Whether you’re just starting out, or you’ve already found your feet in the industry, get tips, tricks and inspiration from people just like you with our Customer Showcase series. This week, we’re talking shop with Chris McShane from UK homewares brand The Curious Department (www.thecuriousdepartment.com).
Hi Chris, to kick us off can you tell us a little bit about the Curious Department?
The Curious Department is a homeware brand, specializing in unique gifts and unusual homewares, including limited edition art, ethical taxidermy, decorative soft furnishings, fine bone china tableware and stationery, all proudly made in the UK.
We started the online shop just over a year ago as a response to the mass produced home accessories we saw flooding the high streets- everything looked the same and just didn’t speak to us. Ross had the idea for the shop and our first collection for a few years so it’s been a real labour of love bringing our designs to market and into real homes across the world!
What’s the driving force behind your inspiration?
Storytelling. People no longer want mass production or designs that just look pretty. They want to understand how it was made, why it was made. With everything we create we always have a conceptual perspective. From our Metamorphosis collection to the ethically sourced butterflies that we use in our taxidermy. Every product is rich with stories that our customers can share with people when they spot that unique object in their home.
As a creative retailer, what else do you use print for, outside of the products you sell?
Besides using Printed.com to produce our limited edition art prints, award-winning stationery and greeting cards, we also have used them extensively to tell our brand story – across Leaflets and Flyers, Postcards, Foiled Business Cards, Stickers, Self-Adhesive Vinyl and Strut Cards! The list is ever growing as our business explores new opportunities like pop up shops, trade shows, collaborations with other creatives, and important meetings with retail buyers…
We believe in “surprise and delight” moments, so we also produce gorgeous gold Foiled Postcards which double as cards explaining our ethical taxidermy policy, or care instructions for our fine bone china range. Customers love “that little bit extra” and they are a great cost effective way of delivering on that.
What key things do you ask yourself when creating new products?
Sounds a bit cliché, but we always ask “would be have that in our house?”. The business was very much an extension of our own design perspective and we wanted to make sure we remained true to ourselves and our aesthetic, whilst still hoping we were commercial enough for other people to appreciate us. We also often ask “is it curious enough” as another barometer of whether we have quite pushed the boundaries of being unique and that little bit eccentric and playful we are fond of.
Image credit: The Curious Department
Who has impacted you most in your design journey and how?
Can we say “Instagram”? I know the computers haven’t taken over just yet, but I definitely think it played a key role in our growth and development over the last year. From working with bloggers and influencers, to meeting some fantastic fans and customers, and growing our network of likeminded and talented creatives across interiors, fashion and beauty.
It’s an inspiring platform for creatives and it’s definitely helped shape our creative direction and design process… from customer feedback through to seeing what else is out there and how to “make our designs curious enough.”
What would be your tips for anyone thinking of starting their own business in design?
Be bold. No one is going to just hand you hundreds of engaged customers- you have to work at it, cultivate them and also take risks. Thankfully most of our risks have paid off, but we also always considered Plan Bs, like using Kickstarter to help fund our fine bone china range.
What does the future hold for you and your business? Where do you see your business going over the next year?
Following some great trade shows we’re lucky to say we are now stocked internationally in some fabulous independent and boutiques, as well as our first chain – our favourite homewares and interiors store West Elm, across two of their three stores in London. We hope to branch out even further into bricks and mortar! We’re also forever dreaming up new designs, and are about to launch an exciting luxury velvet cushion collection, alongside expanding our bold new designs across our popular stationery range.
We’re not sure what the future holds exactly, but hope we still find it as challenging and rewarding as it is today!
Follow The Curious Department on social! Find their insect antics on Instagram- @thecuriousdepartment
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