How to support ‘Indpendent’ brands?
Posted on November 25 2022
There is a great deal of marketing going on around this time of year regarding support of local and small independent shops and boutiques both in our high streets and online. Holly Tucker, of Not On the High Street fame has been a tireless supporter with a passion for supporting small brands. She is determined to keep shouting out to all who will hear the virtues of keeping our high streets bursting with creativity and not just the same large corporates repeating all over the country. Last year, she launched ‘Colour Friday’. The aim is to ask people to choose ‘independent’ and to celebrate colour and creativity. Choose the kind of world you want to live in. Sometimes we hear these marketing campaigns but we don’t really stop and actually listen.
We thought we would share some of the independent brands that we have come across, travelling around the country over the years attending Christmas Fayres and events, not just as a way to help one another but also because marketing when you are a tiny brand is really really difficult and really expensive! What better than good old fashioned ‘word of mouth’. Some of these have grown beyond the ‘kitchen table’ now but they remain a vital part of our regional high streets. We hope you enjoy shopping from them as much as we have over the years.
We always check Willow & Stone as they have such an original collection of things for the home. What started as a period ironmongery supplies shop in Falmouth, has grown into this enticing shopping emporium. This year we really like the ‘Cloud Classification’ prints and the ‘Beaufort Wind Scale’ print. We also think you couldn’t fail to enjoy receiving this, in this season of ‘planned power cuts and extortionate fuel bills.
Baileys mantra is to recycle and reuse where possible and they were very early advocates of eco cleaning products. Their stylish website covers all house and interiors but we like the Green Hurricane Lamp which is perfect for those evening drinks all year round.
Last year we collaborated with Recycle Vegan and Tuc and sold some of their repurposed fire hose washbags. Rachel has sewed since she was 7 years old and combines her two passions to create her fantastic product collection in an Etsy emporium including fire hose wallets and pencil cases/tool rolls.
For the sports mad, Wicket Ideas has repurposed old sports equipment into some really original ideas such as a rugby ball ice cooler or a loo roll holder made from cricket stumps. Sailors will appreciate the labour that goes into a bag from Oarsum. Cyclists we hope will love our Velo T shirt and to go with it, a personalized family cycling mug from This is Nessie. Nessie Maclay began her personalized stationery journey in 2002 from her home in Wandsworth. She now lives in the country and has a huge team alongside her husband and family, running her online business and recently recording a podcast.
We are living in a time of microbreweries, small batch distilleries and other lovingly crafted brews. On a recent trip to the Outer Hebrides, we developed a bit of a taste for Isle of Harris Gin. We are always on the hunt for some tumbler sized glasses as well and we are so pleased to have found these at last from Moola London. Throw in this pineapple ice bucket too, and this retro Negroni poster and the Christmas drinks area is sorted.
We love this hammerhead shark wrap bracelet from Noko Designs. Marnie is inspired by her love of travel when she designs and makes her jewellery. She (like us) lives in a male dominated household where BMX rules but she herself is an ambassador for She Shreds, who support women in male dominated sports. We love it when we see an image of her on her skateboard or wakeboard!
Our favourite brands to buy from (and not just to exhibit with!) for jewellery are: Harry Rocks Jewellery, especially the Bowie Bolt Hoops (seen below) For colour and ‘stacking factor’ both in bracelets and necklaces, Rikkeline. Presents for sisters, godchildren and friends alike; Flutterby and Lulu B. For a splash of neon, do have a browse at Ketteley Kit. A brand you will have heard us mention before is Millie Pink who started out being known for their colourful hair ties but they have grown and now sell the most gorgeous, brightly coloured bracelets for the beach (popular with all ages). How about a jewellery roll to put it all in from SoSouk?
Washbags are a popular gift every Christmas and usually come in at the right budget. We spotted these Harris Tweed bags from Chilcott UK which we really like and for a range of eye-popping colour to bring joy to any bathroom, have a look at Huddle Collection’s range here. We are also big fans of Pepper & Ink. Caroline and Tors are two very stylish sisters who have curated a perfect collection of things for the home and kitchen. We think this washbag would be a perfect present you couldn’t fail to be pleased with.
A company we were intrigued to come across this year is Salt + Steam. They fit the bill of ‘hand-crafted, responsibly sourced, free from plastic and entirely natural’ and all that as well as looking enticing and being a really spoiling present to give someone. Fox & Bloom’s ‘toilet drops’ get a big thumbs up from us for being very economical, gorgeous smelling and completely natural to boot.
If you are looking for a present for someone slightly older, Granny Gets A Grip has been very cleverly put together with a really practical, yet thoughtful collection of presents. This long hot water bottle really caught our eye. In this cold weather, Granny might like a jumper from the lovely Chloe at Misty Cashmere or somewhere to put photographs of her grandchildren like one of these fabulous memo boards (don’t miss these smaller photo boards that are good godchildren gifts or perhaps for a favourite teacher?.
If you have visited any of these fairs, you will undoubtedly know the lovely Hannah from Gift Pop with all her bags, jewellery and accessories- you can certainly tick off a few presents with her.
There are a handful of small brands who sell ‘all sorts’ which we always browse at this time of year and never know what little treasure will turn up. Tangerine Dream (jewellery, cashmere, tech/gadgets, neon candles) has lots of colourful clever ideas to browse. We also love Nomad & The Bowerbird from Norfolk with a massive range of original, unique brands and impeccable taste. Go and put the kettle on before starting to browse this one.
