printed biogs of each practitioner in the shop – and our staff are always happy to talk about each maker too. I think that people are more considered about spending their money at the moment, and rightly so! They like to understand that they are getting something unique that has a value that is not just monetary and knowing about the person who created a piece really helps with that.

I’m a passionate Liverpool business woman! I wouldn’t want to take the risks I take in business anywhere else – I love this city and am really proud of how it has developed. I left when I was 17 to pursue a career in theatre and am lucky enough to have lived in most parts of this country through that career. When I came back during the 1990’s I came back because this is where I wanted to succeed. I found I had stopped trying when I lived in other cities. As MD of Team a go-go, I have also been lucky enough to travel a lot throughout Europe and little bit beyond (we designed three schools in the Cayman Islands!) visiting suppliers and trade shows and I still come back thinking this is the best city in the world.

I feel a strange sort of excitement and energy in the air this time that was probably around in the 80’s but I was too young to get it. I think the Liverpool music scene is a prime example of how we are responding to the issues that are surrounding us – creativity is always rife in difficult times and I think there’s that edge again at the moment. The hunger for change that is around at the moment is being put to good use by many.

One thing that fell off my list during the three weeks it took to create the Made-Here Pop-Up Shop, is that I wanted to create a made-here playlist, and also have a download and CD available for sale of local bands – we’ve picked this up again now and are working with a couple of partners to deliver this very soon.

Made Here Pop Up Shop
Keys Court, Liverpool ONE

4 Responses to “Made-Here, Right Now”

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.