Friday, 27 September 2013

Caravan Style Picks - Our Guest Curator Emily Chalmers

Guest curator Emily Chalmers selects a fabulous new print range for EAST END PRINTS.

Here at EAST END PRINTS we are very excited to announce that we have invited a guest curator, Emily Chalmers, to feature on our website for the next quarter! 
Emily, interior stylist, author and Caravan Style shop owner has carefully selected some emerging artists and illustrators for us to publish in our new collection. We think that Emily has brought a fresh, new perspective on trends that showcase her attention to detail and interesting eye for design.
Emily Chalmers - interior stylist, author and Caravan shop owner.
EEP: How difficult has it been for you to establish yourself as an online retailer coming from being a stylist? Can you tell us a little bit about your creative background?
EC: It's been an interesting journey over the last few years! I am primarily an interiors stylist and author and became a shop owner when I shared a space on Cheshire Street (just off Brick Lane) with a friend back in 2003. We ran independent shops side-by-side and Caravan was born as a place to sell my books and bits and bobs I'd collected on my travels.
I went in on a low-rent weekend-only retail space so that I could work during the week on styling projects from the basement below - after a year the shop had done more than pay the rent and the rest is history! I've always felt it's a very natural progression for a stylist to become a shop-owner. At the end of the day we are collectors and curators and if you add customers to the mix..... hey presto! I have always been interested in retail spaces and enjoy being surrounded by the products I have chosen - I could never solely retail online as the whole environment-thing has to be there to keep my interest, it's my inspiration.
My company, Caravan Style Ltd., incorporates me as a stylist and my shop, Caravan. I've continued with interior styling jobs alongside running Caravan and I think the two feed off each other.
There have been crazy times when I've had books going on in the mix too, but I love it all!
 Nowadays I have a baby, Bunty, so I have made my business as flexible as possible to work around her schedule too. Having moved recently to a smaller shop premises and seeing customers on an appointment-only basis has meant I can concentrate more on Caravan's online presence which fits very well with the new family life.
My shift in priorities ties in with current trends anyway - nowadays I think you have to be more than a "regular" shop to keep your place on the high street.
EEP: What inspired you to start Caravan Style?
EC: I've always loved dwellings of every kind and a caravan is a very special dwelling - something you can make into a little home and take wherever you like. I didn't think too hard about the name choice for my shop, but knew it was the right name immediately. The addition of the word "style" came when the shop needed a website. It seemed to fit (and was already taken!).
 EEP: What was your vision for the website when you first had the idea?
EC: I have been very lucky to work with Frank Design Associates ( since the idea of Caravan was born. The boys at Frank designed and built the initial website when we moved to our second location at Old Spitalfields Market (it's been through some changes since then....!) and we've continued to work together online and offline.They "get" Caravan, completely and never cease to amaze me with their design skills.
I strive for the website to give visitors a similar experience to what they would get from a visit to the shop. It's important there's a cohesive translation of our style across all mediums.
I hope it works!
EEP: What is it that draws you to a product?
EC: Well, that's a hard one! Everything I buy is something I would, or may already, own. I always know immediately if something is right for Caravan. I tend to like things that have a bit of a story behind them. I also like decorative but practical pieces. I've chosen some odd bits over the years, but they all work together. I don't stick to a particular style or era, the thing holding everything together is my edit I suppose.

EEP: What is the process that you go through with the artist before you put the product onto your website?
EC: Some items are found at trade shows but the majority of our Caravan products come from designers and companies that approach us directly. I'm always on the look-out for things generally and tend to find something whenever I take a trip away too. Unfortunately there are a few products that still haven't made it onto the website and these wait to be discovered on the shop floor(!), but the aim is that everything will be online by the end of this year.
EEP: Are you happy with the growth of your business? If not, where would you like to see you business going in the next year?
EC: I'm very happy with the growth of the business - it's been smaller then bigger and now smaller again. I have consolidated over very recent years and right now I can retain a certain flexibility that suits my lifestyle. That can be very empowering. I am someone who prefers to be very "hands on" and so I've never wanted to get too much bigger, whatever opportunities have come my way!
 EEP: Do you have any advice for young designers?
EC: I think the market place can be a tough world, but right now I see those who work with integrity and passion are the ones that will do well. Integrity and passion get my vote, every time.

See Emily's curated picks here:

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