Our Catapult stand was next to Grass & Co last year at Olympia and we tried their CBD products on our aching joints and we purchased their products for family and friends and they do actually work! They smell delicious and we highly recommend them.
Fred Aldous is not as small as some of these other brands but we still think it is a brand that is family-run, and a total departure from mass-market. They have an enviable range of art & craft supplies and incredibly tantalizing stationery. An absolute essential for stocking fillers. We also really like Paper Tiger, especially their assembly advent calendars. For planners & diaries (think recipe planners, garden planners), don’t miss Fraser & Parsley whose hero product this year is this colourful, personalized mobile phone case (£5 goes to the Trussel Trust, a UK-wide Food Bank).
We love Elvira VV designs small batch printed notebooks & stationery, these beautiful box files from Molly Mahon and Eloise Hall’s butterfly print notecard set. These clever pencils are a must for anyone’s school pencil case.
A company we came across exhibiting at Spirit of Christmas and really fell for is the English Stamp Company. We think they are brilliant for so many creative and sustainable ideas from making your own Christmas cards and wrapping paper as well as giving along with a cookery book for a foodie or for a child’s thank you letter stationery; the list is endless.
Give the gift of a plant with Glasshouse Botannicals who not only sell these beautiful house plants, but also use their profits to reduce reoffending by offering horticultural training and employment to female offenders at East Sutton, Kent women’s prison.
Whether it’s this delicious hand-made Somerset Chocolate from Popachoc, coffee from Moonroast in Hampshire, honey from Yorkshire, there are plenty of companies who produce exceptional quality food with care and thought for the environment.
Our favourite small business of all time is undoubtedly Polar Post Not only has Charlotte Wood created real magic in a timeless, thoughtful and beautiful way but she herself is completely authentic in every way. The world she has created is everything that isn’t Black Friday, mass markets and technology; it is all we want to hold onto. Needless to say, we are not alone in our dotage and things sell out after the magic door opens (you have to sign up to get the password ahead of time) but there are some things left in the shop and you won’t regret just browsing and getting ready for next time. Polar Post are also in league with the Easter Bunny and can write beautiful, thoughtful letters at difficult times for children as well.
Last year we came across Cambridge Imprint at the Great Dixter Fair and we had great fun making these paper chains for Christmas and then filling the empty boxes with home-made peppermint creams as presents for friends.
Also in this category, another real favourite of ours Scribble & Daub; the stationery company to go to for any special events to add a touch of style. Caroline has created her own hand-painted Christmas tree decorations this year as well. They could also be used as the ‘chic-est’ of Christmas tags. For a little touch of Mexico this year, take a look at Montes & Clark under their Christmas tab at these little hand-made tin, colourful tin Christmas decorations.
We came across Pip & Seed at the Wealden Times Christmas Fair this year and tasted some morsels they were sharing. We loved their ‘hampers’ and home-baked gifts and thought they would make a wonderful present for an office or for a family you are visiting this Christmas.
With young girls in mind, this rara skirt from Sandfish Clothing is ideal for some winter sun. Nicky and her boys have only recently returned from living in East Africa for more than 10 years and her clothes are lovingly sourced from Kenya.
We love this flower press for some timeless joy as well. Giving the gift of an activity to keep everyone entertained in the holidays is always popular and for real quality on all levels (materials as well as being highly informative and educational AND FUN!) are these Lola Art Boxes. Sisters in law Alara and Selina are passionate about inspiring the next generation through Art and are incredibly generous with knowlege, book recommendations and source the highest quality ingredients for their boxes.
Stocking fillers aplenty can be found at Serendipity Presents (this is why they provide baskets at Spirit of Christmas!). For boys, Three Boys Rock is overflowing with brilliant games ideas all tried and tested at home with her boys as well as boy skewed stocking fillers too. Outdoor fun (hot or cold) is limitless at Crash Bang Kids where we have bought Waboba toys and frisbees for years.
With a certain level of toy-buying fatigue in our house, we are big admirers of the ‘heirloom toy’, to be cherished and handed down the generations. No need to look any further than Maileg, sold here by our faves, Willow & Stone.
For some thoughtfully curated 'sea-inspired' gifts, sourced from the UK and with sustainability an essential ingredient, have a browse at Martin's Rye-based concept store Sailors of Rye.
Tom’s Trunks have devotedly done their rounds at all the festivals and rightfully have earned themselves a very loyal following amongst the teenagers. Everyone loves their kikoi trousers!
Hoboko Clothing for their layered maxi skirt.
We can’t finish without a final hurrah of some of the clothing brands we have come across a long the way. They might not be Christmas gifts for someone else but maybe something to add to your own Christmas list. We are big fans of these gorgeous jeans from Cleverly Wrapped.
On our lists of things we would like to receive (!) has got to be some underwear from Stripe + Stare.
Bricks & Stitches for everyday and particularly good at this time of year sequined partywear in any colour you could wish for.
Pittch Socks – British designed and made merino socks. Elizabeth has channelled 25 years of the fashion industry into creating the perfect socks.
When you go to these shopping events or get recommended a website; it’s easy to glaze over the rows and rows of stands as they all merge into one but remember each of these businesses has a story; they have all been started up by someone with a passion for something. Take time to have a look at these companies and their stories and know that every time they receive an order, somewhere someone is doing a happy dance!