There are times when you walk down the British High Street and you hope that there is someone who can offer an alternative to the continuous parade of lifeless dummies in shop windows, wearing generic and mass produced jumpers and t-shirts. Thankfully for Plymouth, this alternative may have been found in the form of Daggers and Hearts, who are due to open their doors to the public near the end of April. The boutique aims to offer customers a more ethical way of buying products and also gives independent and creative artists a place where they can sell their wares. Steph Cross managed to catch up with Dave Kendall from Daggers and Hearts to find out more about the company.
When did you first notice that there was a gap in the market for an independent and alternative boutique in Plymouth?
Well I noticed the gap in the first instance after seeing a few really cool local T-shirt companies come and go. Secondly, I hate that there is only the shopping centre to shop at in Plymouth and everything in there is a chain store knocking out different versions of each other’s clothes, making you look like slightly different versions of everyone else. The only “alternative” shop about is Blue Banana and no offence, but unless you want to wear shit with Day-Glo spikes, brothel creepers and hoodies with ears sewn in, you are out of luck! Thirdly, and probably the biggest thing that was screaming out was the sheer amount of talent and creativity that is on offer from young, independent designers and suppliers these days. I couldn’t believe that there was nowhere for them to be able to stock their items on the high street.
The idea of only sourcing independent stemmed from knowing so many people on the D.I.Y scene. We wanted to set up a platform to help, support and grow the independent, D.I.Y culture that Plymouth is so proud of but it was very, very important to us personally to enrich and help it grow without exploiting or corrupting the essence of it. It was from that ethos that we developed the boutique theme. The glue holding that together really is our policy to never buy in bulk. As well as only supporting independent trading, we will only ever have one or two items in a size per design for clothes, and usually only one (maybe 2) in a style when it comes to accessories. This means that what you buy is not only original but as unique as possible so that we can give you a true boutique experience.
The rise of the independent tore is coming and I think that with the closure of so many chain brands, the fact that people are bored by the same old shit means that there is room for a high quality, ethically charged boutique environment that caters for real people. The vibe I am going for is a credible Blue Banana for adults crossed with a less mainstream urban outfitter that houses an ethical, takeaway coffee shop. I think that there is definitely a market for that, don’t you?
Do you have any previous experience of running an independent business, and if so, did you find that the skills you learnt from it helped you set up Daggers and Hearts?
No! I have never been registered self-employed let alone running a business. My other project however, is an alternative music an arts zine that serves the Plymouth underground community. Check out www.facebook.com/theallseeingeyenews. This however, is purely a non-profit venture so couldn’t be classed as a business in my opinion. I do charge for advertising but only to get the zine through the print process.
How do you choose which brands to sell in your boutique?
During the application process, we spent nearly 6 months heavily researching and sourcing the suppliers and carefully screening them for eligibility. It is not always as easy as it sounds to just stock local so we had to be sure that the most important thing to our business plan was the sourcing of only independent and ethically charged suppliers. Not only does this result in the sourcing of cool designs as D.I.Y businesses make clothes for the love of it and not appealing to a mass “alternative” audience, but it means that the designs are credible, authentic and appeal to the market that we are targeting as we ARE the fucking market! For example, we stock a company called R.S.I apparel.
The owner, Rob (who studied in Plymouth and is now living in Reading) is an awesome dude and he even came down to meet me before formally agreeing to stock with us. Not only does he produce insanely cool clothing, but the thing that he prides himself on the most is the way he treats the designers/artists. The company pays EVERYONE. Basically, if the company has enough money to print a design then there is enough money to pay an artist for it. They pay the people that help make the designs that float your boat and also pay the artists for any reprints they do. The more you buy, the more money goes to the artist and I think that that strong moral trading policy is incredibly admirable.
Similarly, which brands are you most excited about having in the store?
We are only stocking a handful of brands to start off with and I am equally excited for all of them:
- RSI APPAREL – www.rsiapparel.co.uk
- ALICE TAKES A TRIP – www.alicetakesatrip.bigcartel.com
- LINDYBOP – www.lindybop.co.uk
- VAPOUR – www.vapourclothing.com
- FOREVER YOUNG – www.foreveryoungapparel.co.uk
- FAT ROC – www.coffeewest.co.uk/coffee/fatroc
- MR BUNS – www.mrbunsbakery.com
- PORTLEBAY POPCORN – www.portlebaypopcorn.com
Are there any designers that you admire and would like to stock at Daggers and Hearts in the future?
Do you know what? I am completely new to this so I am open to anything. The only thing I will say is that they have to be independent and they have to have an ethical trading policy. The quality of the garments must be good and I will only pick designs that I would wear or could see my friends in, haha! It is so important for me to stay current and to serve the scene that I love so the second I start not caring about what I am stocking is the second I ay aw well give up!
The store prides itself in sourcing its products which are sourced ethically and from independent sources. Do you feel that shoppers are becoming more ethically aware in their choices or do you think more needs to be done to promote ethical products?
Well, I think that people are smarter than retailers give them credit for. I also think that people are a fussier than retailers give them credit for. I’m not so sure that ethical is at the top of peoples agenda but I do think that people are making more of an effort these days to shop independent. Bottom line, I think, is that it is down to people in a position to do something to do it. If a retailer chooses to stock ethically and stock products that people will like, then that is the first step to making a difference in people’s attitudes. I think that more could always be done.
Due to the recession, have you noticed a reduction in creative artists and designers creating unique and independent products or has it had the opposite effect?
Not at all. I think that if anything, people seem to be getting more creative. People don’t have as much money to spend out on buying so that in itself encourages design, adaption and self-production. I also think that with a lack of jobs, people seem to draw more on creative skills or experiences and utilise these for trade. Just have a look at the Big cartel website. There is so much on there that it is crazy. You could probably look through that site and find everything you could ever want for the rest of your life if you had the time. People are getting more creative and it is down to people in a position to encourage that, to do so.
What do you think is the most important issue when considering ethical fashion and why is ethical fashion important?
The most important thing to consider, for me, is the world around us. Apathy is a pretty thick veil for us to hide behind but I am sure that if people really knew the way a lot of products are sourced then they would think twice about buying them. It is important as it is another way to make a difference. It is important because without an ethical approach, eventually everything will be swallowed by greed and fakery and without small, independents making a stand and doing something about it, not only will we all eventually never have to leave the fucking house as we will have our entire world catered for over the internet, but the sourcing of cheap products, labour and materials will ultimately lead to the corruption and downfall of equality and fair trade.
Do you ever buy clothes from High Street stores and do you think there are any stores out there, who you think take a good approach in promoting independence and creativity?
Yeah, occasionally! I won’t lie! I mean, I very rarely buy clothes these days anyway apart from the odd shirt or pair of jeans as I don’t have the time to always shop around. That could obviously be construed as hypocrisy but the fact is, there is nothing in Plymouth that allows any of us to do otherwise. There is the odd D.I.Y craft fayre about but in the main, if I am buying something, its probably a pair of jeans and is because I have worn out both knees, the arse and they are falling to bits! I will occasionally spend out on something from Fly 53 as they do a lot within the music and arts community and are pretty much the only brand that I like. Plus, I think they have done a great job of working their way up from a teeny tiny independent to a full blown brand. I would never stock the brand but I do have a bit of respect for them. I did however recently travel to Exeter and bought a shirt from a cool shop called No Guts No Glory but I am very fussy! As I said, I will only stock clothes that I would wear myself so when buying; you can imagine how difficult it is for me to find something that I like in a chain store!
This interview can also be viewed at: http://www.sideonetrackone.co.uk/2013/04/04/interview-daggers-and-hearts/