Looking for a curated approach to homeware shopkeeping more akin to the high street than the information superhighway? These online shopping destinations should be on your radar. All of them have a unique point of view and a personal approach that we are happy to buy into. We meet the founders to find out more…
A Christmas tree decoration – or rather, the lack of one – inspired Kemi Lawson (pictured above with her sister, and co-founder, Lara) to launch The Cornrow. ‘I couldn’t find a Black angel with Afro hair and dark skin that looked like my little girls,’ she explains. Realising that there was nowhere offering a curated edit of homeware tailored to Black families, Kemi took action. ‘I wanted to start a business celebrating Black representation; luckily, my sister Lara felt the same.’
They chose the name because ‘cornrows represent not just hair, but the timeless heritage, beauty and skills inherent to Black design.’ The Cornrow sells products under its brand alongside items by other makers.
One bestselling cushion features a siren called ‘Aanu’, after Kemi’s daughter. ‘When you think of a mermaid, you picture Ariel, not a dark-skinned woman. Of course, Black tradition has these myths too,’ she says. More products are planned and maybe, one day, a concept store like Colette in Paris or Alára in Lagos. ‘We’d love to create an amazing space where you could learn about these stories,’ says Lara. Ultimately, they’re building a community as well as a brand. thecornrow.com
After 20 years working in fashion, 2021’s enforced pause gave Ben Matthews (above) time to reflect: ‘I was thinking about whether there was another way, something closer to home with a little more heart.’ He found his future in his family’s past. ‘Crouchers was my great-grandad’s shop, established in 1910 on the Isle of Wight. It had a wonderful sense of community that I wanted to bring to the digital relaunch.’
The store stocks objects from British makers. ‘Supporting local businesses is incredibly important, plus there’s the sustainable benefit,’ says Ben. Hero products include Studio Arbor’s ebonised wood designs and pieces by The Glass Studio. ‘Craft is not dead, I’m pleased to say.’
‘I’m used to working in a team, but this has been more of a solitary endeavour,’ he explains. ‘Learning to trust your own instincts can be challenging. Luckily, I have a very patient partner and friends who keep me buoyant.’
The low start-up costs and ability to reach a wide audience are clear benefits to online business, but for Ben: ‘The future of retail is a blend; I love the idea of pop-ups, inviting craftspeople to mix with customers for workshops.’ He plans to launch new brands and work with makers to develop bespoke pieces. ‘Uplifting small businesses has never felt so good!’ crouchers.com
Laura Jackson launched Glassette in November 2021 with her brother-in-law Daniel Crow (both pictured above), determined to democratise the homeware market. A nimble drop-ship model is key to keeping the business lean, as the brands she curates for the site send orders straight to customers. ‘We don’t have the stress of a warehouse,’ she explains. ‘This is the future of shopping.’
Bestsellers include Harlie Brown’s squiggle-handled mugs, Amuse La Bouche cushions and the famous wavy candlesticks from Bias Editions. Cornish glass artist David Perry is equally popular – ‘We can’t ship his coasters fast enough’ – and a collaboration is planned for this spring.
A small run of exclusive prints by Lucy Mahon is also coming and, in the summer, collections with Artemis Deco and Late Afternoon. With each one, the goal is to create pieces that the labels wouldn’t ordinarily do –‘something that we can put our creative stamp on’, Laura says. In March, Glassette launched its art kiosk, selling works under £600 by 12 artists. ‘It’s not as scary as some of the other places to buy art,’ she says.
Only brands that tell a story and have something special to offer make the cut. ‘We don’t want to bring out collections for the sake of it,’ Laura says. ‘We’re always thinking about where it’s made, who makes it, what its purpose is in the world.’ She’s in love with the possibilities of e-commerce, but wouldn’t rule out a bit of experiential, Anya Hindmarch-style marketing. ‘Something immersive is absolutely what we’re trying to create at Glassette, so who knows?’ glassette.com
Yod and Co
Despite freely admitting to finding the technical side of running his online store challenging, Yod Suntanaphan wouldn’t have it any other way. Since launching Yod and Co from his flat, he’s had such success that two moves were necessary: one to a studio, the next to a fulfilment warehouse, which now handles shipping so that he can ‘work remotely from anywhere in the world’ – the perks of being a digital shopkeeper.
A career as a Colour, Material and Finish designer inspired his love of functional products with a well-considered palette. It’s this collector’s eye that he brings to the site, which offers a mix of his own pieces and designs from other brands. As for functionality, Yod is willing to stretch the definition. ‘It’s nice to have a use for things, but I will always make room for interesting objects!’
Popular pieces include prints by Hôtel Magique, a range of recycled-cork coasters and placemats, and his playful ‘Stack’ candles, recently launched in an exclusive colourway for The Conran Shop. The logistics of opening a physical store are daunting, but he may consider it. ‘The experience of walking through a well-curated space is hard to replicate online. It’s challenging to communicate the tactility or weight of an object on a screen.’ yodandco.com