Founder Alex Wink has worked in the fashion industry for the past seven years, including at MATCHESFASHION and Threads Styling. “I’ve always wanted to run my own business and after applying for new jobs, I felt this was the perfect time to launch something. While people are still at home, not only is buying gifts difficult, so is buying lovely gift wrapping.” Aiming to solve this problem, Lucky Elephant provides customers with a selection of special gifts, from a diverse range of the coolest brands. “We aim to be a window through which small brands and designers can showcase their products and connect with new customers. It’s never been more important to support each other and supporting like-minded entrepreneurs means a lot to me.”
In Casa by Paboy
This small social enterprise based in Naples, Italy, was founded by craftsman and designer Paboy Bojang, during the first lockdown. Originally from the Gambia and currently seeking asylum in Italy, Paboy hand sews brightly coloured cushion covers by hand using 100% Italian cotton, which he sources from local suppliers in his neighbourhood. Having honed his craft at just 13 years old, Paboy now displays his creations on Instagram, and his bold, signature style has quickly garnered a popular international following.
Vaisselle is a new tableware brand from French designer Léa Zana, who was made redundant from her job as a shoe designer during the first lockdown. While the business is based in London, everything is handmade in Spain. “The brand’s kitchen and decoration essentials are inspired by Spanish antique ceramics, but with a colourful twist,” explains Léa. “All our pieces are handmade and hand painted in the south of Spain, by a family of artisans who use traditional techniques, so the environmental footprint is very small. The ceramics are also made from local clay and decorated with lead free paints and natural pigments, and everything is produced in small quantities. It’s a slow process, but it’s so worth it.”
East London Cloth
Experienced curtain maker Gemma Drain started her new soft furnishings business as a result of her cancelled wedding. “I had been sourcing fabric and making table linens for our 2020 wedding when Covid happened. Being left with no wedding, no work and a whole load of fabric, I had time to think about what it was I wanted to do with my business and the direction I wanted it to go in. I yearned to have a more creative influence over the product I made, and to work in a more ethical way. And so, the idea behind East London Cloth was to provide traditionally made, unpretentious and authentic linens that would stand the test of time and could be passed down to future generations. As the maker, buyer, designer and packer, I was in a unique position to provide a more bespoke offering, so all of our items are made to order.”
Hum London was born during the first lockdown, a time when sisters Ellie and Hermione Gee found themselves forced to move back home. “Like most people during lockdown, we were looking for something to fill our time with, and so after painting the walls of the kitchen and dining room, we moved onto soft furnishings instead,” says Hermione. Fast forward a few months to August 2020, after plenty of research, the duo launched a collection of nine lampshade designs, all of which are hand-painted by Hermione and come in various shapes and sizes.
The Attic London
Lara Atkinson has always had an obsession with interiors and homeware, as well as provenance and sourcing. “I love nothing more than scouring charity shops and fairs, as well as diving into the depths of eBay to track down special finds. I’d always wanted a little side hustle to my day job, so when I was furloughed at the beginning of lockdown, it felt like the perfect time to start The Attic.” Now, Lara stocks all sorts of vintage and antique homeware, and although most of what she sells is decades old, the pieces all look quite contemporary. “I like to spread the message that vintage doesn’t always have to look ‘traditional and outdated – any item can take on a new lease of life when styled in a certain way.”
In January 2020, Sasha quit her full-time job as a senior graphic designer at a Dutch fashion label to produce freelance graphics. A few months later, all of her graphic design jobs were pulled due to a lack of funding amid the lockdown. As a result, she started creating art as a form of therapy – leading her to consider opening her own creative business. Deciding to take the plunge, she launched herself as a full-time artist in August 2020. "If I'd made this move any earlier, I wouldn't have had the six years of design and business skills to make it work today,” she says. “I hope I can continue in this once everything returns to normal, as there isn’t a single day it feels like 'work’. And I’m still learning from every exciting challenge that comes my way.”
Milena Kackowiak is an ecologically influenced florist, describing herself as someone who is deeply attracted to the natural world. For her, gone are non-biodegradable plastic wrappings and foam blocks and instead, fresh cut-stem and dry flower designs are consciously arranged to show off their natural beauty. “When the pandemic started, I tried to remain as occupied and creative as possible. I started to pick wildflowers and grasses on my daily walks, where my journey to launch Stems Wilder began. I started designing flower arrangements inspired by meadows, filled with wild grasses and colourful flowers. The environmental crisis we all face is close to my heart, and I wanted to be part of a bigger change to build a brand that was ecologically influenced and plastic-free. Seeing my first store open in Brixton Village has been a surreal experience.”
Sister by Studio Ashby
A collection of consciously designed furniture, accessories and future heirlooms, Sister was launched by interior designer Sophie Ashby last autumn. “Although it had been in the pipeline for a while, the pandemic granted us the time and to launch it. On the one hand it felt like the maddest thing in the world to be looking for a retail space at this time, but we soon realised the millennial obsession with interiors was only getting started, especially as our homes became more sacred. Shopping habits are also shifting to take a more thoughtful and discerning approach, where the brands, products and the stories behind them mean everything to the customers. We wanted Sister to embody this and we look forward to bringing our vision to life in a physical space later this year.”