Oxford St Design Store
Recently, The Awkward Collective had the pleasure of swapping words with the gorgeous and ridiculously talented Louise Helliwell and Alex De Bonis on their newest venture, the Oxford St Design Store. The latest addition to their ever-growing artistic family is a fabulous little creative hub that is home to not only emerging designers but also serves a ‘rent-a-space’ for design and production.
How did they conceive such a brilliant concept you say? This talented designer duo were originally asked to come up with ideas for Sydney’s latest music addition the Secret Garden Festival. They put forward a concept of a pop-up store where all products would sell for $1. Although the idea didn’t make it through, the research behind it brought them to the Pound Store London – which is exactly what they had in mind, “everything for a quid!”
OS Design Store was also inspired by their love of Mcsweeny’s stores which are built on a model that creates a ‘business’ at the front, and a space for kids in the back to learn, read and connect with other kids. With just the right amount of ideas and inspiration on hand, they went forth and conquered (pitched) a concept to the City of Sydney. They would recruit local designers and artists to design the products to sell in the front store section and use the back section for workshops, talks and a place where people can connect with creativity in a variety of ways. With a concept embodying all that is creative brilliance, how could Sydney of City say no?!
With a burgeoning pool of talented Sydney designers, one of the hardest hurdles has been narrowing down the selection of products the design store will offer. So how do they combat such a grueling task? Firstly, they look for products that are well made and have market potential. Secondly, they seek products that are interesting and quirky – products that immediately give you the sense that their creator has put passion and love into designing them.
“It’s kind of obvious really, you can tell in the end product when a person really loves what they do.”
With many other creative projects simultaneously on the go, we wondered how these ladies made it…well, work?!
“We’ve passed the awkward moments stage in our relationship now! But we argue all the time about really stupid stuff; Alex shouts and swears a bit more (it’s the South American in her) and I smooth things over and negotiate a bit more (which is probably the Brit in me). But generally our different personalities balance each other out. We’ve worked together in various guises for the past 2 years from working in a design studio to running our other project Tough Titties (a design blog promoting female designers) together, so we’re pretty used to each other and how we operate now. We’ve started Skyping each other sometimes now (from Newtown to Surry Hills!!) which we think is quite funny, but seems to work as we’re both so busy.”
All their collaborative efforts and Skyping from the far reaches of the earth have paid off, literally. During the recent Vivid Sydney Alex and Lou were awarded a $5,000 grant for their design store from the Awesome Soup Foundation “yeah the Awesome Soup night was, well awesome!.” So what will they spend this cold hard cash on? Whilst extending the reaches of the front (products/design for sale) is always on the cards they want to focus on the back section. Talks, workshops and design/ production collaborations are top of the to do list
“We’re tempted to blow the whole lot on a laser cutter for the back-room which we could hire out for people to experiment with and create products for the store – the perfect production line!”
The current price point for Oxford Design items is currently limited to $20. However, with an array of designers and products that are too good not to be showcased the price limit is soon to lifted (accessibility and affordability will be the key focal points). This means, all you budding young designers need to shake your production booty’s and get your curations submitted for a chance to be a part of this amazing creative hub.
There is plenty in store (and we mean plenty) for this inspirational double act. TAC will definitely be keeping tabs on all the wonderful and innovative projects they have coming into fruition, stay tuned.