HELLO BRIGHTON & WELCOME TO OUR FIRST SHOP!
You may have been wondering where on earth we’d got to… For the past 20+ years I have sent out newsletters and blogs about what we have been up to at Creature Clothes. But for the past 6 months, nothing. Nada. Zilch. Unless that is you live in Brighton, which is where, at the end of last year, we set up the very first Creature Clothes Brighton shop.
I’ve never had an actual real life shop before. We have always primarily sold Creature Clothes directly to other people’s shops. You will have been able to find our collars and beds in fabulous stores like Selfridges & Harrods. Or Independent Pet Boutiques and groomers such as Hair of the Dog in Highgate and The Mutz Nutz in Notting Hill and Fetch Pet Boutique have stocked our collars for years and years. Sometimes we get asked to make commissions as well as stocking beautiful gift shops in Columbia Flower Market and Snape Maltings. Even The Cript shop at St Pauls Cathedral! We have worked with Dogs Trust, Battersea and The PDSA. And very proudly we created bespoke collections and collaborations for the Royal Collection Enterprises which are very proudly sold at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and The Palace of Holyroodhouse.
But when Covid hit everything changed and everything stopped. Many of our stockist had to close their doors and we had to very quickly learn how to become retailers. We worked on our website, we made face masks for our community, we did what we could. Lockdown in London with 3 children was brutal. The lowest point being when our local park was locked and we had nowhere green to go. I was running the couch to 5k with my kids, Jo Whiley encouraging us through my phone, but running around a concrete jungle, looking at our beautiful empty park through the railings… it was a game changer. It was time to move, to say goodbye to our beloved east London, and move to the sea.
We wanted to move back to my home county of Suffolk, to be near the Creature Clothes workshop and our team there. But my husband and I have teenage children and we really felt the need for adventure… to do something a little crazy and exciting before settling down in peace and quiet. We wanted to move somewhere that our urban children, who have lived in the East End of London all of their lives, would feel at home. Street art has always coloured our lives – I didn’t think they were quite ready to loose “spot the new graffiti” on the way to school. I wanted them to regain their confidence, to start taking steps towards independence, have safe freedom, the outdoors, sport and fun.. So we went to a town where I have only ever spent 2 days before in my life. We moved to Brighton. A city by the sea, surrounded by the beautiful South Downs, where differences are celebrated and you can swim in the sea with your dogs after work. Perfect!
If only it was that simple… we have 2 dogs, 2 cats and 2 teenagers and a toddler. Renting a flat while we waited for the sale of our home in London to complete just wasn’t going to happen. It was like we were human kryptonite – we ticked every NO box there was. Then finally someone said yes, but with a £1000 premium charged for each dog, cat and child. And then another premium for length of stay. It was a tiny 2 bed flat above a 24/7 off license which was going to cost us more than The Savoy to rent. I remember the words quietly tumbling out of my mouth as the thoughts formed in my head… “if we’re going to live above a shop, then I don’t want to live above a 24/7 off license. If we’re going to live above a shop then I want to run the shop. I want the shop to be mine” a Creature Clothes Brighton Shop.
How had it taken 22 years to come to this conclusion? We already made beautiful products, we just didn’t sell them direct to our customers. Why on earth not? A quick google of “shops with flats to let in Brighton” delivered a cute little shop with a workshop in the basement and a little flat above. It would be a squeeze, but this could be perfect… I called the agent and we went to see it the next day. It was really sweet and I could see it working… it would have to be made dog friendly, and we’d have a lot of work to do. But after a quick look around and basic maths (would we fit in? Yes). Was it just small enough to feel like we could fill it with our products, but not too big as to fill me with fear and imposter syndrome? Yes. Was it walkable to school for the girls? Yes. Was it within easy distance of the skate park? Yes. Could we go swimming in the sea after school and work? Yes. We put an offer in, and after some negotiations we were in. We had somewhere to live!
Emails flew backwards and forwards, requests made and agreed, documents were drawn up and redrawn. I mainly called and begged all the parties involved to push the completion of the deal over the line in time for our daughters to start at their new school on Sept 7th. Those keys had to be in our hands on September 6th at the latest. Everyone was doubtful it could be achieved. Then one beautiful day towards the end of August 2021, I got the call from my agent Richard – it was good news. The other party had signed and the keys were set for release on September 6th. I’d just have to be there to collect them by 6pm.
We left London at noon on Sept 6th with tears streaming down our faces. Our beloved home & community. Our roots were here and it felt so wrong to be leaving. However leave we must. The sat nav was set and off we went. But hang on… why were we driving along the side of the train tracks in docklands? My sat nav had gone insane. We wiggled our way down side streets and found a main road again. And then got engulfed in an extinction rebellion march. WHAT WAS GOING ON? Clearly the universe thought that moving to Brighton was a very terrible idea for me and my family. We were going no where fast and the estimated arrival time on Waze just kept ticking up. We weren’t going to make it. I sat with my head in my hands and called Lola, my dear friend in Brighton. She jumped in her car and collected the keys from Richard on our behalf. We finally cleared the protesters and train tracks, hit the motorway and didn’t stop until we got to the beach where we met Lola with the keys to our new life, ran in to the sea to wash away our tears and then drove on to our new home in Bond Street.
Now not having been to the lanes since I was about 18, I didn’t realise that the place I had found was in the middle of the North Lanes. How I missed that I have no idea. But oh my goodness – HOW COOL! Had I known just how central our shop was I would never have had the guts to even put in an offer. This has been the single biggest bit of learning I have had to do. Stop with the self doubt. Back yourself. GO BIG OR GO HOME.
Our removal van arrived at midnight. We unloaded, found the girls school uniform for the next morning and collapsed asleep on the floor, ready to start our new life, our new shop, our new adventure.
Next weeks blog – A Beginners Guide To Opening A Shop – or all the things you didn’t know you need to do to set up a shop.
You can take a peek inside our shop here: GOOGLE SHOP VIEW